Going from Grey to White is Exhausting.

“Alas!” said Aragorn. “Gandalf the Grey fell into shadow. He remained in Moria and did not escape.”

At these words all the Elves in the hall cried aloud in grief and amazement….

It is hard to watch people you love fall into depression. After my daughter was born I was exhausted and ill-equipped to deal with the emotional turnover caused by becoming a parent, and by the reality of the way she was born. I may share that story here in its entirety at some point (I have told it out loud many times by now but it took me almost a year tell it all the way through from start to finish), but for now it is enough that you know it was an emergency cesarean under general anesthesia and I was left with some post traumatic symptoms- dreams, flashbacks, etc.).

I had a lot of people who loved me and who wanted good things for me (I still do), but many of them were somewhat dismayed by the change in me in the first months of my motherhood. For a long time it seemed like I was past the point where I’d find my ‘self’ again and be the same old Katie. But  s.l.o.w.l.y. I began to find a new me. So I wasn’t good at fearlessly speaking my mind without regard for emotional consequences anymore (mine or other peoples!). But I finally noticed that other people have feelings about and reactions to things that I say (yes, I’m really quick on the uptake about certain things but that one actually took me until almost the end of my twenties to get). And that noticing is a valuable skill, as it turns out. Who knew? (Okay, lots of people…)

One day a couple of months ago I was re-reading LOTR and I came across Gandalf’s description of fighting the Balrog. Something in my heart and mind just…clicked. It lent purpose to what I have gone through as I have struggled with how to react to a near complete upheaval in how I understood my life and identity.

“Long time I fell,” he said at last, slowly, as if thinking back with difficulty. “Long I fell, and he fell with me. His fire was about me. I was burned. Then we plunged into the deep water and all was dark. Cold it was as the tide of death: almost it froze my heart…it has a bottom, beyond light and knowledge,’ said Gandalf.
Thither I came at last, to the uttermost foundations of stone. He was with me still. His fire was quenched, but now he was a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake.

“We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted. Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels…Now I have walked there but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. In that despair my enemy was my only hope {some of my Christian friends may have an adverse reaction to this…it isn’t that the Balrog is the only hope, it’s just the only thing he could see so he had no other option at that time. To move forward sometimes we have to follow paths we don’t like or choose, and I humbly assert that that’s mainly what is meant here.}, and I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dum: too well he knew them all. Ever up now we went, until we came to the Endless Stair.”

“There upon Celebdil…Out he sprang, and even as I came behind, he burst into new flame…a great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.”

“…I was sent back…until my task is done. And I lay upon the mountain-top. The tower behind was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined stair was choked with burned and broken stone. I was alone, forgotten, without escape  upon the hard horn of the world. There I lay, staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age of the earth. Faint to my ears came the gathered rumour of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone. And so at the last Gwaihir the Windlord found me again, and he took me up and bore me away….” 

“Gandalf,” the old man repeated, as if recalling from old memory a long disused word. “Yes, that was the name. I was Gandalf…”

…the dwarf looked up and laughed suddenly. “Gandalf!” he said. “But you are all in white!”

“Yes, I am white now,” said Gandalf. “Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been.”

I am a firm believer that fiction can teach us things that nonfiction can’t. I didn’t actually climb an endless stair or get carried away to Loth Lorien by a giant talking eagle. But I did come through a time that was very hard for me, and I do feel sometimes that I’ve been through a great battle in the past couple of years. But anyone who knows the story of Gandalf knows that what happens in the dark tunnels and on the mountain is what makes him into Gandalf the White, who is more powerful and wise than ever before. He doesn’t come back as the same person. Not really. But it was worth it.

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7 Responses to Going from Grey to White is Exhausting.

  1. marilylle says:

    Didn’t know you had a blog, Katie. I willl tag it and drop in now and then, okay?
    God bless and keep you!
    ( I love LOTR. And, yes, fiction is a vehicle that is powerful in lifting up truths – a great gift to those who can make it, and to us who read it.)

  2. Kate Connell says:

    “hmmm…yes.” she writes, knowing that the Reader will understand much more than could ever be written.

  3. Jessica Lobus says:

    I can relate. You have no idea how I can relate. I wish we had been in touch then. I wish we had been in touch 4 years ago, after Layla was born. So thankful we’re in better places now.

  4. Pingback: My Son’s Birth (The New Birth Story Part 2) | Sustainably Kate

  5. Lorin Hart says:

    I’ve been reading your blog now and then and so enjoying it… I had a thought about this quote you mentioned, “In that despair my enemy was my only hope ” …. I hear it this way: ” In that despair my only hope was still knowing I was opposed to evil….” ( and therefore not evil myself ) whaddia think?
    I ought to go re read LOTR as I have to battle the ” Life is not as I need it to be” thing myself quite a bit… ; )
    with affection,
    Lorin

    • That’s one way to look at it. I think for me it was that feeling despair was at least feeling something, and so I followed the emotion that I could connect to and eventually found other, better paths.
      And thanks for reading my blog. 🙂

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