We Grow Accustomed to the Dark


A poem by Emily Dickinson…

We grow accustomed to the Dark—
When Light is put away—
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye—

A Moment—We uncertain step
For newness of the night—
Then—fit our Vision to the Dark—
And meet the Road—erect—

And so of larger—Darknesses—
Those Evenings of the Brian—
When not a Moon disclose a sign—
Or Star—come out—within—

The Bravest—grope a little—
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead—
But as they learn to see—

Either the Darkness alters—
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight—
And Life steps almost straight

I lost my job a few weeks ago. Funding was down and hard decisions were made by those who make those decisions. I was understandably bitter at first. But came out of that first couple of days very excited about what the future might hold.

A couple of days ago, I picked up my copy of Good Poems, a compilation of poems selected by Garrison Keillor. Almost on cue, the book opened to my favorite (quoted above). It’s interesting how the metaphors Dickinson weaves together in those verses so aptly describe my understanding and experience of this job transition. Though I’ve come to recognize it was time to turn the page from that past chapter of employment and my excitement about what the future might hold is very real, my eyes are still adjusting to the new darkness.

So much of our identity, at least for men, is wrapped up in where our paycheck originates. Not to beat the metaphor to death but it’s easy to become focused on NOT hitting “a Tree Directly in the Forehead” as Dickinson puts it. I look at all the people surrounding me who are gainfully employed and ALL of their situations seem preferable to my own. I realize I know nothing of their stories. Many of them no doubt are wishing for something different. But from the perspective of this darkness, they seem to know exactly where they are going. Climbing one of these trees would provide the safety and security we all crave and also protect my forehead from low hanging limbs.

I’m working to see this little walk in the dark as an opportunity, one that I don’t want to squander on mere security. One of the intriguing things in Dickinson’s poem for me is that our traveler doesn’t come out into a bright light. “Either the Darkness alters—Or something in the sight Adjusts itself to Midnight, and Life steps almost straight“. Our traveler keeps walking and adjusts to the new light available. I guess that’s where I find myself these days. When I’m honest, I can’t deny that it’s a stressful place to be. But also…when I’m honest…it’s very exciting! (of course, all of your prayers are greatly appreciated!)



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