Darkness is all I can see. It has it’s own depth and weight. I blink a few times to make sure my eyes are open. Yep, they are open. Without the precious sense of sight, my other senses become heightened. I hear nothing except the rhythm of my own breath echoing off the space. This strange sonar gives me a sense that my prison must have some height and depth. I hear no natural sound. I am not outside, or even near to an outer wall. A cave? I hear no water dripping or trickling thru fissures in the earth. No mustiness lingers in the air caused by the constant presence of mist and dampness. In fact, I smell nothing at all. If I am underground, it is not a natural structure.
What am I laying on then? Oh, yes. I’ve just noticed I’m laying down. Strange. Complete darkness is so very disorienting. The floor is smooth like granite except, wait a minute. What are these? When I move my hands metallic clinks echo throughout the chamber. The cold, oval structures appear to be interlinked. Chills cause the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end as I recognize the shape: a chain large enough to anchor a ship to the bottom of the sea. With the same hand, I follow the links, the size of my palm, toward me to find their origin. The chills shoot through my body as I find the chain is not attached to my wrist by any kind of strap. It is growing from or was implanted there! With a gentle tug, pain shoots up my arm. An involuntary cry, the mixture of physical pain and rising panic, escapes my throat. Quick inspection reveals the other wrist in the same condition.
Momentarily incapacitated by fear, I evaluate my situation. Giving in to the panic will get me no where. Breathe. Just breathe. Get a hold of yourself. Chains have two ends. So, let’s see where the other end is. Yes, by now I have resorted to referring to myself in third person plural. You find chains coming out of your wrists and see how long you hold it together! With plans to investigate by way of crawling, I flip over on my stomache. Gripped by horror again, I gasp as pain shoots from my feet up my legs. I suck in air thru clenched teeth, willing the pain to subside. I try to control my trembling hand as I slowly, carefully, reach down to inspect. Though motion shoots fire through my body, I must confirm what I fear to find. Identical chains protrude from both ankles. With as little pain as I can manage, I scoot up, put my face on my knees, and succumb to all manor of deep despairing emotions. Time means little in complete darkness. I vacillate between why I am here and how I came to be at such a miserable place and condition. When I cannot reason the answers, I wallow in despair until it circles back to the questions of why and how.
A gentle touch on the crown of my head startles me out of my black revelry. So focused on my thoughts, I had not heard anyone approach. I look up, expecting to see only blackness. Instead, I find myself squinting at a man. My eyes had grown so accustomed to the dark, it hurts to look where any light exists. He is not holding a light, but he seems to be lit by daylight. It is strange. The light is radiating from within him. He is not gleaming or glowing. It’s like soft warmth in his being that needs no light. Instantly I notice his eyes. They are old with wisdom, filled with more knowledge and understanding than one human being should possess. His face holds an expression of peace that frankly, makes me want to slap him. As I consider if I should think this, he chuckles, shakes his head, and begins to sit along the wall. I gasp, afraid he will fall. He looks up with concern as he rests comfortably on a ledge I apparently did not see before he began to sit. Maybe it was a trick of the shadows.
“Hi.” I smile sadly as my eyes meet his again. This is not how I would have expected to greet the King of the Universe.
“Hi.” The warmth of his voice washes over me. I close my eyes and listen to it echo.
Glancing around I see my burdens are four round weights, roughly two feet in diameter, at the end of a five-foot chain. Etched in each weight is the name of an affliction I carry.
I look back at him with concern. He returns my concern with sadness. Unable to stand the distance any longer, I stand and gather up the chains to protect myself from pain as much as possible. With my head down I lean into the weight, bear the pain and pull with all the strength I can muster. The cavern is filled with the screech of metal on the floor. White hot pain courses thru every cell as sweat beads across my forehead.
“Please don’t,” he urges through gritted teeth.
Desperation in his voice causes me to look up, but I don’t stop. With each step, pain surges up each arm, each leg. Muscles spasm. With each stab of pain, I can see his face twitch, the muscles in his back, arms and legs convulse. It’s like looking in a mirror that transforms your reflection into the most precious person you can imagine. It is worse than any pain I can feel.
“Please stop.” He whispers again.
With relief for both of us, I drop my chains. There is still so much distance to cover. Still so little has been accomplished. Frustration sets in. “How do get there? What am I supposed to do? I can’t go anywhere when I’m weighed down like this. And it hurts. It hurts so much.” Tears fall, only now do I realize they have been falling thru the entire struggle. I turn my wrists over to show him where the chains enter my skin. They are now bleeding and bruised.
“I know,” he says and turns his wrists over, “the scars never really go away.”
I laugh through tears and cock my head to the side, “That’s not the same.”
“No?” He looks up from his wrists with just his eyes and wrinkles his brow. “Child, I did this for you.” Indicating toward the weight I claim as mine with a slight head tilt, he continued, “Those burdens I will take, when you are ready to give them up.”
“But I have asked you so many times to take them away. They are still here.” Tears run freely down my cheeks. This is a touchy subject, and we both know it. I turn away and begin running my fingers over the etchings in the weights.
“Sometimes giving me your burdens doesn’t mean they disappear. I will make ALL things new. Your scars, like mine, may have been made by horrific circumstances. But I can transform them into something beautiful. Let me have it. Let me do it.” These words are said with the gentleness of love, the authority of a command, and the want of a beg.
Tears still streaming down my face, “I do. I will. But I can’t promise I won’t steal them back.”
He stands. At the sound of his movement I jump, but I have no desire to run. After all, where would I go? He puts his hands on my shoulders and turns me to face him. With a rough hand on either cheek, he wipes away my tears. Forcing me to look into those wise old eyes he tells me, “I know. So until you are ready to give them up again, I’ll be here with you. Waiting. When you are ready, I will take it all over again.” He smiles. It brightens the whole room.
He kisses me on the forehead. I whisper, “Take it,” and I start giggling. His laughter is deep and full, filling the room with joy. With each breath the darkness surrounding us grows lighter. The sharp burning pain in my wrists and ankles has replaced the dull, bearable ache of healing. The weights have turned into balloons, each a different color. The chains are now strings. They are still attached to me, but the pain is substantially less. On each balloon is still written an affliction, but there is also hope, possibility, change, and potential written there.
It had been a stressful last couple of hours at work. I was reflecting about how everything went down and wondering if there was anything that I could have handled differently…better. My only hope was that some of the decisions I made were to my credit. Feeling like a failure after work is a common occurrence. Someone told me once that I’m a round peg trying to fit into a square hole there. It’s so true. At the same time I’m begrudgingly ruminating over the fact that because of Daylight Savings Time I am now driving home in the fast approaching darkness. The guy that thought this up obviously never struggled annually with seasonal depression. So while I’m frustrated about my struggles at work and being robbed of much-needed sunlight, I come around a curve by one of the lakes on my way home. My mind stops it’s constant stream of…well…thought to gasp.
Spread out before me is a scene of quiet beauty. I gently tap my brakes to take it all in. The view from this curve always causes me to catch my breath, if I’m paying attention. But this, I was not at all prepared for. There’s a break in the trees that line the lake just wide enough to see the wood-line that gracefully hugs the shore. There are large branches reaching out over the water as these old trees grip with all their might to stay rooted in the ground. Passed what’s left of the woods are houses lining the lake, tiny in the distance. Warm yellow light flows from inside their window panes, casting long fingers of gold on the still, dark navy water. Out of the vast darkness speckled with light rises a silvery-white mist. Far from making things haunted or eerie, as mists sometimes do, it gives the twilight a dusting of the magical as it reluctantly gives way to the darkness of night. The furthest edge of the lake is obscured, blending the deep blue of the water with the cerulean blue of the sky. There are no stars, just a deep calming blue that reminds me to appreciate my gift for noticing the details.
For a moment I wished I had my camera to capture this quiet moment. The truth is I just wanted to go home. Besides, by the time I found a good place to set up, and put everything in that place, all remaining light would be gone along with the beautiful deep blue colors. So for the brief moment that my car passed that opening in the trees, I soaked in every detail. And I kept moving forward, toward home.