When the Light Reshaped the Darkness, by Mary Tabata

Have you ever had the experience where your perception of a time in your life changed AFTER experiencing life anew? Mary's story of transformation is more common than you might think. She only realized how scary a stretch of life was for her after the fact. What she shares in common with another recent post on this blog is the comparison of her narrative with light and darkness. On this New Year's Day may you find hope and inspiration as Mary has.    --   DTSM

I have no recollection of Christmas nine years ago. I think of it as a blackout. I remember that I talked to my soon-to-be husband who was in another city. I think I was staying in the house I had shared for five years with my soon-to-be-ex-husband and our children, a chaotic and messy four-bedroom whose peaceful exterior belied the chaos inside. I had already rented an apartment in downtown L.A.’s Koreatown that reminded all of us of a building in Ghostbusters, a poured concrete former residential hotel with dumbwaiter shafts, a cage elevator, and no parking. But I really don’t remember Christmas, and, to be honest, I didn’t think about it nor did it bother me until this year. I remember everything – from what I cooked for holiday dinners to what kinds of cards I give to my colleagues. This was a broken part of my life, and the story did not go smoothly. A plot twist, a knife twisted. Even though in the whodunit, it was I “who dunnit.”

We all have narratives. My middle son, the third of four children from that first marriage, was eight years old when I decided to walk away from a dysfunctional relationship that was not healthy for any of us. I was absent a lot from home. Realizing that life and the story were broken drove me to seek solace in travel, in work, in new stories and relationships. I discovered this fall while reading his personal statements for college that the events of my separation and divorce and subsequent moves to L.A., Santa Monica, then back to his beloved South Bay were hugely significant events in his life. I was surprised. Then I was surprised that I was surprised. I just didn’t remember.

Sometimes, not being able to remember is really scary. My elderly mother suffers from dementia. And so, confronted with the ill-health of her domestic partner who left the townhouse in an ambulance, she drove 23 miles away from her home and away from the hospital in the opposite direction, on the freeway, having a blackout in the inky darkness of night. When she was found a day and a half later, disheveled, soiled, in a parking lot next to but not in the car – she did not remember where she had been. Her narrative was equally disheveled and surprising. And significant for what she thought she remembered and different from what actually had been — like the outside and the inside of my old house.

I’m grateful to have moved from light that was darkness to darkness illuminated by a light within.

I moved to a new home recently. Whatever it was before, it is beautiful now. In the hills in the adjoining neighborhoods, there are few streetlights. This is probably due to a light ordinance so that people can view the city lights from the hills, but not contribute to the light pollution. There are some streets in the hills that plunge you into an inky blackness. One of these is a street that dives towards the Pacific Ocean. During the day, a fantastic view. At night, in the fog the creeps in over the water, in the dark, you feel like you are driving into nothing. Into blackness. But this blackness is not that scary. The road keeps going. At once it is dark but familiar. The crossroads are lit by the lights at the intersections. The places we go have purpose and joy. I drive those roads for practices, for rehearsals, for parties for the kids. Darkness and Joy.


My son and my daughter, who were so small nine years ago, now tower over me in height. They have forgotten some of the reality of our lives together in a house that was dark and unkempt in a neighborhood that had a lot of streetlights. They live in neighborhoods without streetlights, in a house full of light, life, love, and memories. I didn’t remember how sad I used to be when they left my house to spend court-ordered time to be with their father. This weekend when they left, I cried. I remembered the things I had forgotten. I’m grateful to have moved from light that was darkness to darkness illuminated by a light within. I hope for them that the darkness of truth, brightened by love, will help them live well, live with integrity, live with happiness. Never so much as this year has the text from John 1 spoken to me so strongly, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it.”

Finally, I get it.

Mary Tabata is a perennial graduate student who is now working towards a PhD in Organizational Leadership at Eastern University in St. David’s, PA. An avid Facebooker, her doctoral research is focused on authentic leadership in virtual space. A Southern California native, she is interested in running (which she occasionally dabbles in), blogging (ditto), church politics (the horror!), mindfulness practice, and raising her five children (always). As a higher education professional, she believes that there is a college for everyone, and maintains a small college admissions consultancy in addition to her regular jobs.