Another unpleasant emotion that has marked this IF journey (in addition to jealousy) is that of loneliness. Loneliness that comes from feeling left behind as most of the women my age around me have a child, then children. Loneliness from feeling left out when my friends organize play groups and moms' outings while I'm working my day job. Loneliness at not being able to join in the conversations about teething and diapers and first steps. Loneliness at not being part of what seems like an almost universal feminine experience.
And the even more painful loneliness that comes every month when I realize that no, I wasn't accompanied by a hidden son or daughter, but have a vacant womb still. Yes, I was alone these past two weeks, even though I allowed myself to daydream – even just for a moment – that there were two of us waking up, going to work, eating, sleeping, walking, talking. Nope. It's just me.
I wasn't even consciously thinking about the loneliness of IF this past Sunday at mass, when an image came to me that brought me much comfort. This is it (although it's hard to describe): I pictured myself sitting alone, in the dark. Darkness is often a metaphor for suffering and dryness – think St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul. Indeed, so much of this past year and a half has felt dark – the dark of unknowing, the dark of sorrow and grief, the dark of loneliness. But it came to me in that same moment that there is one advantage to being in the dark for a long period of time – your eyes start to adjust to the lack of light.
At first when you walk into a dark building after being outside in the sunshine, you can't see anything. But slowly things take shape and forms emerge from the darkness. Well, that's what I feel has happened to me over this journey of IF – I can now discern more shapes in the darkness. And in particular, one shape that has been there the whole time, but I'm just now learning to see – God. In my mind's image of me sitting alone in the dark, my eyes "adjusted" and I realized that I wasn't alone. Sitting near me, close unto my heart, was God. The Good Shepherd, who has been sharing my sorrow this whole time, who has been close at hand this whole time.
And I realized that learning to see Him in the dark brings out new contours of who He is – it's one thing to be close to God when everything is going well, to know Him in the sunshine, so to speak, as a God of Providence and blessing. It's been quite another to know Him in my darkness, in my lowness and emptiness. But I do believe I know Him better now. I truly know Him as a God who is close to the brokenhearted, as the Psalmist says, who binds our wounds and catches every tear.
My eyes are still adjusting – sometimes I doubt that He is there. But in a way, I feel almost privileged to have had this time in the dark with God, to have learned to see Him more clearly in the cracks and crevasses of my soul, the places where no light seems to be shining. In the dark. It's like my soul has become more sensitive to His presence through this long experience of groping for meaning and consolation in what often feels like a meaningless trial. And I hope very, very much that when (God willing) the darkness recedes and the joy of the dawn comes, the eyes of my soul will stay as strong as ever, being able to see God in all things, having a deeper intimacy with Him because we've been through a lot together!
I am not alone. I am never alone. He is there, in the darkness.
To close, a song this experience reminds me of:
Especially these lines:
When the world's all as it should be.
Blessed be your name.
Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering,Though there's pain in the offering,
Blessed be your name.