Taken 21 July 2015, Towson, MD. rus vanwestervelt
On June 16, when I cut ties with social media to focus entirely on finishing my book, Fossil Five, I made a big deal about descending into darkness (you can read about it HERE). After all, I selected a 105-day period that ran from a new moon to a total lunar eclipse. You can’t get much darker than that, I thought.
Until I heard from a college friend, who reached out to me the other day, disconsolate as she struggled with her own darkness in the early stages of divorce.
“There is no light,” she wrote. “Everywhere I turn, there is this blackness, this abyss, and it all looks the same. I have no idea where to go or what to do, because no direction is providing any hope.”
Our periods of darkness are relative, and her darkness is genuine and even terrifying. Even with the great differences between her involuntary darkness and my decision to “go dark” for 105 days, there are some similarities that emerge.
When I took that big jump off the cliff (and into my own creative abyss), I wanted to remove myself from the distractions. What I found is that what lurks in that darkness are all of the things that really have stopped me from writing all this time. And down here, they are just plain mean and ugly.
Now, I’m not beating myself up here. I write all the time, and more for publication than at any other time in my writing career. But there’s writing for the paper, or blogging, or journaling … and then there’s writing a 130,000-word story about five individuals who have inherited the mystery of their lives.
This story — and all by my doing — has been a bear to map, to design, to plot, to create.
Going into the abyss was necessary. I knew it then when I made the decision, and I affirm it today, 36 days into the journey.
Removing social media and other distractions, however, only showcased the deeper reasons for the challenges I’ve faced with finishing this story.
And that, Fellow Creatives and Faithful Readers, is why this is the hardest — and best, I hope — story I have ever written.
So what’s in the dark lurking with these words about these five wandering characters, facing their own challenges right along with me?
Raw, primal living where I am face-to-face with the big questions challenging my Faith. Trust. Commitment.
I’m a 50-year-old husband and father of three children, ages 10 to 19. Life is busy, as it is for everyone else, and I am writing around and among my life as a husband, father, and individual. I have chosen to sacrifice none of these things as I write.
But still, I write.
In this darkness, I have explored the depths of my own faith and am more spiritually connected in a 50/50 East–West blend of Taoism and Christianity that, if it were a brew at Starbucks, the line would be out the door. My faith continues to strengthen, my confidence in who I am, my belief in the power of my spiritual core and what I am here to do, here to give, here to share.
In this darkness, I have hit some pretty low points in motivation and creativity. But in those low points, I have realized what trust is all about: trust in others, trust in a plan, trust in having patience. I have realized that the greatest Trust comes in what cannot be seen.
But still, in all that darkness, I continue to write.
And in that writing, the trust and patience have turned frustration into epiphany. I have discovered new connections, new experiences, new opportunities for Fossil Five as well as for myself. These would have never been possible without jumping off that cliff and into the abyss.
As well, in this darkness, I better understand commitment, and that going all-out for one thing (plunging into darkness to finish writing a book) doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the world stops spinning. Kids get sick, bills need to be paid, and dogs and cats still need to taken care of.
Commitment is the long walk, the big journey over hills and through valleys. It’s through rains and then droughts. It’s in the blazing, intense sun and under the ecliptic, portentous storm clouds. It’s day when it’s night, and night when it’s day. It’s the most oxymoronic experience of my life.
And still, in that darkness — thanks to commitment, I continue to write.
I guess that after you have walked a few hundred-thousand steps and you look over your shoulder, you see how far you have really come through all of it, even when life was so dark that you couldn’t see your foot as you took the next step forward.
I marvel at how far Faith, Trust, and Commitment have carried me, just as they begin to carry my friend facing divorce, and just as they might have carried you (or continue to at this moment). All because we kept moving, or kept writing. We invested Trust. We held on to our Faith. We didn’t waver in our commitment, even though we might have trudged begrudgingly up the hills and searched for a way out of the valleys.
How beautiful it all continues to be.
For my friend on the verge of divorce, I tried to offer a little life-light to let her know that she was not alone. In her own abyss, there can still be Faith, and Trust, and Commitment that will pull her through. In darkness, these three — and Love (always Love) — will get us through. I hope she reads this, and I hope she knows that others (you, and you, and I know you) have been in your own darkness. You got through, as will she.
We just need Faith, Trust, Commitment to see the first beam of light, feel the dark slip slowly out of sight, and gather strength from the Promise that awaits.
It always awaits.
The story itself of Fossil Five: I am in love with it. Every single word. I don’t regret the struggles along the way, the battles within and the challenges around me. All I need to do is keep writing, and I’ll reach my goal of finishing this beautiful, wonderful story about five people I have come to love very much.
So. It’s back to the writing. Thank you for allowing me these few moments of light to share these thoughts with you.
I look forward to the moment when I can finally share these five fine lives with all of you as well. I do believe they will change your life, as they have changed mine.
Until then, Embrace Faith. Have Trust. Be unwavering in your Commitment.
And Love. Always Love.