A Box of Darkness

mary oliver

Did you ever wonder how your life would have turned out if you had not been” gifted” with a troubled childhood ?

I have probably given this more thought than it deserves. Photography has helped. There is visible evidence of my descent into my own depths.

Mostly in black and white, pictures reflect the before and the after. The “before” showing carefree smiles of a well-dressed, well groomed and lovingly maintained child at play are in such contrast to the “after”; a severe, frowning, messy child struggling to make eye contact with the camera lens.

It was just so apparent.

What if that “before” image was allowed to progress, to continue on a path of happiness, encouragement, emotional support ? to proceed in love instead of fear ? to experience belonging instead of abandonment ?

Would I have become more socially adept? Would I have turned to people, instead of to words and books and music ? Would I have physically thrived, instead of being stunted in growth?

Maybe I’d have been quicker to accept love in my life, instead of pushing folks away before they had the chance to reject me.

I most likely would never have been a writer. Even Ernest Hemingway has been known to say:

“What is the best early training for a writer? An unhappy childhood.”

Still, I have to wonder.

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30 Responses to A Box of Darkness

  1. Van, you always give me food for thought! I think some balance in childhood is best. There must be happiness mixed with sadness to eventually be a good writer. Don’t think Hemmingway had a happy any part of his life. I’d go for how bad life history gets put in it’s proper perspective. How adversity is overcome is the key to being a good writer. Happy Writing 2015. Christine

    • Thanks, Christine. I appreciate the first 6 years of happiness and family stability, owed mostly to the loving care of my grandmother. It gave me a foundation. Not everyone gets that. Continued good writing to you as well in the new year ! Van

  2. writerinsoul says:

    I think about this question too, Van. I can’t quite let go it yet despite all the “advice out there” that suggests it’s not a productive question. Still, I’d like to see a movie of how it could have been different. And just to be fair, I’d be game to watch a movie of a cruddier version too! I don’t even have to live it – I just want to know to satisfy my curiosity.

  3. Maria says:

    I wonder too ❤

  4. lbeth1950 says:

    I think some adversity makes you more perceptive,
    . My father was extremely difficult, volatile, and moody. I am very perceptive to moods. I can crush you or make you mean. So much in just inborn.

    • I feel like I’ve battled genetics all my life. Sometimes over the years, I have lost that battle. Yet somehow, was blessed with recovery and lived to fight another day. It’s a process.

  5. megdekorne says:

    Your wondering , provoking dear Van…I’m so glad you are a writer …love , meg xxx

  6. Thank you, dear Meg, I’m not sure it was a choice, but I am grateful for the outlet. xxx

  7. Pingback: The Gift of Stress. How Lobsters Grow. | vanbytheriver

  8. Sue Vincent says:

    The ‘what ifs’ are always a source of wondering, but even with the dark side…and there has been a lot of that… I wouldn’t now change a thing.

  9. honestme363 says:

    I used to think that way too. I realized, as I grew older, how those incidents of the past have sculpted who I am, and I am not so bad. I still struggle to unlearn those lessons I taught myself to keep myself “safe”. And sometimes I wonder if I should even be doing that…

    • There is a lyric to a Kelly Clarkson song that I appreciate…”Because of you, I never stray too far from the sidewalk.” I can relate. Thanks for reading and commenting. ☺

  10. The thing is every experience you’ve had brought you to where you are today. Are you happy today? Or most days? If so, consider yourself grateful for whatever brought you to today. I know you reach a great many people with your words and maybe that’s part of the reason you had to be challenged. But, we all get where we are from where we’ve been. If we’re in a good place now, that’s what counts because in truth, now is all we ever have for sure. Really thoughtful post, though.

    • I never take my present peace of mind for granted, Debby, it did take a lot to get where I am today. I’m also honored to think that my words might be reaching a few who need to hear them. That’s quite a compliment. When I see young people struggling, trying to come to terms with whatever pain they are working through, I just want to tell them to persevere. I would have missed out on so much if I had given up too soon. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. 💖

  11. I think about this often, Van. Every step, the wonderful, the desperate, the tragic, and the daring brought each of us to where we are today. As I think about my own struggles, I see them differently now, from this place of reflection. I wonder about the alternatives, but I don’t think I would toss away the gems of today to be rid of the lumps of coal of the past. ❤

  12. lbeth1950 says:

    I wonder if you might have not been a pleasant, but unremarkable adult. What a waste that would have been.

  13. annj49 says:

    A box full of darkness….a gift.
    It’s true. I’ve seen the truth of that in my own life.

    Makes me think about all the stories people have. Imagine all those stories of dark painfulness, the light of joy…..an everything in between.

    Recording our stories is an important work.

    Ann ❤

  14. annj49 says:

    Thank you for sharing yours….

  15. lbeth1950 says:

    So glad you posted this again.

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