Recalling Darkness

Two years ago today, I wrote a post on Facebook that, in both immediate and distant hindsight, I realize did not belong on Facebook. But at least Facebook reminded me it is still there. It may not have belonged anywhere. But I want to make a permanent record of that post, and a few of the responses it generated, as a reminder that I’m not alone in my occasional/frequent periods of darkness. There are people I don’t even know personally who care and who matter.

The Post:
December 1, 2017: It’s rare that people use Facebook to convey serious thoughts, thoughts that once might have found their way to the “masses” via blogs or newspaper editorials or mailers distributed by the thousands through the mails. And that’s a shame. Here we have one of the most remarkable opportunities available to humankind, and we use it to post pictures of food. God knows, I’m guilty. But do we not consider the amazing power of social media? Really? When was the last time you read a post from someone who was contemplating suicide? A post from someone who has made up his mind, but desperately wants to be persuaded to change it? When did you last see the final post from a woman who simply found and was abandoned by the wrong man, over and over and over again. Facebook can handle those experiences, but it’s so damn full of innocuous photos of dogs that the ugliness doesn’t get through. It’s not reported. It’s ignored. Tonight, broken dreams and ugly wishes and stale ideas are on my mind. I’m not writing from my own mind’s eye, but from the perspective of people who might feel forgotten in the hustle-bustle of the world in which we live. People who need someone to say “no, you DO matter and you must come have Christmas dinner with us,” or “let’s go out and break tradition into a thousand pieces and find a Pakistani restaurant for lunch on Christmas!” Despite what I’ve written, I’m not hopeful. I’m depressed and withering at the thought that we’re living not in difficult, but demented, times. But God could I use a laugh! A heartfelt, throaty laugh! Maybe it requires practice. I don’t know. I’m living tonight in a mixture of gratitude and despair. I could use a hug or a kiss or two tickets out of the United States of America. But where to go? Seriously, where to go? Everyplace has its ugly challenges. Even this little piece of real estate in my brain. Maybe its issues are the ones that will cause the mighty statue to fall.

Some Responses:
Elle wrote: Many of my FB friends write deep, serious posts- from the horrendous state of politics to suicide attempt/depression and mourning/loss. I (and many of my friends) comment every time, thanking them for their courage to share their difficult experiences as we hope to provide some uplift , or simply to tell them we are here to listen. The human experience is so complex with a spectrum going from pain to delight- so I am acknowledging their struggles even though I may not relate. Many people read posts without commenting because they do not know what to say/write/reply but I can assure you that your posts are important. I read them (at least most of them– FB is a dangerous time-stealing vortex that I tend to avoid when I have tight deadlines). I can see that the future may look grim at this time, especially in this ugly political climate, but hope needs supporters. Have you ever thought about volunteering with children? Knowing there’s a generation behind often make us want to fight harder or just live to hand down decency and a kindness-oriented value system that seem to be on the decline. Also, youth/innocence is a powerful trigger that force us to rethink and reshape who we are. If you could find a job in a library or a school (as story reader, crossing guard, or maybe as short story teacher/workshop), you will discover a different world that will give you a new take on life. And if you are ever in California (the San Diego area), I would love to have you over often to cry and laugh about the craziness of life.

And I replied: Elle, I’ve often thought you are among the select group of people with whom I’ve connected on Facebook that I’d really like to meet. Your sensibilities are so closely aligned with mine that I consider you my “water sister,” as it were. I thank you so much for your words of encouragement and the incredible generosity with which you share ideas and offer consolation….I love you without ever having know you face to face! Yes, I’d love to come laugh and cry and share ideas with you. And, of course, please know you have an open invitation (including your entire family) to visit us in Arkansas! We have suite awaiting you and I look forward to meeting my “soul sister” in person.

Bev wrote: I don’t know, John. You write some pretty serious stuff here. 🙂 Actually, I think I may be guilty of writing quite a bit of serious stuff — enough so that a few times I’ve actually had someone tell me “you’re better than this — you shouldn’t be talking in such a negative way about your life!” I don’t think I hold back too much — well, perhaps just a little. I do have some pretty dark thoughts that I don’t share because I feel people don’t really want to go there — or it feels too painful to know that I’m thinking such things. So I am protecting you from my darkness. How do you like that? 🙂

Janis wrote: John, I feel you. My thought is, even though we don’t always write about it, I’m guessing many of us feel the pains of loss, fear, anger, sense of abandonment, etc. Most of us, however, aren’t courageous enough to share those personal experiences or ask for that virtual hug. I love that you care.

Phil wrote: I’ve always thought of fb as a cocktail party rather than a salon. I just don’t think it rewards gravitas, it’s not the right forum, stuff just vaporizes too quickly. I think this kind of reflective effort is better suited to blogs.

Two years before those exchanges, I wrote another, shorter, piece that I call my “cry from the darkness.” Here it is:

December 1, 2015: I remember, when I was in college, I’d sit up all night with friends, arguing and debating issues that had no answers. We would do our best to solve the troubles of mankind and, occasionally, we’d find the solutions. They were drowned in beer by the next day, though, so we couldn’t recall our magical solutions. In hindsight, the solutions were so damn simple: sit up with friends, talking about the problems facing the world. Have a little beer and think on the problems of humanity. Eventually, the problems disappeared. That’s the way it ought to be now. Goddamn it, let’s all just sit and talk and drink our way to loving one another.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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