Embracing the Darkness

Last weekend I did some digging in my old files as one does when they’ve been under a Stay at Home order for a few weeks. I was, like many of us, coming to the realization that being at home more wasn’t the magical solution to finishing all my To-Do list projects. One of those projects was to re-launch my Monsters Beneath My Bed blog and resume writing for Psychology Today. When I realized I was trying to force this into existence without any real passion behind it, I started rummaging through my old writings. That’s when I found my first manuscript that eventually became a memoir and a self-help book. It was dated 4/9/17.

Since finding this manuscript, I’ve been reflecting on how different life is than it was 3 years ago. Although a good portion of my reflection has centered on the impact of the COVID19 pandemic, this wasn’t the entirety of my existential self-analysis. I’ll not bore you with all the intimate details of my musing, but I did want to take some time today to honor my own journey to a trauma-informed life and express gratitude to those who have walked alongside of me since setting out 3 years ago.

Surprisingly, my discovery and reflection sparked a tiny flame of passion. I started a new manuscript. Three pages a day has always been my goal, following the advice of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. For three years, I got up at 5 am and by 5:30 was staring at the blank page. Pen to paper or fingers to keys. Just keep writing until 3 pages were filled. It didn’t matter that most of the pages were crap, therein lay the ingredients for creating fantastic stories. Those pages accumulated, were edited, revised, reassembled, re-edited, and became a memoir and a self-help book. Now, 5 days after starting a new manuscript, I have 15 pages of crap.

My last blog entry was in December of 2019 (Gifts for the Journey). There I shared about the gifts we’ve been given for the journey of life. I reflected on the blessing of the first day of Hanukkah that urges us to “not forget the gifts that have given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this occasion.” Of course, none of us at that observance at my friends’ home had any idea what darkness and waiting we would be in four months from then. Now, as we are amid a Stay at Home order, we sit in virtual darkness, waiting for an angel of death to pass over us so we can emerge into the light once again.

Earlier this week I wrote in my journal how I felt like we were in the darkness, unable to see the light at either end of this pandemic. I was growing exhausted from emotionally straining to see any hope—the beginning of it all so far behind and no sign of any end. Or even worse, maybe the end I was seeing was engulfed in a different type of darkness. So, as I grappled with the idea of being in unending darkness, I heard from a friend who shared something hopeful:

“I’m learning how to settle into the darkness.” She said. “A friend of mine once wrote an article about Holy Saturday [the time between Christ’s death and resurrection]—living with the fear, sadness, uncertainty, and questions. I’m drawing on that and reminding myself of what I like about the dark. I like the quiet of walking in the dark. I like the reflective time when I sit around the campfire or the glow of candles. I like the sense of rest the darkness brings and the sense of alive-ness I often get in the cool night air. I like that I don’t have to squint, that my headaches often ease, and that I get to engage other senses instead of being distracted just by sight. I’m learning to be mostly okay with waiting in the darkness.”

So, as I sit in the darkness, although I do not observe either Jewish or Christian religious holidays, I notice the significance of the symbolism of both Passover and Holy Week occurring in the middle of this dark time of waiting. I am fortunate enough to be waiting in safety, with connection to my loved ones. For this I am grateful.

For others who aren’t as safe or connected— those that are struggling with isolation and unemployment, the front-line workers who are actively caring for those who are infected at the expense of their own safety, the elderly or compromised who are anxiously in hiding—I can only offer my willingness to hold space with you in the darkness, and the hope that light often comes from the places where we least expect.

If you’d like to share part of your journey with me, I invite you to connect with me at: WillKoehler@4urjrny.com or find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’m also now on Research Gate and Psychology Today.

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