Turns out, most apocalypses are invisibly tucked away inside our own bodies.
Last week at General Assembly, I came late to an after-session which focused on story-telling. A dear friend turned to me and said "I'm glad you got here late. There was a really hard story earlier." In my experience, that can usually means one thing: "So it was about sex crimes?" My friend knows the story of my own apocalypse: when the well-constructed universe within me began to warp after finding another secret email account meant to hide determined infidelity. When the fault-lines of my personal bedrock began to slip and grate after having another of my belongings smashed in rage. When a shock wave of grief scrubbed me clean while I took my mother's phone-call and heard the recounting of my ex-husband's confession to sex-crimes.
But my friend only knew my story, because like the woman whose story I missed, it was an apocalypse made visible to the eyes of others. I couldn't bear to be Pompeii buried in ash but never found; I refused to be Atlantis sunken to the bottom of the sea but never discovered. I couldn't contain within my thin skin this rupture of spirit and body. For some months, I went to work and raised my son and paid my bills and ran vacation bible schools, but to keep my cataclysm private was to die.
So I wrote. I opened up a window so that my pain wouldn't have to be privately held, and learned the obvious but impossible truth that I walk by hundreds of apocalypses a day. Since the moment I began to write, when I laid bare my own suffering, strangers and friends alike began to reach out and do the same. Divorces, betrayals, rapes, addictions, and losses too complex to nail down with simple words or gestures, shared over and over and over. Once, I would have told you that apocalypse looks like Nuclear Winter or Rising Tides; but now I know that shattered buildings and mass casualties are usually only the final visible cataclysm, the late appearing lesion of terrible pain and loss that was already present beneath a well-curated skin.
I've learned to look closer at the people around me, to see the tiny signs of inward upheaval which reveal a private dystopia: