photo by Bob Ribokas,

Under a Rock

Went over like a lead balloon, struck out, bottomless hole, long goodbye, imprisoned by grief, fallen house of cards, flame went out, losing game, dead end, popped bubble, sea of tears: there are countless metaphors for failure and loss.

My recent favorite comes from researcher Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong.  In it, she tells the story of a man that compares the sudden experience of those powerful, terrible emotions to being thrown under a rock.

I am currently experiencing both.  I have failed to achieve a mighty goal in my life, and consequently lost some very dear people from that part of my life. Being thrown under a rock is a Goldilocks metaphor in this experience: it feels just right.  Like being thrown from a car wreck, I have been pitilessly hurled under a dense, impenetrable, lifeless weight.

I tried really hard to meet my mighty goal.  I tried my hardest.  I tried my best.  I gave it my absolute all.

I failed anyway.

I worked on it with mighty people; fellow crusaders on a worthy and challenging quest. My failure led to a sudden unbridgeable schism: no longer fellow travelers, despite my desperate desire to hold them all close, we were rendered instant strangers, hopelessly unrecognizable to one another.

I lost them anyway.

My rock is grief, disappointment, and alienation.  It is blinding and deafening.  It stands in the way of the path I used to be on.  I can’t even begin to see around it.

Actually, I will have two rocks: my failure, and my consequent loss.  I am trying not to be despondent even though I know that once I crawl out from under one rock, I’ll get hurled immediately under the other.

They are heavy.  Exhausting.


Some tomorrow, there will be the story of climbing out from under the rocks.

Some tomorrow, there will be the story of the lessons gained while under the rocks.

Some tomorrow, there will be the story of learning how to step out of the way of the rocks more deftly.

Today, there is only the experience of being under the rock.

Here, under the rock, there is not nothing.  (I wish there was.)  There is, instead a deep, ugly darkness that I normally reject.  Depression, fury, fear, mourning, frustration, grief, and a flailing touch of madness all share this grimy black prison with me.

And yet, even with all that…this time under the rock is not without value, even now.

I take these dark, silent moments as a bleak tribute to the magnitude of passion and energy that I had put into my effort.  I take weary pride in how far I am falling, for it is a direct measure of how high I had flown.  And I take desolate comfort in being flattened, because I already know from past, difficult experience that every past experience of sorrow, defeat, and agony, opens me up a little bit wider to future peace, triumph, and joy.  Being under the rock means something mattered enough to me to hurl myself into something so single-mindedly that, in its passing, I have to approach how I think about myself anew: I am unashamed and proud to have allowed something matter to me so much.

All I can do is show up to the experience. Try to be my best self during long and painful moments. And hold on to the spectacle of hope – perhaps just the hope of hope – that the path beyond the rocks seems to hold.

Until then, you know where to find me.

— Posted on 11 February 2016 at 5:33pm by

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