Halfway Out of the Dark

And with that, 2012 is over.

You’ll have to forgive me for not updating this blog these last few months. I was distracted by my duties and my experience at the LLC and I had more pressing concerns. If I’m being completely truthful, it was a very difficult semester for me.

Those who really know me will tell you that I’m not a very happy person. I’ve grown accustomed to putting on a happy face and joking around all of the time, but that very rarely reflects how I feel on the inside. I’ve been struggling with depression for quite some time now. I’ve left it unchecked for years, but it has never affected me as greatly as it has in the last 24 months. 2013 is a very dark prospect for me, because I’ve lost hope. At least it feels that way. I think that 2013 is a very dark prospect for me because I haven’t lost all hope, at least not yet. As Bane explains in The Dark Knight Rises:

“There’s a reason why this prison is the worst hell on earth… Hope. Every man who has ventured here over the centuries has looked up to the light and imagined climbing to freedom. So easy… So simple… […] I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope.”

I’m miserable most of the time, and while I tell myself that I don’t really see any way that that will change, I know that it can. Every morning, however, it’s a struggle just to wake up, and every night I feel like I’m losing the fight.

There’s a long-running British show called Doctor Who that I’m quite fond of. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Every year they release a Christmas special, and in 2010, they released a Doctor Who version of A Christmas Carol. The episode described Christmas in this way:

“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, ‘Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark’.”

Halfway Out of the Dark

Later in the episode, The Doctor is speaking to Kazran Sardick, who is this Christmas carol’s stand in for “Scrooge”. Kazran has just stopped himself from slapping a child, and the following exchange occurs:

The Doctor: Merry Christmas, Mr. Sardick.
Kazran Sardick: I despise Christmas!
The Doctor: You shouldn’t. It’s very you.
Kazran Sardick: It’s what? What do you mean?
The Doctor: Halfway out of the dark.

Halfway out of the dark. I love this description of Christmas. This description encapsulates not only the natural occurrences of the season, but also the true, Christian meaning behind the holiday. I love the idea that Christmas is the celebration that occurs once the darkness begins to recede, both literally and metaphorically. Our lives are filled with darkness, but at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who came as a light unto that darkness; Jesus came into the world to bring it halfway out of the dark. To be halfway out of the dark is to have hope that the darkness is fading and that you’re emerging into the light. It was my wish this season that Christmas would be able to describe me – “Halfway out of the dark”. I so badly wanted that to be me. I so badly wanted people to say “It’s very you”. It’s not though. From where I’m sitting, the darkness is thicker than ever, and hope is in short supply.

2012 was the 50th anniversary of the character of Spider-Man, whose first appearance came in August 1962. Along with the 50th anniversary, everyone’s favorite wall-crawler saw another milestone – the 700th (and final) issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. The 104-page issue contained not only a fantastic story, but also a moving letters page in which Spider-Man fans wrote in sharing what the character of Spider-Man had meant to them over the last 50 years. The character has been an inspiration to many, and for good reason. Peter Parker is relatable. He’s the everyman. He’s awkward, poor, and bad with women. His life is full of hardships, more so than most. There are times when it feels like he has it all together, whether he’s working at a dream job or married to a supermodel wife, but it never lasts. Things fall apart. Life is full of ups and downs, and Peter Parker’s downs are lower than most. But there is something that sets him apart. You see it in every Spider-Man story worth it’s webs – Spider-Man, despite all of the odds stacked against him, never gives up. He doesn’t always win, but he never gives up. In the face of literally every darkness imaginable – failure, misfortune, hopelessness, anger, death, pain, loss, heartbreak – he perseveres. Without spoiling the issue, there is a moment in Amazing Spider-Man #700 when another character experiences what it’s like to have Peter Parker’s life. His words are “Please. No more. It’s too much. I can’t… can’t go on.” Peter replies “Yes, you can. You’d be surprised how much you can do. How many things are worth fighting for.”

Amazing Spider-Man 655

We don’t all have great power like Spider-Man’s, but we DO have a choice – we can give up or we can continue to fight. Even if it hurts. Even if it feels like we’ll never win. There is always a choice. Sometimes it’s the hardest choice in the world. Sometimes we lose sight of it. Sometimes we become blinded by the darkness, the seeming hopelessness, the pain. Yet the choice remains. It waits for us. We can choose to remain in the darkness, or we can choose to fight for the light. We can fight for Christmas, to be halfway out of the dark. It’s not an easy choice. It never will be. But the choice is ours.

I’ve realized that halfway out of the dark isn’t something that you can just be – it is a choice. No one is going to come up to me and say “It’s very you – halfway out of the dark”. If I’m going to be halfway out of the dark, then I need to choose to be halfway out of the dark. It’s not an easy choice to make. You’d think it would be, but it’s not. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve felt like giving up. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve actually given up. I can’t count the number of times I’ve prayed the words “Please. No more.. It’s too much. I can’t… can’t go on.” When you live every day in despair, it becomes easy to give up. Hope is hard. Halfway out of the dark is hard.

I worry that this message will come off as disingenuous. This isn’t meant to be my grand declaration that I’m done with living in darkness. I can say with certainty right now that I don’t want to fight. I want to give up. Fighting is hard. Giving up is easy. This is how I feel right now. And yet… I think of the Doctor, the eternal optimist who has never, in 900 years of time and space, met someone who wasn’t important. I think of Spider-Man, who, against every conceivable odd, never gave up. They’re just characters in stories, but it’s amazing the power that stories have. I guess that’s why I’ve always been so drawn to them. Stories are meaningful. They can inspire you to make a choice. They can give you the strength to fight another day. And maybe, just maybe, they can even restore your hope.

It didn’t happen for me in 2012…

But maybe in 2013.

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