I know. I haven’t written you for a very long time. I guess there was a reason I named my blog “I Don’t Blog”! But recently, I saw a book titled The Tunnel at the End of the Light and thought, that’s where I’ve been for much of this year, stuck in that tunnel.
Why? Many reasons. Loss, illness, and, worst of all, so many friends—even, most unbearably, young ones—who were sick or dying. Which led me to worries and fears about the future—for myself, my family, the world, the planet—and too many days contemplating which is worse, anxiety or depression.
I didn’t want to write about this, not after my book was loved for being “joyful,” “uplifting,” and “laugh-out-loud.” Joyful? I couldn’t remember how that felt or believe I’d ever feel it again. No, I wouldn’t write about this; nor did I want to even talk about it with friends. It felt almost shameful, and I didn’t want to bring them down. Still, the times I did share, I often found that they were suffering, too, just like me. It reminded me of the story of the woman whose child died and who begged the Buddha to bring her son back to life. “I will revive your child,” the Buddha said, “if you bring me a simple mustard seed from a house where there’s been no death.” Well, you know how that one ends.
And truly, I didn’t need to go from house to house to see that there were none that contained no suffering, no death. All it took was opening my ears to hear of innumerable others facing problems like mine or far, far worse. And all it took was reading the paper to learn of insufferable tragedies worldwide. In a strange and comforting way, this allowed my sense of aloneness in despair to subside and my sense of connection to others to slowly revive. And I began, as my spiritual buddy Ellie advised, to extend my prayers to all who were suffering in ways those I loved were, and for all who were suffering insomnia or anxiety or whatever else I was confronting. I prayed, as the Buddhists do, for an end of suffering for all sentient beings (which, as the Dalai Lama points out, means insects too).
If I sought solace in prayer, I sought upliftment in books. Not just any books, but stories that would shine with kindness, goodness, and hope. With that as my goal, I turned (as I often do) to Young Adult books. While these are now far more realistic and hardly the sweet stuff of my youth, I still count on them to be reassuring and have a hopeful ending. I read Wonder, Lily and Duncan and What the Moon Saw, and each of them expanded my compassion, as well as my faith in others and in life.
Many friends told me to reread my own book, Recipes for a Sacred Life. After all, if it helped so many, why couldn’t it help me? So I put it on my night table, and there it sat, unopened. Just like the diet books I buy and then pat their covers, as if their message will miraculously seep into me and whittle away the pounds.
Yet even though I didn’t read my book, I realize now that what’s been bringing me back, back to the light, are the very things my stories point to:
Sing and dance what I’m feeling (not a pretty sight or sound, but very releasing!).
Bless the day.
Be in Nature.
Pray some more.
Wake with the sun and watch for the moon.
Love, starting with yourself.
Ask for help and find your healers.
Be with children. Be with elders. Be with friends.
Pray for grace.
And help others.
Which brings me to the reason for this letter. To tell you this: If you find yourself in the Tunnel at the End of the Light (and I think for all of us there comes that time), first know that you’re not alone. Then turn around, feel us all walking with you, and do everything you can remember that brings you back to the light.