It is hard not knowing. That is why we’re afraid of the dark. Not because there is a monster under the bed, but because we do not know what is under the bed. There could be a sweet cuddly puppy or a bucket of gold. There could be a shiny new Dyson cordless vacuum or a harmless half-eaten sandwich. There could be a rabbit-sized dust bunny or an old favorite book with a few pages torn out. There could also be the very thing you’ve been waiting your entire life to receive. There, in the dark.
The dark is powerful not because it is scary, but because it holds everything — our worst nightmares, and our greatest hopes. How to risk for what we hope?
The winter is a season in waiting. Waiting for the sun to melt what’s frozen. To grow what is buried. To reveal life’s own determination for itself. And so we wait, in the tenebrous space. Not because the darkness is a punishment but because darkness is the promise of light.
Winter is also an invitation. An invitation to rest. To go inward. To draw the curtains on the outside world so we may know our inner selves more fully. To reacquaint ourselves with our forgotten parts. What the constant motion of our lives allows us to abandon and neglect. Going, going, going, until the days start their march towards longer and longer nights. And we find ourselves slowly slipping into an unplanned quietude. And without even knowing it, we shift. We find ourselves indoors, in sweatpants, lost in deep thoughts. We might find ourselves crying in the bathtub. Or going cross-eyed half staring at a blurry screen thinking of something else. We might find ourselves uncomfortable in this space. What to do with the fragments of our severed shadows? How to hold the weight of missing yourself? We are not taught well how to inhabit a noiseless space.
We have to teach ourselves how to love what the world has taught us to disregard or push away. To learn to welcome this stillness as a force hoping to help. To let ourselves sink more deeply into the place that defies all the demands for our productivity and efficiency and compliance with the bottom line. Leaning into what it might look like if we took a break from being easy to please or hard to hold. Softening out of our hiding places. Allowing the tenuous and tender space of what you do not know or have tried to forget finally spread over you like a warm blanket. To see that you can survive feeling the thing you have spent so much time trying not to. You will survive it. And you will be all the better for it. It’s not the feeling that’s unbearable. It’s not feeling the feeling that needs to be felt that causes so much suffering. Be brave enough to risk what scares you for what you need. Stop running from your freedom.
We need more space around what needs to be felt. What aches to be acknowledged. The outside world is drowning in an excess of neglect. Winter forces us inside, and for that let’s say thanks. Let’s stretch wider so we can carry with us its lessons. To value what cannot be measured by weight or quantified in the stock market. But what shapes the world with its invisible force. The glory of what is ineffable. The importance of what is felt, but unseen. Our hearts and hopes and longing to be close. The ancient need to voice what is true in a modern world functioning on well practiced lies. To remember ourselves back to the richness of what cannot be bought or sold, but feeds our souls. Connection. Truth. Love. Words reduced to cheesy sentiment because of their gravity. Their ability to be the very reason we choose to keep going.
In the absence of light, we are given the opportunity to imagine what light we might want to step into as the days start to lengthen again. The winter is a chance to choose what we want to grow come spring. What we want to bring with us when warmth encourages us to step outside again. Life is always asking of us what we truly want beyond what we’re afraid will or won’t happen.
How can we make friends with the dark? How can we find what is beautiful in what we do not yet know but are slowly learning? If you sit in the dark long enough, you will see. The eyes adjust when we stay with the uncertainty long enough. Can we be brave enough to lay in the dark, imagining all the beautiful monsters that might be under our beds? All the gorgeous lessons. All the generous people we have yet to meet. All the life changing experiences that will return us more fully to ourselves. Maybe the monster is simply a friend or a teacher you haven’t met yet. Maybe we’re not afraid of monsters after all, but what change the monsters may bring.
To learn to love change when it is life’s most constant promise. To practice with a steady dedication, a tiny opening, and then its corresponding closing. To accept both as our process of becoming. But to keep opening. Over and over and over again. To what we do not know. To what we do not know how to face. To what we hope to hold. To what knocks us down so completely we don’t think we’ll ever get up again. Until we do. Better. Stronger. Wide enough to hold even more of the things we hope to. The dark is a gift to the light. The light only knows it’s shining when it’s next to the dark. They need each other just as we need both. To understand where we’re going as much as we can never really know. That we’re willing to keep finding out. To wait when we cannot see. And to risk imagining the wildest beauty we hope to find when the light returns.
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