There are times when it feels like the walls of your world are collapsing when the windows of your psyche slam shut and the curtains are drawn so tight that no light gets in. The darkness can reveal itself in an instant and disappear again or even stay for a while. In this day and age, desperation may take over, like black ink spreading over an old wooden floor. A broken pen, a full moon, days of snow, or weeks of fire… At that moment it can be difficult to see everything clearly.
Your soul and body often lead you to the bed or couch and sometimes this is just what you need; to lie still and stare into the darkness as you relax and let yourself be carried away. If you do this without a cell phone in your hand, your soul will manage to find its way back to the light. Perhaps your soul follows a comforting thought or opens up to a poem. Never underestimate the medicinal power of meeting yourself right where you are.
I’m quite familiar with these kinds of intervals of darkness. Maybe it’s because I type four of the Enneagram, an INFJ according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or because I like the moon and the night. Whatever the reason, there have been times when I was shrouded in darkness in a small space. There is nothing romantic about these encounters with the darkness, but I know them well and I know that the light is never far away.
The darkness has been visiting more and more lately. She often slips in through the back door at night when I’m low on energy and there’s an incident with my kids. This doesn’t happen every night, but I’m getting to know her better and better.
I think again about what could be the reason: we are snowed in and spend more time indoors than usual, years ago I reached middle age and a portal has opened for me (some days I am more aware of this than on other days) and it is February, the month that I started my journey on this planet to the underworld. While all of these reasons are true, I am also aware that I have the urge to explain the darkness. As if reason will protect me and act as a means of escape.
But you can’t hold back the darkness and you can’t escape life. So a reason may also serve as an anchor in a sea of uncertainty and is especially needed during certain seasons (literally and figuratively), but the truth is that as a human being you have to learn to dance with the peaks and valleys, the tides of happiness and sorrow and of darkness and light. These opposites are inevitable and everyone has to deal with them.
How do you dance in the dark?
The first and most important step is to remind yourself that darkness is normal, but also necessary. There is no light without the dark and precisely because you spend time in the dark forest you get to know your inner allies and the tools at your disposal, such as a flashlight to guide you over the roots of the trees and along low-hanging branches.
Once you see darkness as normal, the quickest way (that I know of) to step from the dark to the light is to be fully in your physical body. Go for a walk, shovel snow, swim, dance in your kitchen or take a bath. And most importantly, leave your cell phone while you’re doing all this!
Last weekend darkness slipped in one evening. We had a lovely family day; enjoy the peace, talk to the neighbors and play in the snow. There are times when the celebration of us together fills me with intense happiness. Living with three other highly sensitive introverts can be challenging, but also very rewarding. As the day drew to a close, we each went to our comfortable spots in the family room/kitchen for our favorite pastime: Asher read Harry Potter, Everest worked on a project, Daev studied, and I cooked. The moment was so nice, full of harmony and love. I was so blessed.
And then the moment shattered. Literally. A piece of Everest’s project shattered and small shards of glass flew through the kitchen. One shard of glass landed in the potato dish I had just taken out of the oven. No more was needed. As soon as I was no longer sure I could prepare another meal, the light in my soul went out and everything went dark. Everest apologized. I laid my head on the counter and took a few deep breaths before quickly whipping up something to eat. Then I left the room.
What could I do? Let me be overwhelmed by disappointment and fatigue? That’s something I did in the past, but nothing good ever came of it. I decided to take a hot bath and as I immersed myself in the bath salts and inhaled the lavender, a window opened. As I looked up into the light of the beautiful candle holder and remembered that Everest had made it for me a few years ago for my birthday, even more windows opened.
Then I was taken along through my memories. I saw him when he was nine, twelve, and fourteen years old focused on his endless projects. I saw Asher, a bookworm, with his head buried in the newest world he had discovered. I saw my husband, our rock in the surf, lighting the way ahead.
My heart was now open and a memory of my grandparents came to the surface. A year after graduating and still recovering from my first panic attack, I decided to move into the small studio in the basement of their house so that I could learn cooking from my grandfather and gardening from my grandmother. I learned those things too, but the real reason I stayed with them was so I could spend more time with them before I knew what I wanted to do in my life.
Nostalgia accompanied by sadness washed over me and my heart softened. It was a heart full of memories, sadness, and nostalgia. It may not have been a happy heart, but it was a grateful heart. Grateful for the opportunity given to me, as I learned from Brother David Steindl-Rast. I was grateful for the lessons. Grateful for life and everything that came with it. The sadness, the passage of time, loneliness, loss, beauty, joy, and love.
The light is closer than you think
If you are in a dark period, I am here with you. However, you feel. Whether you’re struggling through your twenties, about to get married, have a child, struggle with intrusive thoughts about relationships or your health, grieve the kids you can’t have, have reached middle age, or another facing a difficult period.
You are well, you are not alone and if you look up you will be greeted by the light. You are not alone and while there is no magic formula that can prevent dark times, there are little things you can do to ensure that you are not swallowed up by the darkness. You will discover a jewel or two in the dark. Pick up that gem and remember that you are not alone. The light is closer than you think.