The Dark Side of Healing: Staring Down the Problem of Evil

The Dark Side of Healing

Okay, okay, you’re right. Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.

Trust is no longer the issue. Life is just so goddamn good, and lately that’s been an issue for me.

In her memoir, Becoming, Michelle Obama gives the words I’ve needed to articulate why that’s a problem. Struck by her depth of feeling for Barack and reeling in the aftermath of losing one of her best friends to cancer at age 26, she says “I wanted to nail everything to the ground and stake it as my own.”

I’ve built a full, meaningful life after having my previous one flipped on its head. I know first-hand how quickly the Universe can take and give, destroy and create. It humbles me and urges me to savor it all. The flip side, though, is that it terrifies me.

Daring to See

In the past year, I’ve anchored myself to the realization that no matter what goes on around me, I can trust my own inner voice. It’s a truth I discovered by analyzing how my own patterns were contributing to my high incidence of betrayal in relationship, and It has transformed my life.

But the thing about truth is that there are usually deeper and deeper layers to perceive, angles and curves to follow. In her memoir, Educated, Tara Westover pried open my fixed grip on my current level of understanding with these piercing words:

“It’s comforting to think the defect is mine, because that means it is under my power.”

What I Can’t Control

The next level of big scary truth I’m grappling with is that evil exists and bad things happen. In spite of the illusion of control I’ve successfully maintained by focusing on my own flaws and choices, I am not immune to further hurt.

Fred Rogers knew this truth on the day he was asked to “say something” about the 9/11 attacks. The man knew what to say to children about racism, divorce, and even death. But in the documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, right before going on air to address the events of 9/11, the despair on his face is palpable when he says, “I don’t see how this is going to do any good.”

This is how I felt the day the detective called to tell me my child’s abuser would have no consequences and would continue his work with children because they had no proof that anything happened other than my child’s word.

I almost didn’t say anything—almost didn’t click publish.

Where the Power Lies

My son and I are both fine today. Just as I’m finally okay after a traumatic divorce, we’re past the event. I did hit publish and transformed what I could of a bad situation into good advice. I can’t control what happens next, but thanks to other people’s stories, I’m forming a strategy that I’m striving to put into practice.

Tara’s words stirred me again when she wrote about recovering from a physically abusive incident with a family member:

“I rise from my bed, retrieve my journal, and do something I have never done before: I write what happened. I do not hide behind hints and suggestions. I write what I remember.”

Speaking up does not solve the problem of evil in the world or my susceptibility to it. But I do believe there is something to staring down the devil and saying “I see you” before turning my head to focus on the light.

With each word and scene I write in my memoir, I reclaim a piece of my power so that I can one day hand it to someone else in need. Bad exists, and good exists. My game plan is to witness them both accurately and bravely, and turn toward the light.

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