Beyond The Forest

10:00 AM

I decided to take Alaka'i on a drive around the island on Saturday.  It's good to get out and about and to see the beauty of the island in all it's forms.  We left with hopes high, cameras ready and bags of lunch and swimming stuff packed for the ride.  Though we hadn't planned to go swimming, my Alaka'i being the water baby he is, thought it would be a great idea to pack some swim trunks, SPF and a towel... you know, just in case.  Imagine his dismay as we drove and the sun began to fade beyond the mountains as the clouds rolled in and the rain started to pour.  Though I don't particularly mind the rain, it's not all that welcome when you have dreams to photograph and enjoy the seemingly beautiful, sunny day... only to have your dreams dashed by a sudden rainstorm.

Isn't that just how life is though?  You make plans, beautiful plans, perfect plans, plans that seem so flawless that the very idea that anything could go wrong would be inconceivable.  You set off on your merry way, plans in hand... knowing that things will work out just the way you want- only for some unforeseen obstacle to get in the way of those plans, sometimes dashing them and chopping them in such a fashion that they don't even somewhat resemble the plans you originally made.  My life has been a succession of those plans gone awry, those dreams dashed by a moment, those unforeseen obstacles that seem to ruin it all.

At that moment you feel like you're in the midst of a dense forest, full of trees, with little to no light.  The hope seems to fade with each passing moment and your heart begins to fill with a toxic mixture of fear and despair.  How do you overcome it?  How do you move beyond the place you're stuck in?  What happened to the plans you had made?  Will you ever find your way out of this forest of darkness and despair?  The questions alone can cause a person to go stark raving mad because instead of focusing on the singular problem at hand, your mind travels in every single direction and the hopelessness just causes you to sink deeper and deeper into that despair, deeper into the dark much so that you can barely see the light.

Lord knows, I've had quite a few moments like those in my life.  Some worse than others, but all were full of misery and despair at the time they transpired.  Losing my second child, watching my mom go through lung cancer, hearing my best friend died in a car wreck.... those were all some of the worst moments of my life.  As someone who struggled with depression in my adolescence, I could feel that darkness and despair creep up on me in those moments..and others...  It's like a blanket of comfortable misery that just crawls up your legs from behind you and before you can turn around and rip it off, it's consumed you and you're just encompassed by it.  It can be quite suffocating and overwhelming.  It's like being stuck in the middle of a deep, dark forest and not knowing which way to run to escape the darkness to find even the smallest glimpse of light.

It's strange how memories and feelings such as these can rush upon you like a river when you least expect it.  Alaka'i and I were driving through Widnward O'ahu towards the North Shore through the rain that we didn't plan for and we made a stop in this wooded area near the beach so Alaka'i could take a bathroom break.  While he was occupied, I walked around the dark expanse of the forest with these big (for Hawai'i) trees standing there so proudly, creating a dark shade from the rain.  In that moment I looked towards the ocean... and walked and saw this glimpse of light, this ray of sunshine beyond the trees and shrubbery.  It wasn't anything special, just a glimpse of light that began to grow bigger and bigger as I walked towards it.  Before I knew it, the darkness faded and I was surrounded by light as the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds.

Though the forest I was not a deep, dark forest that seems impossible to escape, it reminded me of those feelings of hopelessness I've had in the past and how they so overwhelm the soul and rob you of hope that you question whether or not you can go on.  Those moments- the ones that are unexpected and interfere with the plans you had laid are all there for a purpose though.  Lessons are learned and personal growth is gained as you navigate through those terrible moments.  It makes you stronger and wiser.

Each time those moments of hopeless despair come along, you have to remember to persevere and keep moving forward.  Both literally and metaphorically speaking, if you are lost in a dark forest and refuse to move or allow yourself to go deeper into that forest, you will end up cold, alone and eventually dead.  When hope dies, you see people giving up all will to live.  Those are the moments that you need to see beyond the forest, see beyond the trees.  Know that there is a way out and though it may take a long time, though it may be the hardest journey of your life, you will make it through it.  There's nothing quite as beautiful as some light when you're stuck in darkness.

I feel a burden on my heart for all those who are suffering and alone.  I know what it's like and I know how depressing life can get without hope.  I just want to reach out to those of you who feel like you're in a dark forest of despair that you cannot escape.  Know that there is hope, you will overcome. If you know someone who is going through a really tough time in life, be there for them...listen with a non-judgemental free ear and offer them compassion.  Whether it's a small thing or a large thing, pain and fear are both relative.  Don't discount the worries and the despair of others because what may seem like a not so big deal to you may seem like the end of the world to someone else.  Don't discount your own pain and despair either.  You need to go through the process, you need to mourn to heal.  Just know that you can and will make it through these hard times if you just keep moving forward, out of the darkness in search of the light beyond the forest.

After the nightmarish events of this past week. it's so easy to become jaded and angry and fail to see the hope in every situation.  Don't lose hope.  Even in tragedy, there are lessons to be learned and hope to be found.  I have a friend who is just in the pits of despair lately and I just wish I could take her pain away and help her to move forward but everyone heals in their own time.  It's just important for me now to be there as a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a hug if she needs it.

I was so blessed at church today with the sermon our Pastor gave about sharing God's love and compassion and I just wanted to extend my arms to all of you as a neutral ear to listen, as a friend to be there if you have no one else.  I'm not here to push anything on you or to lecture you or to make you feel bad about yourself or your situation.  I'm here to just listen, to comfort and to be a friend because we all need someone to listen... Even if you have different beliefs than I, I hope you know that I will still be there for you and I will still listen and comfort without judgment.

I feel such a burden on my heart for all those who are alone, suffering or in the depths of despair.  Know that you are loved, you are wanted, you are treasured, you are beautiful.  It's easy to forget that because sometimes there's no one to tell you that, but I'm talking to you, yeah you... you are worth more than you're giving yourself.  Don't give up on life, there is light beyond the darkness.  There is still hope and you are so loved.

Big hugs and all my aloha to all of you ..

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