Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole …
In the fell clutch of circumstance …
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloodied -
but unbowed …
For those who have received the impression that I am always confident, courageous, calm, and reasonable, read on. Ten days ago, I wrote that I was happy, the most blessed of creatures in that I was happy and, what’s more, recognized that I was happy. I was alive in the present of my happiness. How quickly things can change.
Any who have been reading my blog for a while may recall a couple of early posts I did about Icarus. In this Greek myth, Icarus tried to escape from Crete with a pair of wings made out of wax and feathers by his father, Daedalus, who warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, which would cause the wax to melt. But overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him, Icarus soared too close to the sun, which melted the wax, causing him to plunge into the sea (thus giving the name to the Icarian Sea).
Like Icarus, I had been warned that I must not fly too close to the sun. But in the giddiness, the wonderful feelings created by the sublime experience of flight, I chose to ignore the warnings. I flew higher and higher until, too late, I realized that my wings were falling apart and I plummeted into the metaphorical sea of disorientation, confusion and depression. Fortunately, I was blessed with friends who heard my cries for help, and they reached out to pull me out of the water. And once the danger was passed, they did not condemn or reproach me for my lapse in judgment; they understood the giddiness of flight. They simply encouraged me to remember what I had learned. I will.
What was the “giddiness of flight”? The coming-out process. I had rushed certain aspects of it, failing to exercise good judgment, letting things get out of balance, being selfish perhaps. But I have learned from this experience, not only about the process of coming out, but also things about myself. The metaphor of Icarus is in many ways apt to describe what I have just gone through, but another way of describing it, less critical of myself, is that I engaged with life, made some mistakes which I have learned from, and, as a result, am better able to engage from this point forward.
What was particularly unfortunate – or fortuitous, depending upon one’s point of view – is that these experiences I’ve just described coincided with several other developments which created a “perfect storm” last week. The result was that I felt a bit like a ship being tossed to and fro in the middle of a huge ocean in the middle of a fierce storm. Any sense of certainty about my future that I had cobbled together was blown apart, and I was left without shelter to face fierce winds of concerns about finances, my professional situation, gossip in the ward, challenges in my family, and the delicate situation between my wife and me. Thus, the quotation at the commencement of this post to the lines from William Henley’s poem Invictus.
But, again, loved ones and friends came to my assistance, and to them I offer my heartfelt thanks. Merci, ma chère soeur. Thanks, GPL. Ευχαριστώ, my friend. I am particularly grateful to one man who offered his unconditional support. Domo arigato.
So, I am bloody, but unbowed. The game is not over. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is not the end, nor is it the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Yesterday, while I was out running, thinking about all of this, I came to a song on my Ipod that caused me to have another one of those moments that make me glad I run in the dark. The song was “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from Carousel, sung by Lee Greenwood, and I’ll admit it: I cried. I listened to it over and over again during the remainder of my run.
So in closing, I want to say that I know that many who read this blog experience challenges every bit as great, if not greater, than mine. I believe many do so in varying degrees of alone-ness. To them, and in tribute to those who helped me to not walk alone through this latest crisis in my life, I offer this song, performed here by Judy Garland. I highly recommend watching the video to the end; it’s worth it.