19. 2021

Hi. Me again. I wish I could say I woke up this morning hungover from the revelries of New Year’s Eve celebrations, but I was in bed by 10 last night. Instead, I woke up with what Brene Brown refers to as a “vulnerability hangover.” Last night was the first time, perhaps since I was four, that I didn’t stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. That’s always been an uncompromisable tradition for me, but this year, I simply couldn’t muster the will. 

In reflecting this morning with a little more clarity and grace, I understood something deeply significant. 

Last New Year’s Eve, I built a candlelit labyrinth in my backyard and invited friends to walk it before midnight. I wanted the evening to be contemplative and intentional. I wanted, literally, to create a clear path forward, into light and hope and love. 

Three weeks later, my brother committed suicide and my life spiraled into an uncontrollable mess of chaos. Wave after wave of destruction washed out every path I had created. 

I went for a long run this morning, and when I returned, I was overtaken by deep, uncontrollable sobs. They were not the woe-is-me pity of yesterday’s post, but rather, a release of something that had become pent up. I realized, immediately, how much I had been dreading the exchange of the New Year. Not because I didn’t want 2020 to end (believe me, I REALLY wanted 2020 to end), but because I had unknowingly built up some deep sort of dread toward the month of January. I lost my brother. My whole world changed. It is now a scary and slightly unwelcome month. 

Yesterday’s post was ugly. It was a deeply gratuitous wallow in self-pity. It was soul-killing and poisonous. It was a stone-cold throwing in of the towel. It was the 38 year-old equivalent of a five year-old’s temper tantrum. 

That’s what the judgy monkey on my shoulder taunted when I woke up this morning. 

The compassionate one suggested it might be a reflection that I have veered into a dangerous territory of hopelessness and despair. I have always told my students that the greatest threat humanity faces is hopelessness. Hopelessness, inevitably, is spurred by one of two things: a loss of purpose or the inability to believe that things will ever get better. Right now, I’m grappling with both. 

I mentioned my favorite chapter from the Bible in one of my earliest posts. It is the very first chapter… 

“When Elohim began to create heaven and earth, the earth then was tohu wabohu and darkness was upon the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the face of the waters.”

Tohu means nothingness, futility. Wabohu has been best translated as welter and waste.* Welter… a chaotic mass of jumbled disorder, turmoil. Waste… as a noun,… careless purposelessness. 

In the beginning, there was something. But it was chaotic and disordered. It held no purpose or direction. It was futile in its existence. This is where we began, in the worst possible state of affairs. This is the very place where God arrived, hovering over the deep. He observed the chaos and futility and darkness, and in its place created order and purpose and light.

What I meant to say in yesterday’s post is that my life is a chaotic mess of jumbled disorder. It feels purposeless and futile. What I meant to say is that I am having trouble finding hope that it will once again hold utility and direction. What I meant to say is that everywhere I look, there seems to be a black void of darkness. 

What I didn’t have the strength to say… is that the Spirit of God is here, hovering over the deep of my life. He will re-order it. He will illuminate his purpose.  He is present.

I do know that to be true. And as much as I feel alone in the darker moments, he is here. And many of you have been as well. You have encouraged, sent support, sent love, offered guidance, offered an ear. Even if I sit down in the mud from time to time and pitch a fit, I am still grateful for all of it. 

So today, on January 01 of 2021, I want to say loudly and definitively… 

Thank you. 

Not the end. The beginning.

*welter and waste comes from Robert Alter’s translation of Genesis, the most accurate and beautiful translation I have encountered thus far.

7 thoughts on “19. 2021

  1. Dana, I know your pain all too well. It was January 21 when I lost my beloved younger sister. She was 42 years old. The year was 2007. I did not know how to heal or mourn so I forced myself to stay busy. Three months later I had a stroke. I realized then what was wrong with me and that I needed to find a mechanism to heal. I created a sculpture in honor of my sister. I have since healed and keep her memory alive by celebrating her birthdays, and the anniversary of her death. Creating Death by a Thousand Cuts helped lift a huge weight off of my shoulders. Writing her life story last year was extremely cathartic.

    Question, did you resolve your living situation?

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      1. Wonderful news Dana! Please keep Danville, Virginia in mind if you need a place to stay. It’s a great community and we can probably help you secure a teaching position at Averitt University.

        Fyi I am restoring a Federal style home from the 1800s. It’s a quadplex and it is half way done. Plus I am in the process of buying a warehouse that has two separate apartments on the second story. Not rehabbed yet but will be in the not too distant future. The apartments are for people who suffered job loss due to Covid or natural disasters.

        Looking forward to your next blog article.

        PS: Happy New Year and welcome to the year of the creative revolution!

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    1. Interesting Tina that you mention how writing your sister’s life story was cathartic. We (Dana’s readers) are hoping that Dana’s writings of self-revelation will be the catharsis she needs; thanks to those writings, we’ve also been the beneficiaries of her life experiences. Judging from some of the past comments to her blogs, her words have spoken to many hearts. I know I’ve been able to identify with much, if not all, of her experiences, which wouldn’t be the case if she hadn’t had that burning desire to write. I’m grateful that in this past year of devastating trials, she’s continued to write – impresses me what a great soul she is. She may not see it that way now, but someday she will.

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      1. Maverick, if I may so bold as to say, indeed sharing her musings with us has helped her as well as others. I thoroughly enjoy her writing style (engaging, relevant, meaningful and inspiring).

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  2. Thank you Dana for the gift of another post. The two are like night and day. In that Genesis account, the first act of creation was Light (this was before the sun, moon and stars), which created the separation called day and night. Elohim never pronounced it good, as They did after their work from the 3rd day on, but it’s a necessary separation. We continue to need that separation today – what we learn during the night, in our subconscious, shapes the day that follows, hence why sleep is so important.

    I had my own bout with vulnerability after reading yesterday’s post. I felt much as Peter’s companions must have felt when he walked on water – as much as my heart wanted to help, I wasn’t stepping out on that water! I realized that the only One who was able to help you was the Master, which is why I reveled to hear your encouraging words of hope today, that you knew the Spirit was hovering over this dark situation.

    This is where I see the Trinity in play. Returning to your creation story, I see the Father’s Mind knowing that this indeed was a dark situation, this “chaotic mess of jumbled disorder” They were faced with. I see the Spirit as the Divine Feminine – some call her Sophia (Wisdom) – like the Father, never giving up on what seemed a hopeless situation. Together, They will send Their Son as the Way to fix the mess we disobedient souls created. What followed was a long, drawn-out process that we are still involved in today. Paul sums it up succinctly in Romans 11:32: “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.”

    As your companion on this journey, as much as my heart goes out to you, I repeat – I’m not stepping out on that water. I’m too much of a baby, but I admire you for your faith to even try stepping out of the boat. I do know that the Father is rich in mercy though – I’ve experienced some of that, and I’ll be praying that with the Divine Mother’s love hovering over your darkness, and the Son’s hand reaching out to you, that you’ll be pulled to safety. And I pray it’ll be soon, as you seem to be quickly going down! We want you back in the boat with us. We love you.

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  3. I disagree with the judgy monkey. I perceived no poison in yesterday’s post. It was authentic and raw and beautiful. Given your loss a year ago… of course. Sometimes women in labor or those who are dying are able to consider the bigger picture, the joy set before them, their present Help; sometimes they howl in agony and forget everything besides the pain. Half-decent human beings don’t judge either expression. Life is hard and complicated. God knows our frame and loves us. Grace and peace to you. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words.

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