I liked Deb's phrase "The Black Dog" enough to look it up and learned that Winston Churchill was supposed to have been the one who coined it, though it has a long significant history dating back to Greek Mythology and ancient English legends. The black dog has always been a harbinger of death, grief, sadness, and, in the case of Native American history, the darker side of our natures (starve one, feed the other). So I'd say that Churchill's description was more than apt.
I was taken with Debby's metaphor because it brought to mind a vivid early childhood memory. When I was about four years old I had reoccurring dreams featuring a small black dog which would chase me from room to room and stand outside the house threatening to "get me" and the only way to get away from him was to wake up.
The last time he came calling, I was actually half awake listening to an east Texas thunderstorm as it rolled in, each lightening strike hitting closer and closer to the single wide trailer house I shared with my parents. This time he hid behind my doll's crib and issued his threats against the backdrop of the storm. I still remember the sound of his voice.
My four year old mind was finally near breaking point and I cried out. I must have made quite a bit of noise because my Dad came in wanting to know "what on earth was wrong?" As he swung open my bedroom door, I made out the form of the dog peering at me through the bars.
Dad flipped on the light at my request and the dog vanished. I told him what I'd seen and heard. Dad obligingly looked around the room. This was unusual. My parents were typical of their generation and their deeply pragmatic Texan upbringing said children were better off sleeping in their beds, fighting their own nighttime battles, and, if the subject of bad dreams came up at breakfast, being told that their fears were silly and to quit worrying about it. But this time, instead of minimizing my fears, he even looked behind the tiny doll's crib. He was quiet for most of the search and didn't ask me any questions or challenge the reality of there being a vanishing black dog. He simply let me watch him as he searched the room.
Just before he turned off the light, he fixed me with a serious look and said,"He's gone and now that I've let him know I'm watching, he won't be back to bother you again."
And because I was four and my Daddy could do anything, I believed him. The black dog never came back. At least not in that shape. I suspect I've faced him in a variety of other forms over the years.
For the most part, my emotions swing well within the perimeters of normal and on the rare occasion I am depressed it's generally brought on by self-blame combined with a feeling of helplessness and both are related to whatever circumstance I'm dealing with. In other words, the black dog trots back the way he came whenever the situation is resolved.
So in making my peace with our situation over the last few days, I've been reminded again and again by friends over the Internet that I'm not alone, that you care, that God is in control and to take my struggles to him, and that life happens and you do the best you can, and that too this will pass. And you've all been right and your voices have done a great deal to drive away the black dog. I'd really argued with myself about whether to post something or just drop out of sight for a few days, which is hardly unusual for me. I'm glad very I did. Thank you all very much.