I sit in my little corner chair, nestled in between two bookshelves today, and have been trying to ground myself in the midst of a week that, if I am completely honest, has been a bit of an internal fog. Like all of us, sometimes our harder and darker days are situational, and some just “are”. I find learning to move through the dark is always a thing to relearn, over and over again.
When I was young, I was very afraid of the dark. I always needed my nightlight, or the door to be cracked open just the perfect amount. I would imagine all sorts of monsters and creatures under my bed, or inside my closet. I was an imaginative kid. Great for dreaming up magical lands and talking trees; not so great when you’re lying awake, eyes wide open, long after everyone in the house has gone to sleep. My point is, I was afraid of the dark and I think many of us were, and maybe are.
We are afraid of what we cannot see, what we cannot understand. This is human nature, it is not foreign to any of us. We are afraid of not knowing, of not being certain, of being wrong. We are afraid that if we really were to explore the darkness, we might discover something we have never seen, heard or felt. We might brush up against something, and not know how to handle it, how to interact with it; let alone invite it to come closer.
I have gone through a number of very dark periods in my life. They have all been different, and varying in magnitude and length. But every time they come, I call to mind the voice of my dear friend and teacher, and in her South African accent I hear her say, “The only way out is through”.
When I imagine myself to be stuck and in the dark (literally) what would I do? How would I move through it? Well, I usually would move a lot slower and gentler than normal. I am a bit more cautious and careful. I step softer, and put out my hands looking for something to hold on to. I stop worrying about all the things outside of that moment and just take the next small step in front of me. I would also, against all my will and independence, call out to a friend and ask for their help to come and walk with me. And, the more I just let myself settle into the dark, my eyes begin to adjust. Light always seems to find its way back to us.
Isn’t this so much of what we need when we are in the internal state of darkness too? To tread lighter, softer and gentler. To go slow and not rush ourselves so as to hurt ourselves in the process. To call out to someone, to let them in and receive a little help. This is not easy, that I know. Writing about it and actually doing involves great strength.
But perhaps we all need the reminder, that the darkness too has her gifts for us. In all of her mystery and depth, in all of her unknowns and doubt, she invites us to become more curious and less afraid. She invites us to drop down into our own selves, to the dark and unknown places within us, and to extend a bit of kindness there. To reach out a hand and whisper, “Hello dear friend. What have you to say to me?”
If you find yourself wandering through the dark, unsure of all sorts of things, may you be reminded that you are being held by the Light, and this present darkness is not something to fear. Perhaps it is meant to take you beyond the barriers you feel keep you safe, and into the space of real faith.
Though we may, at times, wander through a dull and bleak landscape, we must remember that we do not walk alone. And in time, after we’ve rested our weary souls, we return to the world with new hues of colour.
Some words from John O Donohue
“The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb- time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.”