Death, Stress and Chocolate

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Good Friday is a time of darkness and depletion that comes right before the light, a time set aside to contemplate suffering. I was forcing my system on full steam ahead and it felt all wrong.

I had an extremely stressful day on Friday, encompassing a string of technical failures and unexpected complications due to lack of information and services being shut. This was in the run-up to travelling to Terrealuma, the retreat centre I am setting up in Poland. It was a day of preparations, during which I also did plenty of work, finishing with a peer supervision session in which, after recounting a difficult session with a client in which painful memories had been activated for me too, my supervisor asked ‘what are you going to be doing to take care of yourself today?’

This was a question which seemed to bounce off the stress-ball I had unwittingly become. I decided to carry on doing the things that needed to be done (or deal with the consequences of their being unable to be done) and just keep a hand on my heart, just remember — and wait until the flood of things had subsided before doing that ‘taking care of myself’ thing, which I sense as more like ‘letting myself be’.

It was only the next morning, as I thought about writing and wondered what on earth I was going to say and when I was going to say it, and if my computer would survive it, that I properly realised that the day before had been Good Friday. It was a day when, as a young girl, I used to be taken by my mother on a march through the town, where people were dashing around looking stressed, behind a large wooden crucifix, making the point that today the shops should be shut and we should all be stopping to reflect on Jesus’ torture and death for us. It was a dark day, a day in which the world should stop for a while. Traditionally it was also the day when the fasting time of Lent was coming to an end, and the effects would be felt.

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I was not convinced by the Christian ‘truth’ as it was presented to me at the time, and now I see it as a very human story. Of course it overlays older pagan traditions — this Spring equinox is a very powerful time for nature, and of course we are not separate from that. But of course we forget that we are. On my way to the retreat centre I am creating on precisely this principle, I am dashing around in a state. But what I wanted to say was something about the Christian tradition and how Good Friday is a time of darkness and depletion that comes right before the light, a time set aside to contemplate suffering. I was forcing my system on full steam ahead and it felt all wrong. I was upset yet when I thought about it, really nothing was happening — nobody died.

Not in my little world, anyway. But it’s all around — suffering, trauma, abuse of the human spirit, loss, violence, death — and a day to tune into this and honour it does not seem misplaced. After this, Easter Saturday in Poland is a day when the Easter baskets of food, to be eaten on the Sunday, and painted eggs are blessed in church. For me, it was rushing to the bank and finding a printer and catching a plane. I was trying to keep a corner of stillness inside, that ‘taking care of yourself’ thing. The Easter Saturday is a strange day for Christians, a kind of eerie quiet, the day when actually Jesus is not there. It seems to be a good time for meditation, the in between state.

Then on Sunday the Easter bunny will get going in the garden leaving chocolate — some sugar after the trauma. This is resurrection, and we have been saved, according to the story; the sun comes up again and the days are longer and lighter for sure. Hopefully there’ll be some sun, some daffodils. Maybe some snow.

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