Personal Writing

Moving through the dark

We’re in the darkest time of the year. The time when we wake up hours before the sun and scurry home from work (if you’re working somewhere not from home during this most unusual COVID time) to a rapidly setting sun. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of the dark. I don’t find comfort from the inky blackness that envelopes all I can see. I don’t like feeling my way towards the kitchen light to create an electric sense of safety and security in the morning. I’d much rather wake up to the first long tendrils of the sun making their way over the rooflines and trees in my neighborhood. And I love nothing more than going to bed when the sun’s rays cast shadows from the objects around me.

But the long, languid days of summer aren’t where we are in the calendar. Instead, we’re one day away from the shortest, darkest day of the year. And I’m up early, in the cold, pale light of the moon, wondering what I can take from this time. How can I reframe this season to be a lesson versus an obstacle, not just for myself but for anyone reading this?

I’m professionally in a relatively long, dark period, too. At my day job, I have felt for a number of months that 2021 is actually likely to be a much more difficult year than 2020 has been, both for my organization and for the arts sector as a whole. The mental and emotional fatigue that we all feel from these many months of isolation and uncertainty is very real. While people initially sought out massive amounts of art through the Internet, I think we’re all weary of experiencing live performances through the fourth wall of a screen. Donors who enthusiastically supported the arts in the early months are less excited to send support now, and I don’t blame them.

And while I absolutely believe that in my community, the dollar pie is enormous and has enough for the entire nonprofit sector, I know that the health and human services’ needs are phenomenal now, and I can’t begrudge donors who are putting more resources there. It does, however, create a lasting insecurity around the work I do to #SupportLocalArt.

Then there’s all this other work I’m trying to nurture and develop. There’s tremendous uncertainty there, too. The fatigue feels very real.

I’ve written few blog posts in the last quarter of this year. I gave a talk to Women Connect in November that I put a ton of time into and received little feedback on. I pitched two Personal Systems Disruption weekend retreats for the new year and have a few fabulous women signed up for one but not nearly as many as I had hoped and planned for. I eventually took the second date down since no one signed up for that. Daily Dose plugs along at an incremental pace.

In many ways, I’m fumbling around in the dark, relying on my instincts of where things might be situated as I move through this new mental space. It’s challenging because it’s like I’m in a room I’ve never been in before, navigating around massive, sharp-edged furniture I’ve never seen in the light. And the darkness seems to be lasting forever.

But as the first faint rays of pale pink sunlight make their way over the roofs across the street this morning, I am reminded again that even the darkest, longest nights give way to the light of morning. I trust that all this fumbling around will eventually give me a mental map of this new path I am developing, one that I can instinctively traverse with confidence.

So my question to you is this: what area of your life are you moving through in darkness? What path are you taking that feels uncertain, even scary?

And my challenge to you (and to me) is this: where can you plug in a figurative nightlight to help illuminate this unknown journey? Who or what can be the flashlight that lights up the scary corners and highlights the impediments right in front of you?

We all have to go through this darkness, because it’s where we are in the calendar, and it might be where we are in our lives right now, too. But we don’t have to go through it alone. There’s no shame in turning on a light to chase the fears, real and imagined, away.

Regardless the uncertainty that lives with us, we all just have to keep on taking the next step and the next. If you see a long night ahead of you, remember that even the darkest of nights does move into morning, and you (and I) will, too.

Safe journey; I’m rooting for you.

*Picture of the sun setting Dec 19, 2020 at 4:33pm.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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