Going dark.

I haven’t published a new post on this blog in almost three weeks, which feels like a really long time. In truth, May was a difficult month for me. It had some lovely bright spots – like a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit friends – but overall it was challenging, leaving me exhausted and drained.

I spent a lot of the month of May writing about my mother, both autobiographically (a theater piece I’m working on that will premiere in July) and fictionally (exploring the mother/daughter relationship that’s at the heart of my screenplay). All of this recent personal archaeology, combined with the fact that Mother’s Day and my Mom’s birthday are both contained within the month of May, left me feeling emotional and raw – like an exposed nerve – these last few weeks.

I tried to write my way through these feelings – I often do – but found myself hitting a wall. I started writing several potential blog posts, but abandoned them all halfway through. Sometimes what I end up writing turns out to be so dark that I don’t want to share it. Sometimes I catch myself falling victim to a “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” form of self-censorship. And sometimes I just want my life to look better to the outside world than it actually feels, to me. I guess all of these things are my own personal stumbling blocks.

As it can sometimes happen in this crazy life, it took something of a breakdown in order for me to experience a break through, or at least, a moment of clarity. At my lowest point, I was sitting on my therapist’s couch, crying because I was feeling sad and hadn’t been able to shake the feeling for several days. I had thought I was finally done with the waves of grief, but here they were again, rearing their ugly heads with a vengeance. “I am so tired of this,” I wailed. “When am I going to feel better?”

“What does better mean?” she asked, in that annoying way that therapists can ask questions you don’t have the answers to. And we sat in silence while I pondered what in the hell exactly I did mean. “I just wish it were easier to be happy,” I said, finally. “Like it used to be.”

“I feel like I’m doing everything I can think of,” I continued. “I exercise and I volunteer and I keep a gratitude journal and I practice self care. And,” I said, indicating, my therapist, “I’m here with you. Which is a big deal for me.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “You’re good at doing the right things. But what if, sometimes, there’s nothing you can do? What if, sometimes, you can’t fix it? What if you just have to let it be what it is?”

Nothing I can do? I was speechless. I am not used to doing nothing. It makes me feel weak and ineffective and powerless. But as I sat there, silently, feeling sorry for myself, I wondered if she wasn’t right. Have I been trying too hard, pushing too stubbornly to be someone and something I’m not?

Going dark scares me. It’s a slippery slope, and after watching my mother slide into blackness and never come out, I am terrified that the same thing could happen to me. Perhaps that’s why I fight so hard against the dark days when they come. But I have to admit, not only is denying my sadness not working, but it’s wearing me out. What if I could learn to simply sit with those bad days, to embrace them, even? What if I could do it without judging myself, without worrying that others will judge me, or distance themselves from me because I’m too difficult to be around? What if I could allow myself to be sad when I’m feeling sad without fearing that those feelings will swallow me?

Maybe going dark – on occasion – isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s just like the weather. Some days it rains. Some days the sky is clear and blue. And no matter how bad the storm, it will always, eventually, lift. And as anyone who has ever enjoyed hiking in the city I live in – Los Angeles – will tell you, the best time to ascend a mountain is the day after a downpour, when all the smog has blown out, the air is clear and beautiful, and you can see for miles, all the way down to the ocean.

Until next time, friends.

45 thoughts on “Going dark.

  1. I was really moved by your post, it beautifully written.

    Why are we all chasing happiness? I recently read an excellent book called ‘The Happiness Trap.’ The book really helped me, maybe it can help you too 🙂

  2. Lovely read. Just know you aren’t alone. I’ve had my share of dark and hopeless times…but then they gently subside. It’s like a wave, it comes and goes and we just have to know how to surf the waves. The entire year of 2013 was brutal for me and I was MISERABLE…but then all of sudden things started to change for the better as if the rainstorm was going away and now I can say I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I’ve realized that happiness comes from appreciating the small things, the very small and beautiful things we often take things for granted. A book that has changed my perspective and has increased my gratefulness for living in general is “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly” by Jean-Dominique Bauby. I totally recommend it.
    I hope you have a lovely day.

    • Thank you so much. I’ve been meaning to read that book so thank you for the reminder. And I agree with you – funny how things can just shift without any effort on our part. I think that’s why I’ve started thinking about emotions in terms of the weather: always changing. I appreciate you reading and I wish you well!

  3. Your words resonated with me. I was writing the last chapter of my novel when the email popped up. I read the first sentence and the one after and until the end… I don’t know unfortunately and can’t imagine how harrowing it has been for you, but I just wanted to let you know that your words are powerful, they convey strong, raw emotions and I really hope that they will shine a light in your life soon.
    Your therapist sounds pretty wise… I will have to reflect on her words…

  4. Your question on whether you are “stubbornly clinging to be someone you are not” gave me pause. It made sense to me… But it begs the question “then who am I?” I have to think about that…great post!

  5. Your words, “Maybe going dark – on occasion – isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s just like the weather. Some days it rains. Some days the sky is clear and blue…” reflects my own feelings and experience with the grief I have had and am still having since the loss of my husband two years ago. My post, Just Because It Is Cracked, Doesn’t Mean It’s Broken, at, thewidowstable.wordpress.com, expresses a similar perspective that comforts me during the most difficult days. I would love anything you could add that could help me, and others to see the light, and in your words, “…the clear and blue” sky. Beautiful piece!

    • Thank you, Margaret. I just had a chance to read a few of your entries and my heart goes out to you. Grief is certainly “complicated,” but the type of loss you’ve experienced must make it seem impossible to achieve any sense of closure or peace. Do whatever you need to do to be kind to yourself, to practice self care, and to embrace each day in the best way you can. I do believe that the amount of grief corresponds to the depth of your love and this loss won’t be something you “get over.” You just learn how to live differently, and that takes time. I’m not sure what happens to people when they die, but I did find comfort in Claire Bidwell Smith’s book “After This,” in which she goes on a journey to try to connect with lost loved ones through various non traditional methods like shamanism and psychic mediums. I guess since no one really knows where we go “after this,” the idea that our loved ones might exist somewhere out there on some other plane is comforting. I find comfort in what might be, or what’s possible, even if we never do know for sure. Her book has made me consider visiting a medium, just to see what it’s like. I’m a highly skeptical person by nature but at this point, anything that would make me feel more connected to my lost loved ones is something I’m open to exploring. I think we often judge our grief too harshly in a society that is uncomfortable talking about the subject of death. Let’s try to stop judging ourselves and simply do whatever we need to do to find happiness and peace.
      I wish you comfort, joy in moments big and small, and brighter days ahead.


      • Thank you for reading my posts. Your kindness and understanding of my journey and the painful process of grief is both heartfelt and soulful. And, I too, “find comfort in what may be,” and my skepticism about existing on another plane has altered over the years because of so many unexplainable experiences. I will continue to seek out happiness and peace, to what degree of success I can only hope, and I wish the same to you.

  6. Thank you so much for this! I have been missing my mother a lot recently. She’s been gone nearly eleven years, and like you, I wonder when the grief will stop. It doesn’t. I, too, fight against the dark. I fought until one in the morning this morning while I wrote my most newest post, about mom of course. I needed this today. Thank you!

  7. Extremely touching. I have had a bad month ..I restarted writing to let my grief out. Bad time can go either ways and I understand completely where you stand. I have asked this question to myself a million trillion times, will I feel better anytime? I still stand with that question and guess will always. In all honesty I love your work . I loved every line of it as if I was writing it.

  8. Wow. I’ve been where you are. Yes it’s maddening when grief won’t respond to our best efforts to control it, squash it down, and deny it. I feel your frustration and the best I can offer is that “This too shall pass.” It happens in waves. One minute you think “FINALLY” I’m over this. The next you’re hit by the train again. A wise friend pointed out that trying to force it and declare it over was setting myself up to be blindsided again when it returned. He was right. Accept that it takes as long as it takes and learn to surf the waves. The good news is that on the other side of this there is great resilience waiting for you!

  9. Hard to say how I feel about this post as it resonates for me so much it’s difficult to put into words. My mums birthday, and Mother’s Day are also in May and I have always found it the worst 2 weeks of the year. This year I was determined to meet it with gratitude and love, as a way to keep remembering her, and what she mean to me, instead of being swallowed by the black hole (usually accompanied by alcohol/tears). And it helped. The sadness was certainly still there, but like a tempered undercurrent and on top was this immense thankfulness and joy to have ever had her in my life.

    Thank you for sharing.
    You are a beautiful writer and I loved every word!

    • Thank you so much. I understand and empathize. Meeting difficult days with gratitude and love can be a challenge, but it’s absolutely the right way to go. I’m glad to hear this May was better for you. Sending love.

  10. Sorrow isn’t something you get over. Being alone does not mean you are lonely. When what you love is gone you will always feel sorrow. It is with you as are the memories. You can only get on with it and find something in each day to be happy about. I have buried too many friends, my parents, my older brother and my step son. When you feel like crying, cry. It is good to cry. The darkness may never leave, but you can leave the darkness. We all have a choice. Just get on when and how you can. It takes rain to make a rainbow.

  11. Sadness and sorrow are shadows of happiness and joy; happiness and joy are shadows of sadness and sorrow. To know one is to know the other. I hope you can embrace your sadness and experience it fully for these touch us and are with us and in our hearts for a while as does happiness.

    • I think I’m learning to embrace it, rather than judge it. I think that’s where I got to in this blog post, or at least I’m hoping so. We’re works in progress all, aren’t we? Thanks for reading!

  12. Thanks a lot for your blog post. Hay temporadas raras que me llevan a ese lado oscuro de la tristeza…justo estoy saliendo de una ….sí pues es dificil encontrar ese equilibrio…ufff nada es fácil.

  13. Good for us all to read this. There’s a lot we don’t acknowledge to ourselves.

    Write dark when you feel like it – the darker the better, and write it just for you
    – when you can, how you can.
    You might even choose to destroy it later, and that’s OK too. You’ve dealt with it.

    • Thank you! I find myself self-censoring a lot, not wanting to put too much dark stuff out in the world. But when I do, it’s a relief for me and I always get so many beautiful responses. So many of us feel crushed underneath the weight of all the things we can’t say. Let’s all just be honest, shall we? Honest, and kind. That’s what I’m trying to do. Thank you so much for reading.

  14. Your blogs are always so full of heart and I can’t stop reading them once I start. Your words pull me in and that is a gift. I guess no matter where we are (all) on our path we can all offer something to someone. They say pain is a catalyst for change, if we never felt pain, we’d never do anything. And as often as pain feels like something we’d rather not deal with it, it often changes us for the better. I wish you happiness, wellness and health on your journey to wherever it may lead. Blessings.

  15. “Maybe going dark – on occasion – isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s just like the weather. Some days it rains. Some days the sky is clear and blue. And no matter how bad the storm, it will always, eventually, lift. And as anyone who has ever enjoyed hiking in the city I live in – Los Angeles – will tell you, the best time to ascend a mountain is the day after a downpour, when all the smog has blown out, the air is clear and beautiful, and you can see for miles, all the way down to the ocean.”

    This is absolutely beautiful, your blog moved me. Sorrow cannot be avoided but hope will definitely push you through it.

  16. This post touched me. I read it more than once before I decided to respond because I couldn’t think of anything to say that wasn’t a glib platitude or “inspiring” quote designed to lift your spirits. I could say, “You’re not alone in this”, but you already know that. I could say, “Things will get better”, but you know that as well. None of those things matter when you’re in the depths of darkness and the fear of it not getting better is overwhelming: you know all these things. I’ve been where you’ve been. I’ll probably be there again and so will you, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Life is not always “sunshine and blue skies” and maybe it’s not supposed to be. Just remember that you managed to get through it — you went into the darkness and you came out the other side — not without some bruises and scrapes, but you got through it, and you will again. And so will I. Thank you for you’re honesty in sharing this post. It means a lot — to both of us. -S-

  17. This really resonates with me in this season of my life. I have an anxiety disorder, and while it’s been under control for a long time, it’s flared recently. I’ve begun to realize that sometimes I just need to sit with it, to inhabit it, knowing that this too shall pass. Best wishes to you for many long and sunny days ahead.

  18. this is an awesome piece. If I may, I deal with my down days thinking that.. not all emotions should be felt.. that sometimes we think to much or we feel to much.. that sometimes, it’s ok to have down or normal very bland days.. that we have to involve less of what we deal inside and pay attention to other things in the world. I think it’s better if we care less.. Or adapt a more passive attitude towards life.. well, that’s my point of view anyway.. It helps sometimes..

    It makes me realize that my problems are small. Or I am small and i’ts ok. It’s a humbling realization.. I guess 🙂

  19. your post really moved me.i agree with my fellow bloggers that it makes our problem feel smaller.
    i know how its is to lose a loved one or one who inspired you .

  20. There is always a brighter side to the darker side of life as we have been taught by our well wishers …am going through some situations where I am now remembering these lines……just read your blog .whatever happens is for the good …we need to wait and watch what good comes out after the darkness fades away..

  21. Extra Dry,
    Thank you for just coming out and saying it. My dad’s birthday and death anniversary (such a weird phrase…it creeps me out every time I say it) are also packed in the Month of May. I feel totally stuck right now in the same ways that you described. And I’m doing it all…the exercise, the socializing, the yoga, and on and on. The bullshit. So- I’ve picked this time to start a blog. Am I absolutely insane or will this be the thing that saves me? I have no idea. But reading your candid, no bullshit entry gave this novice blogger some hope. So cheers to that. I will most certainly be keeping up with you to see how it all unfolds. Or spills.

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