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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Staying in the Dark: Loving the Light

Waiting for Darkness

When I was a little girl, I was afraid of the dark. That isn’t uncommon. It’s when we never outgrow that fear, we might be in trouble. I admit that even now, late at night, I sometimes jump at noises. When the old farmhouse creaks—when it settles—I might open my eyes and wonder what I really heard. When my dog companion awakens and growls at the blackness beyond the window, with the fur standing on her back, my heart leaps.

I tell myself, it’s okay, it’s just a bear or a raccoon, and I thank her for doing a good job protecting me. Am I genuinely relieved? Not a chance. I listen carefully for whatever it is or might be, and Goldilocks—my inner-child—tries to take the helm and steer me into a hall of monsters. 

What happens when this darkness becomes our backdrop? When we find that we are free-falling into the depths of a bottomless well, an unknown lower place, where everything we once knew is crumbling. We seemed to have lost our ground, our firm footing in the dirt that we used to know. And even though we watched as it continued to become a wasteland, it was our wasteland. It was what we knew in a familiar world that we inhabited. 

Are we prepared to sink to the bottom, blindly trusting that it will all work out? If we are plummeting, is it time to pull the ripcord to assure a safe landing? Maybe we should read this article, or watch that documentary, or tune into this news broadcast. Or perhaps we should not. 

The images in the news are too raw, brutal, and disturbing to see. It is difficult, but necessary to look, and know when to stop. Our attachments and trauma bonds with our ancestors and culture have finally snapped. We have no choice but to make space for and allow this painful, messy, breaking apart of the old world to follow its course. There is no turning back.

Forced to adapt, we must realize that we have outgrown our former ways of living and thinking. Since we did not make crucial changes back when it may have unfolded more smoothly, we are being thrust into the transformation process. Ready or not, here it comes. 

There has been too much trauma passed down from one generation, one culture, one catastrophic event to the next. We simply cannot go on. Our infected wounds have become mortal. 

Don’t wait to be pushed, pulled, or dragged into the depths. Take a deep breath, jump, tumble, or whatever it takes to prepare for the hard work of piecing together the fragments necessary for rebirth and what we can become. This is what Jung referred to as the Shadow. At this time, we are there, all of us, in it together. 

We are forced to step back and take stock of what we have lost, what we must sacrifice, and which new ways of thinking will light a new pathway for our authentic selves to follow. If we could opt out, then we would lose the lessons. That won’t work. For if it could have, we would not be here now.

Sound the alarm! What we thought that we loved and cherished is at risk. Now that we have spent time together, alone, and apart, we have been forced to assess what it actually is that matters. We can look inward and comprehend who we have become. It is only while remaining in the dark, can we know what the light means. It requires trust and a willingness to endure for as long as it takes. 

Honor this process, but while grieving what was lost, or if feeling helpless, know that it is difficult. It is beneficial to accept that we are here for a reason. Nothing will ever be the same, but can you see the good in that? When the sense of alienation, anger, and confusion passes, we will have been allowed to draw upon the strength within. This is where our light may shine and access provided after the old limiting ways are eliminated.

We cannot rush or let fear be our guide. If we are to acquire new patterns, it is time to stop with the division and default into judgment. It is time to stay grounded and learn to question what is before your eyes, what you have witnessed, and how you will move ahead.

With much of what we know being stripped away to the bone, we will see when it is right to navigate the new ways. It feels hard or maybe even impossible at times. Still, when that happens, we stay in the dark, we hug our companion while loving ourselves, and we strike out into the new world with confidence. This cannot happen a moment too soon or too late. Trust your instincts.


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