What It Is Wednesday: No Light at the End of the Tunnel


We like to assure the downtrodden, the sick, and the grieving that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  But wait…are we so sure?

I’ve known (and have written about) the long, dark tunnel I’ve been going through for almost a year and a half now.  It’s related to overcoming some particular childhood traumas that have had ill effects on my childhood, my love life, and pretty much the way I see the world.  It’s related to much of that trauma being reflected in a work situation as well as in a home repair situation.   It’s related to deciphering what went wrong in a couple of relationships and how to allow myself to fall in love with much higher quality men and not to settle, even if it means I remain celibate for the rest of my life.

This tunnel is not a bad thing, though it’s certainly been difficult.   All these situations and dramas and traumas are tied together, all the way back to early childhood.  I know many people forget things from their childhood or remember almost nothing of it.   I’m wired differently, and I remember almost all of it, and I’ve been damned to repeat it because I couldn’t see that pattern, acknowledge it, change it to something better.   I’m not completely through the tunnel yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Not literally on the earthly plane, no more than I see a physical tunnel on the earthly plane, but in meditation, yes, there’s a tunnel, and there’s now a light.  I’m closer to coming out of the tunnel than going into it, and that’s a good thing.

It’s the thing we tell others in loving platitudes.  We try to encourage people who are ill or people who are dealing with divorce or people who can’t get beyond the targeted prejudicial actions of a boss or two.

Because of my “tunnel” and one particularly facet of it, I’ve not had a gathering in my home in seven months until a few nights ago.  I just couldn’t have people over with water running down my living room wall while I fought with a major home services company’s roofing division–an extremely painful ordeal that involved ten months of  inside water damage that has yet to be repaired. I’ve had an open ceiling for six months and a new roof for only two months, but still so much to be done and so much stress from that alone.  I couldn’t see having a peaceful group meeting under an open ceiling or having anyone in my home during this time, so I stopped having anyone in my home–guests, friends, colleagues, dates, my spiritual circle.  That’s not been good for me but I didn’t realize it until an old friend came into town and we did it anyway, with cardboard taped to the ceiling to keep the room cool enough for eight people to sit and laugh together and bare our souls to one another.

It struck me as interesting, painful, and full of gratitude as I listened to my friends talk about ordeals they’re struggling with.  These weren’t matters of how to redecorate the bathroom or where to vacation.  These were hard, hard problems–medical, financial, marital, abuse, and jobs.  My own problems of the last year, while intensely stressful, seemed so much less dire by comparison.  At some point, someone said something to someone else about a light at the end of the tunnel, to which the other responded that she’d been hearing that for a long time.

Some tunnels are long indeed.

Later, after the gathering, I was talking to another friend about tunnels and lights and the old joke that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.  We paused for a moment, wondering, what if there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel for some people.  What if they never find their way out?

It’s possible.  We don’t like to talk about it because it’s depressing, but not everyone sees the light or even if they do, not everyone makes it out of the tunnel.

Some people have been hurt so badly, messed up so badly health-wise and psychologically, that there’s no going back and nothing ahead but more darkness, more tunnel, and no amount of prayer or love or money will ever get them through the tunnel.  It’s not an optimistic view of life or on the human race, and I don’t like to think that way, but maybe we should pause for a moment to understand that some people won’t make it out of the tunnel, no matter how optimistic we are or they are, and that it’s for those people we need to ensure we extend our compassion.

Key Takeaway: Sometimes, “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel” is neither encouraging nor helpful for people or situations and they just need companionship or compassion from us while they bid their time in their tunnel.


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