Three decades ago, my life was humming along in a predictable way. The children were growing up with only two left at home. I had given up alcohol. Both my wife and I had good jobs – I as a university professor and she as a personnel officer for a large corporation. Our marriage was going well. In fact she commented one night “Our marriage is better than it’s ever been.”
Then about six weeks after that comment, she called from work and announced she was separating.
I was devastated. It felt like the end of the world. I couldn’t stop crying for four days. Before I reached out for help, I even spiraled into considering suicide. At one point, I realized I was running out of food and went to the market. There I ran into a man I recognized but didn’t know. He called me by name and asked me how I was doing. Barely holding back the tears I told him my wife had left me. What followed was bizarre. He got a big smile on his face, thrust his hand into mine, and shook my hand as he said, “Congratulations!” Then he turned and walked away. I was dumbfounded.
During the next year or so, I went through huge changes in my life. I got divorced. I met Eileen and we were planning to get married. I resigned my position at the University and was preparing to move 300 miles away to join Eileen and return to being a university student. Many more changes would follow, all good.
Then one day before I moved I ran into that man again. I never did figure out who he was, but I confronted him on why he offered me congratulations at such a low point in my life. He answered with a simple question: “How many of us ever have a chance to really start over and create a new life for ourselves? That’s why I congratulated you.”
I still think his comment was rather insensitive, even cruel, but he was right. I was in the midst of the biggest re-creation of my life to that point. In the depths of my despair, of course, I couldn’t see any future at all. However, all that wonderful stuff of life that followed might never have happened had I not visited that dark place.
A dozen years later came the next dark time. A business I was connected with in the US failed, and that failure pushed us into personal bankruptcy. We lost everything: savings, house, automobile and my real estate broker’s license. I had no idea how we would get out of this mess, but I had learned to remind myself that light does follow darkness and that it’s not my job to know how things will unfold, just that they will.
Again a massive re-creation was underway. I got more in touch with my spiritual nature, and returned to the practice of psychology. A short time later Eileen and I moved to the West Coast, where we have had an amazing life. Eileen’s art has flourished and I discovered writing.
Learning to trust that light will follow darkness, even when I have no idea how it will, has helped greatly in dealing with the deaths of three of our children in the last few years. I suspect I’m in the midst of another re-creation period right now. I won’t really know until I can look back on it, but I’m sure the universe will deliver as usual.
I invite you to consider your own life and reflect on the re-creation and growth that has followed the dark periods.
Dr. Neill Neill is a registered psychologist in Qualicum Beach. He helps capable people who feel stuck… trauma, relationships, addictions.