Do you think dark periods of life provide the best opportunities to learn? Why or why not?
This, I think, depends entirely upon what you mean by dark periods and what inspires/causes them. For me, I've suffered from (and been treated for) major depressive disorder (recurrent), I suspect my definition of "dark periods" differs from others. For me, the dark periods are these bottomless, pitch-black downward spirals. When they happen, they happen fast, hit hard, and the depth is truly stunning. So for me, are these the best opportunities to learn? Short answer: no. Slightly longer answer: a little bit, but the focus of the learning is very narrow.
So what is it that I learn during these periods? The first thing I learned, a very long time ago, is to make the foolish assumption that "well, at least I can't feel any worse." There is always worse. No matter how deep the downward spiral, it can always go deeper. Beyond that, I have learned the things that mean most to me. I have learned that above all other things, I love my wife and my daughters. They are at the top. Everything else is a distant second. In these dark periods, it is thoughts of them in which I envelope myself. It doesn't make the dark period go away, but it does blunt the edge. And when it is that dark, I gratefully and graciously accept any solace I can find. I've also learned the far less significant things that mean something to me. A cloudless starry night is a beautiful thing to behold. A Shakespeare sonnet or select passages from my favorite Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, Othello, Henry V, and King Lear, primarily), are about as close to spirituality as I am capable of embracing. These things are beautiful, and raw, unvarnished, untainted appreciation of them deeply moves me. It is my wife, though, and my daughters, that I have learned to appreciate even more than I ever did. Lying there, wondering where a giant thunderclap of a brain embolism is when you really need one, and having my wife gently rub my back and tell me "things will be ok," or have her kiss me on the cheek and tell me "tomorrow will be better," these are the things that I have learned to respect and appreciate most during these dark periods. And, perhaps, this is really all one can hope to learn during dark periods. It strips away all of the superficial, irrelevant crap, brushes all of the day-to-day worries and concerns aside, leaving only the things that profoundly matter. Perhaps that is all one can hope to learn under those circumstances. Perhaps nothing else matters.
A very cool idea, started by GodlessGirl over at godlessgirl.com. The challenge is to post one absolutely truthful thing about yourself every day for one week. I think it is an awesome idea. Personally, I think introspection is not only healthy and useful, but can be a great method of clearing out the mental chaff and opening the doors on some creativity. She was kind enough to provide some writing prompts, so for the moment anyway, I’ll use one of hers. That being said, let’s do this.
Have you ever acted in a way that went against your values/morals/ethics? In other words, have you been a hypocrite?
Oh my yes. Not often, at least I don’t think so, but I certainly did recently, deeply wounding my wife in the process. (Figuratively speaking.) I’ve always tried to live by the idea that you may question my decisions, you may question my methods, you may question my conclusions, but you may not question my integrity. I can no longer make this claim, and to be honest, it makes me sad. I allowed my own selfishness and wounded pride to prompt me into behaviors that had I seen a friend doing those very things, I would have given them a stern talking to, and if that didn’t work, likely would have smacked the crap out of them. By allowing myself to become so self-absorbed, I abdicated the the ethical values that I have tried to live by. My behaviors are my own. My issues and actions are likewise my own. I have some serious ground to make up. I hurt the one person who I would sacrifice everything in order to keep from hurting. That is, I believe, the quintessential definition of being a hypocrite. And that is, to my way of thinking at least, unforgivable.