This sketch pretty much summarizes my 2013, an unpredictable assortment of white dots and black dots spanning the entire spectrum of emotion from indescribable joy and clarity to unutterable pain and confusion.
This is my 21st blog post this year. In terms of the black dots and white dots, I have shared about both. While my tendency is to explore the childlike joy of inherently good ‘white’ events, and grasp new truths to help me rationalize the bad ‘black’ events, it is the sum total of all the dots that give my life it’s richness.
The white dots do not make the blackness any less, but they always seem to shine just long enough to help me escape whatever darkness befalls me. This year I’ve written about old friends who are irreplaceable and won’t go away, and my growing old body and its replacement parts. I’ve written about Chris becoming a father, and of learning Caity is due this June. I recollected my mothers passing, putting my Chocolate Lab down, as well as two lives interrupted way too early. I also penned a piece about Leigh leaving her teaching career, and another on trading in my 2004 sedan in for a 2010.
With each story I try to feel the ‘white’ of the joy and the ‘black’ of the lesson. Sometimes I learn it is good to be “out with the old and in with the new”; sometimes, it’s just not that easy.
I became aware, again, how the passage of time can change my perception of brightness. What I thought was the whitest shade of white a dot could ever be suddenly become pale next to a newer white dot: What I thought was insurmountable joy in learning I would become a grandfather, was easily eclipsed by the pride of watching my son become a father.
Darkness has its own dynamic. The premature death of a Naval Academy classmate in the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard was mind-numbing to hear about in the news, but far more difficult to stomach as I watched his three daughters take their seats in the church to bid him farewell.
The purple ribbon tied to the Bittersweet Magnolia in my backyard is a daily reminder of my 8-year-old neighbor and friend, Addison, whose life was cut short by cancer. There is no ‘white’ that is bright enough to make that right. Period.
The sad truth is that without the contrast of black and white, the fullness of my life’s picture cannot be fully appreciated. It seems trite to say I need sorrow to feel joy, pain to feel the ecstasy, or grief to feel gratitude, but that is my truth. That doesn’t make the black dots any less dark or painful, but if living this long has taught me anything, it’s that context is crucial to maintaining my own mental and spiritual stability. I don’t have control over much of the ‘black’ and ‘white’ in my life, but I do have control over how I respond. No matter the depth and blackness of sorrow, or the height and brightness of joy, it’s good for me to remember that “This too shall pass.” This is life.
Happy New Year!