The story of Jonah always intrigued me due to its imagery. If you don’t know, Jonah runs in the opposite direction after God instructs him to go to Nineveh to preach to the gentiles. This is comparable to asking a Jew in 1940 to deliver a testimony to the Nazis. Of course the prospect was terrifying, but where did Jonah find himself after running? He found himself literally and figuratively in the dark.
I have spent so much of my life running from difficulty to find myself temporarily and superficially comforted by pleasure. What has it gotten me? Darkness void of any happiness at all was the only thing I found in trivial pursuits. It was only through struggle and work I ever found any semblance of joy.
Pleasure must not equal happiness, and I am certain the avoidance of pain does not equal happiness either.
I thought happiness was the goal of life, but where did I ever learn that? Who in all of history made that rule? Could the avoidance of discomfort be what is actually preventing us from achieving the greatest version of ourselves, and therefore, true happiness? Maybe it results from the journey through the strife towards a goal?
I think about the grief I endured after my father died and my failed attempt at marriage, and I remember suppressing that grief for years in the pursuit of meaningless pleasures and distractions. I drank, smoked, screwed, and got revenge. The result was complete and total darkness so deep and cold no light could penetrate it. I suppressed my mourning for so long I was left with no other alternative than to confront the monster inside me.
I pushed my father out of my mind as if he never existed until I could no longer. Make no mistake, when I state I pushed my father out of my mind I do not merely mean my thought processes refused to acknowledge my father had died but that I ever had a father at all. Let me be the first to tell you I do not recommend that method as an effective coping mechanism. No one gets away with anything.
I was at my desk at work just like any other day. All I did was glance at the clock on my phone to see the date. It was September 30th. From the depths emerged a voice informing me it was my father’s birthday only to be subsequently followed by another voice informing me my father was dead. I heard it for the first time.
It took three years for my father to haunt me, and the bereavement that followed consumed me in every sense of the word. I thought more about my father in the year that followed than I ever had.
I thought I could outrun the pain, but I ended up lost instead; out in the wilderness. I thought I as doing a fantastic job of running from it all until it dug its way out of a shallow grave to envelop my soul. I realize now it simply does not work that way. It follows you and pounces for the kill. Darkness was all there was leaving me no choice but confrontation, but to confront my father’s death was to confront my own failure; my failure as a daughter, a lover, a friend, and a decent human being.
I held anger towards my father over the state of his marriage, which was (dare I say it?) none of my business. I was angry with him over the turmoil of our own strained relationship in which I absolutely played a role. I hated him for confronting my then boyfriend and current ex-husband; a hate embraced so tightly I did not even speak to him at our wedding. His request involved me sleeping with my then boyfriend in such a manner as to allow him to remain blissfully oblivious to the fact I was sexually active at all.
Now that I am a parent, it does not seem too much to ask.
I wrote my father off for a man that did not even attend his funeral with me; a man nowhere to be found today. I should have known I willingly entered into matrimony with regret and sorrow.
What is there to do other than try to do the opposite of what you did before? Making amends is impossible, and I’m honestly not sure what the correct way is to do anything. That is the only option I have. I know I can’t run. It doesn’t work, because what I bury is bound to rise again.
Job demanded God give him an explanation for suffering he believed undue, but why? Who says suffering is not part of the deal? Would I appreciate what I have now without it?