I’ve had Mary Oliver’s The Uses of Sorrow rolling around in my head lately.
Someone I loved
once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years
that this, too, was a gift.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had one or two pivotal sorrows that have changed the course of your life, your thinking, and the person you’ve become. For me those were my divorce and a couple of dissolved friendships. For many years I’ve tried to understand what happened to me, how I misread the signs, or what I did to cause these painful experiences, and it’s only recently that I’ve allowed myself to appreciate the good that came out of them.
I often say I would never wish my experience on my worst enemy, but neither would I change what happened, for it was in a box of darkness that I learned how to be human. I was on a trajectory of black-and-white thinking, unsympathetic, unyielding, inhumane. It took a really big failure to change my course, and for that I am so thankful, for myself and for the many kindred spirits I’ve met along the way who had similar stories to tell but didn’t know it was okay to tell them.
I’m not perfect. Far from it. But I like who I am. I spend less time agonizing over what I said or what I left undone and more time leaning into my strengths and saying no to things that aren’t for me.
It’s good to remember how far I’ve come.
Rachel Womelsduff Gough strives for hospitality of the Henri Nouwen variety, “not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”