Insomnia and I have become rather close lately. Granted, we don’t see each other every night — it can be weeks or even months between our unhappy hours — but suffice it to say we know each other well.
Our family has had an incredibly difficult year. Those of you who are regular readers here (and, of course, family and friends who know us personally) know there isn’t a single area of our lives that hasn’t undergone some sort of major, significant life-changing hit in the past 12 months. Our work, longtime friendships, health, finances, issues with the kids … each of these has been impacted to the point that we’ve been questioning everything — our past decisions, our present realities. It is the darkest stretch of time since what I refer to as “the black hole years” of The Boy’s autism diagnosis 12 years ago.
That doesn’t always make for a restful night’s sleep. Add into all that our country’s unending violence, relentless heartbreak, and a downright nightmarish presidential election season that has tempers blazing, including that of one unhinged, dangerous and completely unfit candidate, and it’s no wonder I find myself up at night.
I’ve been seeking words of wisdom, binging on current and back episodes of “On Being” and most especially craving spiritually-focused books. Not religious works, because religion doesn’t necessarily work for me these these days, but books that have the ability to ease the tension (if only for the few brief minutes of reading before bedtime), provide some insight or new perspective. A spiritual salve, if you will, for navigating the hurts of this scary, confusing, uncertain world.
As soon as I started Between the Dark and the Daylight, it was like Joan Chittister was writing just for me. From the first two pages:
“There is a part of the soul that stirs at night, in the dark and soundless times of day, when our defenses are down and our daylight distractions no longer serve to protect us from ourselves. What we suppress in the light emerges clearly in the dusk. It’s then, in the still of life, when we least expect it, that questions emerge from the damp murkiness of our inner underworld. Questions with ringtones that call the soul to alert but do not come with ready resolutions. Questions about life, not about the trivia of dailiness. The kind of questions to which there is no one answer but which, nevertheless, plague us for attention if we are ever to move through the dimness of life’s twists and turns with confidence.
These questions do not call for the discovery of data; they call for the contemplation of possibility.”
I read those words — yes, I confess, sometime around 3:30 in the morning — and was instantly awake. This is not a book about conquering insomnia, but rather one that addresses the dark issues of the soul. I don’t mean “dark” as in a harmful or dangerous way. More in terms of the anxieties and complacencies that can be so powerful in preventing us from moving forward in our lives.
In this book, it’s not necessarily what Joan Chittister is saying — it’s how she says it. There’s a gentleness and calmness to her prose that is incredibly soothing. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising as Joan Chittister is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA. (That said, by no means is this book heavy-handed with theology; quite the contrary.)
The author of more than 50 books, she has an extensive, impressive biography spanning decades of accomplishments as an “outspoken advocate of justice, peace and equality — especially for women world-wide.” (source: Joan Chittister). And, best of all, she was born in Allegheny County, so she’s a Pittsburgher!
I’m almost embarrassed to say that I hadn’t heard of Joan Chittister before discovering Between the Dark and the Daylight while browsing at the library. But I strongly believe that books and their authors find us at the precise time we need them, and Between the Dark and the Daylight is definitely one of them. Highly recommended, especially during these troubled times for so many of us and our world.
Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life
by Joan Chittister
This is post #65 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project