He passed away before I was born, and I was always fascinated with his life's work.
The dark room is the tricky part; the moment when you make it or break it. Unprocessed film cannot be exposed to light, or it will be destroyed. So, the photographer works in complete dark, a series of practiced motions leading them.
Hands move without sight, opening canisters, winding film, placing in the processing tank, and sealing the film away again, safe from light and ready for the next step.
In the dark room, you need to trust your hands. You need to follow the motions you've done before, confident that the practice, the process works.
It will only be in the final steps that you will know if your hands have been true. Everything from the moment you step in to the dark room to the moment you see the developer bring your film to life is an exercise in trusting the process.
It's a leap of faith until the moment everything suddenly becomes visible. Until then, it's all darkness, trust, and hope.
Since June, I've been sitting in the dark room of my soul. No breaks of light or foreshadowing of great things. Just the feel of my own hands working in the dark, moving through the motions I've spent a lifetime learning.
Practicing blind trust because I feel no hope. No grace.
In May, I was able to see and touch the relics of St. Gianna. After the experience, I felt my chronic uterine inflammation (a piece in the infertility puzzle) was relieved. With that relief, I was one katrillion percent certain a(nother) miracle was imminent and that I would be pregnant shortly.
As I sat in Mass, two days after the onset of a new cycle declaring a continuance of infertility, I physically felt my heart break, my soul shatter.
It was in the moment I entered the dark room. I could see nothing, feel nothing. Only the absence of miracles.
Since then, every Mass, every Confession, every prayer has been said from practice, from blind trust. Not from any feeling of grace or goodness.
In the dark room, it's easy to doubt. It's easy to think that perhaps it would be easier to just open the door and let the film spoil.
In the dark room, there's a lot of time to think. In the moments when the dark room seems too much, I think about Mother Teresa.
Every time I do, I thank God her confidant didn't listen to her and throw away the letters detailing Mother Teresa's lifetime in the dark room.
She spent decades, acting on a faith she couldn't feel in her soul. In her private writings, she details the pain of faith without tangible grace.
The grace there, just outside the door of the dark room, constant and present, but unable to reach through.
I haven't wanted to talk about this darkness. I've been hoping it would be relieved and I could put it behind me and move on to happier, more cheerful things.
But it hasn't lifted, and I wonder. Who else is sitting in a dark room?
Do you know you're not alone? I'm here, sitting in this room with you. Trust the movements of your hands, trust the prayers spoken by rote but unfelt in your soul. Trust, friend. You are not alone.
The dark room cannot extinguish the truth or existence of the light. The dark room is a part of the process.
Hold my hand, friend. You are not in this room alone.