A Little Bit of My Dark

My dad’s 61st birthday was a little over a week ago and in the event that you’re just joining the Righteous Revival community (welcome!), he wasn’t here to sing happy birthday to or to blow out any candles. My dad is in that ever so speculated upon, heavily debated place knows as the after life or Heaven or bluntly put, dead.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed the simultaneous shock upon peoples’ faces after I’ve been interrogated about the whereabouts of my parents and my usage of the word, “dead,” escapes my mouth. I don’t use it for the shock value by any means – it’s just what resonates with me more often than “passed away” or “gone home” or any other variation that describes the end of someone’s life.

There are times when I make morbid jokes like the time I shipped my mama’s ashes via FedEx to California from New York and I called my friend, Claudia, to let her know that my mother would be arriving at her doorstep in T minus 4 hours. I sincerely hope you laughed just now or at least chuckled – Claudia thankfully did and even threw in her own addition to the morose quip. It’s how I cope with the otherwise debilitating anger and sadness that can become suffocating if I don’t incorporate at least an ounce of humor into my everyday life which is parentless and has been for the last three and a half years.

I am reminded on a daily basis that I will never celebrate another birthday with either of my parents or mail another Christmas card to either of their addresses. If I have children one day, I will not share in the foretold immense joy of parenthood with either of them– there will never be that shining moment of prideful grandparents that many have the pleasure of basking in. I am constantly reminded of this every waking and, sometimes, sleeping moment of my life and making light of this uncontrollable situation is a necessary means of my emotional survival.

Death has become a familiar part of my thirty years of existence. I often speak openly and freely about my own future departure, utilizing dark humor to decorate the otherwise uncomfortable subject.

“I want “Another one Bites the Dust” to be a part of the soundtrack at my memorial,” I laughingly joke and this is often followed up by an uneven amount of mutual chuckles, I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that gasps, and worried expressions upon the faces of unwarned ears.

Being on the receiving end of these looks is often a cue of how unfair and unusual it is to find oneself cozying up to end of life ideas as if it is somehow natural, as if the fear is nonexistent and I somehow find comfort in death’s certainty.

If my dad and I could have some more time together, I would ask him what he found comfort in, if anything, during his last few days. I would ask him what he feared, not only at the end of his life but during the majority of his life. Fear, security, vulnerability, means of survival – those four things would be the basis for some epic getting-to-know-you conversations. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll be granted that opportunity.

Until then, I’ll be gentler with myself, knowing that fear is inevitable but it can be managed, it can be lived with. And by live, I sincerely mean living, consciously, absolutely. A lesson I am aggressively learning currently is that being vulnerable does not mean being weak. When vulnerability is active, the fears have a way of thriving but that fear can be managed. One of the quickest ways to managing that fear is allowing oneself to be vulnerable, to be human and opening yourself to acknowledging those fears – where they come from, what they mean, for when one is vulnerable, one can be deeply and wholly honest with him or herself.

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What Are You Doing with All Your Dark?

I always tread lightly when addressing sensitive subjects such as grief. My intent is never to come off as a pretentious know-it-all as everyone grieves differently. There may be a “model” for the steps of grieving, but no individual grieves in the same pattern or manner as the next individual.

In fact, I’m so often ridden with anxiety regarding the subjects in which I write about that after I post such material, the minutes, hours and sometimes days following are filled with inner turmoil. I ask myself, “Should I have posted that?” “Should I change this? Edit that?” “Should I just delete the whole damn thing all together?” The inner inquisition marches on, infiltrating my slumber and testing my motive to move forward, to write on, if you will.

For those whom this appears as an easy task, one that comes naturally, it is, in fact, not. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had an inherent inclination to share my personal life from a very young age, perhaps its purpose being solidified in my senior year sociology class when Mr. Johnson, whom to this day remains one of my favorite and most memorable teachers, asked the class if anyone would be willing to volunteer to be a part of a panel of students speaking on an extremely serious, personal subject matter. This panel consisted of a group of teenagers, including myself, who were all too familiar with various forms of addiction.

What ensued following my willingness to volunteer was an unfortunate and deeper wedge placed smack dab in the middle of my brother and I for the simple fact that he found my allocation of such intimate matters to be, for lack of better terms, wrong. What I gratefully gained from doing so was the realization that sharing some of the darkest corners of my already dusty life would develop into a habit that would serve not only as a form of therapy for myself but for others, as well.

I recently came across this beautiful thought by the talented writer, Amanda Torroni. It asked, “What are you going to do with all that dark?” And it answered, “Find a way to glow in it.” What a simple but profound thing to ask ourselves and I couldn’t have answered it better. I found a way to glow in it in the fall of 2002 in Mr. Johnson’s sociology class.

Amanda Torroni
Amanda Torroni

I told myself that as humans, we never know what the stranger in the back of the room or the new friend we meet in biology class is experiencing and these people may not have the know-how or desire to vocalize such personal details of their private lives. My having the ability to do so means someone will be able to relate and thus feel a little less alone and perhaps gain a little more courage and hope.

Twelve years later, here I am –still glowing in the darkness, still sharing on what I aspire to be a continually grander scale and still hoping with quite a few more life experiences to introspect upon. As for the divide between my brother and I it will always remain and not just because of my readiness to open up about our dad’s drug addiction to the masses. At least there’s a whole hell of a lot more acceptance and understanding that we’re two entirely different people with different dreams, goals and perspectives. We grieve differently, glowing in our own unique ways within what sometimes feels as a perpetual darkness.