I was recently talking to a friend who’s been through a great deal of pain in the last year. Her 2015 was filled with cancer, loss of a baby, death of two close family members, uncertainty at work and the inescapable weight of grief and doubt. As many joyfully ushered in the new year she nervously anticipated what the new year would bring. Beaten-down and heart-broken hardly begin to cover her general disposition. Life is hard. Her typical sunshine-y outlook is clouded with thunderstorms and disaster.
As she began to share heart-break after heart-break with me, I took in her story. I listened and felt my own pain in hearing hers.
We talked about making it through. Questioned how much can sadness can occur in one human life, let alone in the lives of all inhabitants of our world. Talk about a sad conversation. We paused after talking about darkness, as if that was where our conversation would end. Can’t really go up from here, I thought.
On a whim, I started telling her about whistling and how that has helped me but as I started describing it I stopped short and paused.
At first I said, “Whistling is finding good even during tough times. Whistling is searching for positive.” Immediately, I stopped. I sounded like an obnoxious, perky greeting card that won’t admit that life. just. sucks. sometimes. “I’m not saying this how I mean it.” I said. “No, let me try again.”
Whistling is a two part process. First, whistling is admitting that times are dark and sad. Period. Whistling is recognizing that heart-breaking things happen and there is no silver-lining. Period. Whistling is honestly admitting that I’m having a bummer of a day. Period. Whistling is acknowledging that the dark exists.
But second, whistling is also committing to attempt to seek out good, even if searching high and low initially reveals no hint of goodness. Whistling is staying in the dark and being brave enough to act as if the dark isn’t as scary as it seems. Whistling is putting even the teeny-tiniest effort into bravely hoping that there just might still be goodness in the world. Just maybe. Whistling is committing to search for light.
Whistling is not saying things like:
Cheer up! There’s plenty to be happy about! (Right, but I’m consumed with how much I have to be sad about.)
Everything happens for a reason. (And, what reason exactly is that? Can you explain death, addiction, heart-break, disaster?)
You have a lot to be thankful for. (Maybe. But my heart sure aches for things and people I’ve lost.)
Whistling is not ignoring, sugar-coating or avoiding.
Whistling sounds like:
Life is hard but I’m with you.
This is scary but I’m here to talk if you need it.
I’d like to dedicate something or do an activity that will bring about positive memories of things/people lost.
Whistling is acknowledging life is hard. Period. Then responding in a way that is life-giving and promotes meaningful experiences and conversations in the face of darkness.
Whistling is brave, counter-intuitive, and defies what out intellect tells us. Reality says “The world is sad, evil and dark.” Whistling refutes “But watch what I can do in the face of dark, even still.”
Even still. That’s our refrain. Even in the icky, scary, grim and sad darkness, even still, I’ll try to whistle.
Take that, darkness.
Whistling: Today, I bonded and grew closer to a friend through our shared stories of darkness and heart-break. Even still, in the face of darkness, we held each other up.