I have been in great darkness. Actually, allow me to be more honest. I am in great darkness. Most of the time, you would never know it to see me. I choose joy. I fix my eyes on goodness. I cling to hope. I engage in loving kindness. I try to be careful with my words. But it’s all taken an extreme amount of determination this last while.
There’s a significant difference between talking transparently about where we have been once we’re on the other side of it, and talking vulnerably from where we are.
Vulnerably, I’m coming to you from my darkness; a darkness that has been constructed layer by layer by layer over this last year. Layers of disappointment, heartbreak, fear, disgust—with individual people, with groups, with institutions, and with the world at large.
At first, with only one layer, I was like a child under a blanket, covered, but still able to discern shapes and light. With another layer, the forms of things began to disappear, though I was still able to identify sources of brightness. Another layer removed sight and light. Another layer made it too warm and muffled. Another layer made it more difficult to breathe. Another layer paralyzed me. And now, it sometimes feels like you can no longer see me. And I can no longer see you. This is where I’ve been. This is where I am.
Many of us dread the darkness. It shelters the monster under the bed, the boogie man, evil, and all things nefarious. Darkness is to be avoided. We push it away by any means necessary; quelling, numbing, pretending. We deem it bad and fight with all of our might to keep the lights on.
But what if darkness has been villainized? What if we look at darkness differently?
We always have a choice. We can resist the darkness, cowering and suffering, avoiding and reviling.
Or we can embrace it.
Because, my friends, many exceptional and meaningful things happen in the dark.
Sometimes the darkness is frightening. Sometimes the lights do need to be turned on to expose the tiny, lurking fears that have been harassing us. But often the darkness is rich and important. We need to leave it be if we desire the fullness and growth that is intended for us.
Though I likely wouldn’t be the first to volunteer for a dark season (“Pick me! Pick me!”), I will be the first to acknowledge that most of my character growth has occurred in the dark.
Darkness is essential during gestation. New humans and animals grow inside the safe, nurturing darkness of their mothers’ wombs.
Darkness is imperative for the development of fine art photography. An invasion of light obscures what should have been clear and defined.
Darkness is necessary for a good night’s sleep. Total darkness increases the body’s production of melatonin. And it is during this sleep that our minds regroup, and our bodies heal and grow.
Darkness is a vital part of transformation. A caterpillar in chrysalis form must be wrapped up and protected for the miracle to occur. Interestingly, synonyms for this dark little cocoon include evolution, expansion, improvement, increase, maturity, advancement, and development.
Darkness is imperative for the sprouting of seeds. Those exposed to direct light dry out and die. But those that are forced into the darkness of the ground produce life.
So I am embracing the darkness. I am reframing the darkness. I am not going to be bitter. I am not going to rot in the ground. I am not going to disappear.
Instead of feeling lost and afraid, I will choose hidden and safe. Instead of feeling disorientated and vulnerable, I will choose held and comforted in the shadow of the wing. Instead of feeling buried alive, I will choose planted.
“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted.” ~ Christine Caine
We can’t rush the process. We need to resist the urge to brush back the soil to see what’s happening. Do not subvert germination by digging up the seed. Stop checking up. Stop checking in.
During this season, I’m waiting quietly and safely in the darkness. I’m allowing my tears to flow as often as needed; these tears water the soil that nurtures the seed.
It will seem like nothing is happening. It will feel like you are dead in the ground. But if you wait, you’ll crack open and roots will begin to grow. Above ground, you and others might observe that nothing is happening, but your roots need to push down deep in order to sustain any life that will appear on the surface. Then suddenly, it will happen. Green sprouts will emerge and the life that has been forming in the dark will be visible to you, and to others.
But the dark part has to happen first.
In the meantime, you are safe. You are held. You are growing. You are going to thrive. And so am I.
Good things happen in the dark.
Heather Katz says
Ellen – at first I was going to respond that “I”m sorry you’re going through a rough patch or a dark place”, but after reading the whole article I’ve totally changed my mind! Now I want to say to you “Keep going girl! Stay in the darkness! I can’t wait to see what you sprout!”
LOVE LOVE LOVE this article!
Ellen Pusch says
Thank you, Heather! I’ve had many friends message me today asking “are you okay?” Haha. I just tell them to read the whole essay 😉 I’m making the darkness work for me, instead of the other way ’round. Much love to you!
Michele Breen says
Thank you Ellen…I believe prayer helps things to grow that are hidden in the dark. I offer you the water of prayer my sister.
Blessings and Love
Ellen Pusch says
Thank you, Michele! Much love to you xo
Anthony Lowney says
I am so glad that you have learned to embrace darkness, as we are always looking for more recruits. Leave the light, it is so blinding. I enjoy your writing style Ellen. Great work.
Ellen Pusch says
Blinding, garish light! Ha! Truly happy to hear from you, Mr. Lowney. xo