“In the Evening We Shall Be Examined on Love”

When I get to the end of a day, particularly at the moment where I am struggling with Complex PTSD, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Self-Harm I find myself asking myself what have I achieved today? One obvious answer if I have not self-harmed or attempted suicide is well I got through the day alive without hurting myself or my family. Then the next bigger question is why? Apart from fighting the ‘alter egos’ of DID or flashbacks the answer surely has to be love. Love of my family and love of life. So often that love is lacking or is plain just not present. My ‘alters’ won’t allow it. There’s no room for it they say. There is only room for punishing yourself for all the abuse that happened to you thirty years ago. Apparently, I am to blame. The four-year-old, the six-year-old, the sixteen-year-old. They are all to blame. Not the adults who perpetuated the crimes. I alone own the guilt and shame. Oh, but the days that the flashbacks and ‘alters’ don’t win love does and this is my favourite poem to read and indulge that one day a month that I might have as a reprieve to relish.
“And it won’t be multiple choice,
though some of us would prefer it that way.
Neither will it be essay, which tempts us to run on
when we should be sticking to the point, if not together.
In the evening there shall be implications
our fear will change to complications. No cheating,
we’ll be told, and we’ll try to figure the cost of being true
to ourselves. In the evening when the sky has turned
that certain blue, blue of exam books, blue of no more
daily evasions, we shall climb the hill as the light empties
and park our tired bodies on a bench above the city
and try to fill in the blanks. And we won’t be tested
like defendants on trial, cross-examined
till one of us breaks down, guilty as charged. No,
in the evening, after the day has refused to testify,
we shall be examined on love like students
who don’t even recall signing up for the course
and now must take their orals, forced to speak for once
from the heart and not off the top of their heads.
And when the evening is over and it’s late,
the student body asleep, even the great teachers
retired for the night, we shall stay up
and run back over the questions, each in our own way:
what’s true, what’s false, what unknown quantity
will balance the equation, what it would mean years from now
to look back and know
we did not fail”.

—St. John of the Cross

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