Hello Darkness my old friend

Writing in pain is really hard, so is writing in darkness.

I've struggled during dark periods of my life, in times of deep anxiety to put words to the experience, and it truly is difficult.

And yet, the experience of others, during their dark nights and grey days is often what we need to hear.

This is a constant struggle for me as a writer, how to write through the periods of pain, disorientation, disconnect, and darkness. How to bear witness to those experiences during that time not just after the fact.

For me, writing while I am experiencing pain also feels so inefficient. (Actually my writing always feels inefficient.) The words get stuck and then I feel like I've wasted my time, in the effort to speak something true.

I went to a Richard Rohr conference this past summer whose theme was The path of descent is the path of transformation.

It was an exceptional spiritual, intellectual, and relational experience for me. I don't know if and when I'll be able to unpack all that happened in my heart at that time. Just another writing frustration of mine.

Darkness and descent is the place where the new life comes from. I know this to be true from experience, never mind the fact that it's also central to my Christian faith. And to be gathered with kindred souls bearing witness to this collective and personal truth, making space for it in their lives and making space for it in their relationships and communities - was deeply impactful for me.

Making space for lived experience. Choosing Love in the face of hard realities.

I kind of knew, from past experience, that December would gift me with this awareness of darkness once again. Gift me with a personal and collective spiritual sense of grief, longing, alienation, loneliness, and separation. But I hadn't intended to be derailed by it in my actual living. Like I could keep it at the intellectual level, knowing something in my mind and not my body.

Which isn't really knowing at all.

I've been holding some painful things at bay for a while, both personal and collective.

You know how you go through life acquiring hurts and experiencing fear, and you box some of those up to deal with at another time? And how you're faced everyday with the pain of other humans around you, some of it (lots of it?) a result of deep, systemic injustice. And you box that up too to deal with at another time. Because what can you do with all this? The heart can only hold so much, and there is a to-do list.

And then you enter a liminal space; the spiritual significance of darkening days and all your defenses are weakened.

I thought I'd be able to power through my agenda, which included my writing agenda, and my to-do's with the happy ease of joyful holiday anticipation. And maybe I could have, but life happens. We read things, we see things, we have conversations; the pain, loneliness, and fear comes back to us afresh. Stuff slips through the cracks.

And even though I was half expecting it, at a mind level, I hadn't made room in my heart, in my body, for its visceral impact.

Because really, who wants to make room in their heart and body for that kind of thing?

Today I simply bear witness to this reality. This is the dark season out of which light and love will be made known again. Known anew, known afresh. We can trust this will happen. But first the darkness.

I have not spent my mornings this week writing the things I planned to write. My early mornings are one of the periods of my day, without appointments or obligations to others. A time of day I can absorb and cushion the impact of life, so to speak. My evenings are also a time for this, but I've been self-medicating the discomfort of the darkness with lots of fiction and Netflix watching. Stories, how I love them.

And it's ok. God is here. Or you could say Love is here.

Love is here, fierce as a flame in my heart burning with both compassion and anger.

Love is here, in the connection between people.

Love is here in the land, and it is this love that explains that specific ache of mine, my current disconnection from expansive and immersive nature.

I return to this Love moment by moment and day by day as I experience the stress, heart ache, fear, alienation, and disconnection of our human existence. I root myself deeper in Love and I ask myself how do I show love to myself and to others? How do we bear one another's burdens? How do we live the dark seasons?

I don't know exactly, but at the very least I'm learning to not fear this space. And to not fear feeling itself.

It is what it is, it has something to teach me.

Fear not.

There is an enlarging of my heart each time I enter into the collective pain through my own pain. It is the portal I don't want to walk through, but it is the place I have to go. Because each time I go there I learn to ground myself more in Love and I am filled with more Love to give.

Wow what a gift. The gift of not being able to proceed as planned. Of feeling the darkness and expanding compassion. And the desire for healing, justice, reconciliation, and redemption that comes with each dip into collective darkness.

Solstice blessings friends. May you know love.


A companion for the journey:

Alexander Shaia on Darkness and Hope - Rob Bell's interview with the amazing Alexander Shaia. After hearing Shaia once you'll want more so here's another interview, Radiance within the Darkness, from the Deconstructionists.

If you have time, these are such good listens during December.

A recording of this blog post is published on Patreon. It's open for all to listen, not just Patrons.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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