Editor’s note: Each Thursday, we feature a throwback piece from Topology’s predecessor, catapult magazine. In this essay from 2006. an anonymous writer tells the story of a long night’s rebirth that led to a life of healing.
To be only slightly overdramatic, I found myself in midlife, like Dante, in the midst of dark wood. The way forward was lost to me, and the spiral down into depression seemed without end. Ghosts of the past—family of origin issues thought to have been resolved, uncertainty about the gifts I supposed I had, and that dark companion who ever whispers, “You know you’re not at all who others think”—were all too regular and familiar companions.
A week-long silent and solitary retreat in the woods brought little relief. Long periods of meditation were nothing more than long. Hiking through the woods tired me but didn’t bring me the sleep for which I ached. The beauty of late summer’s lush green and a young fawn peering in my window each morning at dawn did not lift me. Despair deepened, made more painful by the illusion that this time away would be a turning.
As I sat journaling, the great thunderhead of a Midwestern storm began to build above me. I finished an entry having to do with how I had never liked my first name and, in fact, felt it was not my true name. Somehow I felt my true name was Michael; why I did not, and do not, know. The thunder began rolling toward me, and the first dollop-sized rain drops began to splatter about me. I retreated indoors to watch the storm.
The rain poured down; the lightning freeze-framed the darkened woods. I was entranced. From deep within, far beneath consciousness, came a decision. And in a moment I had stripped off my clothes and was standing outside naked, arms outstretched, face raised in the pouring rain, receiving benediction as I whispered “Michael” over and over. Memory played backwards; my name became “Mikey.” How long was I there? Who can measure when there is no time? When the rain slowed, I went in, toweled off, and lay on my bed. And slept.
I awoke in complete darkness, a darkness more complete and profound than I had ever known. And in that place began a journey toward healing that yet continues.