One summer during elementary school my family and I took a vacation to the Lake of the Ozarks. There’s honestly only one thing I remember about the vacation: the daylilies outside of our cabin. They were nocturnal daylilies, so by day their buds shut tight, but when we returned at night, they were in fantastic bloom. I was both fascinated and amazed by this. While I was tucked away in bed, these guys were living out the night life.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea that some flowers bloom at night. Some of the most extraordinary things happen when no one is looking, when we least expect them. I have seen people bloom in the midst of the darkest moments.
There was a man I thought I would never appreciate. His ego roared with every step and his misogyny was close behind. He was a local celebrity in his own right—and still is. He was struck down by accusations at the institution where he taught; he lost his position and sunk into a cloud of depression. Interestingly enough, he emerged more human and more full of heart than I had ever known him. Before he talked at my forehead, dismissively, and suddenly he was an active listener and participated in true conversation. Here was the man I heard stories about—the one I could imagine engaged to be married in another time and place to our mutual friend.
I read this recently and forgot to write its source: your strength comes from the self you have created from the raw events given to you. Maybe human beings have to fall to the the lowest rung in order to ascend to the highest.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pawing around in the dark in search of something. We have and will get our hearts broken, lose people we love and suffer countless other daily tragedies, but I think what is most significant is what we make of those dark moments. I remember learning Strasberg acting technique in college. For those of you who haven’t studied Strasberg (has anyone not—I’m starting to think we all have) there’s a real focus on “using” your personal experience to fuel whatever the acting moment might be.
Sounds logical to me: if you had to go through the sadness, bullshit, whatever it may have been, why not use it? In the words of Neil Gaimin in his recent commencement address to the School of the Arts, “when life gets tough, make good art.” Or, if you’re not an artist, make good life, I say—and chances are, you will. You will surprise yourself at how fantastic you are. Maybe you just forgot for a little while.