White Lights Lead to Red Lights, Red Lights Indicate the Exit. How to Find Forgiveness in the Dark.

Feb 25 2013

I was all set to post 5 Quick Questions, volume 2 today because volume 1 was FUN. And we’ll get there this week. I promise. We’ll play together and laugh and gag at our computer screens when I tell you about stepping on disembodied mouse heads in the dark. Cross my heart.

But a comment arrived a couple days ago that waylaid me, friends. And it’s important. Essential, really. It’s important because it goes way beyond the Parenting Game and gets right to the heart. Right to soul. Right to core of How We Parent + Who We Are + Being Human + Survival.

Once upon a time, I wrote about bringing home our 2nd and 3rd kids. About how long we’d waited to adopt them. And about how amazing it was to finally have them… except when I realized I was in a dark, desolate mental place and so it turned out not to be amazing at all. I talked quite frankly in that post about how hard it is to forgive myself for that time. For living in the dark. For not being enough. For being, well, so totally human when my kids needed me to be so totally divine.

This week, a fellow mama found that post, and she commented.

I’m late to reading this, she said. I want to say I can forgive myself for giving in, but I can’t. I was so deep in the dark side that I did swallow that bottle of pills. Ambulances came, and my daughter, little at the time, had to explain to the neighbors at the bus stop that I was in the hospital, but she didn’t know why. My marriage was a shambles. I had to take months off work, leaving a classroom with no teacher. But the thing I can’t forgive myself for is that I almost left my daughter with no mother. I did put one foot in front of the other. I changed my meds and went to marriage counseling and saw my shrink regularly and I came through, my marriage survived, I survived, my family survived. I’m a better mother now. My daughter doesn’t remember that day, but I do, and I’m not sure I’ll ever truly forgive myself.

Have you been there, friends? Deep inside the dark? Where the despair already swallowed you whole? And where white lights should lead to red lights, and red lights should indicate the exit, but there are no damn lights at all? 

I have. Oh, I have BEEN THERE. Not with the swallowing of the pills. But in the middle of the crash landing, breathing in the smoke from the engine fires, and sure, certain, I wouldn’t survive it.

And forgiveness after crashing the mama plane? Forgiveness for being so very broken when my kids deserved peace? How do I do this forgiveness thing? And why would I try?

Sometimes, friends, sometimes clarity comes when we see a fellow mama’s story. Because it absolutely easier for me to offer her grace than it is to offer it to myself. And yet, when we’re gracious to another, we begin to see that grace belongs to all of us, yes? Even me.

Oh, mama, I wrote in reply. Oh, mama, you are worthy of absolute love… BOTH the you who lived in the dark and breathed desolation and drank despair and acted on the absence of hope, AND the you who survived and found enough of the light to live and love again.

I don’t have enough of the pieces of wisdom for forgiveness. But I do have one piece, and it’s this… I keep working to forgive myself because I want to see my children free. Free from shame. Free from beating themselves up. Free to throw their shoulders back and hold their heads high and accept the fullness of the light despite the inevitable time in the dark. And I don’t know how to teach them to release themselves from shame without setting an example of living in full freedom myself. I’m not there yet. I haven’t arrived. But I’ll set my feet on the forgiveness path as many times as it takes. Because forgiveness doesn’t just free ourselves. No. Forgiveness is one of the Wild Things, and a world of unreasonable grace is where I want to live.

So, friends, there’s my piece. My tiny bit. My white light. And I thought, perhaps, you might have a white light of your own. A gracious word. A bit of wisdom. A story of love to share, like the stories you shared with Not Evan when he needed to breathe joy.

It felt like there were no lights when I crash landed ten years ago. And maybe that’s the nature of the crash landing, I don’t know, to be lost and alone and blind and afraid. But I’m starting to think it doesn’t have to be that way. Not always. Or not for long. I’m starting to think that we might help each other find the exits a little sooner. That the exits may be closer than we know. And that if I add my white light to your white light to her white light to his white light, we may find our way together.