Illuminating the Dark

I used to be terrified of the dark.

I was thoroughly convinced the boogeyman existed, and he lived in my attic.  As the sun would set, the dark shadows would envelop the door outside my room, and I imagined his glowing eyes waking and staring at me, his teeth bared, and his wicked grin widening in response to my terrified eyes and shortened breath.

And it wasn’t just the attic….underneath my bed held it’s own playground of demons, aliens, and misshaped creatures, who’s tentacles and long fingers would wrap around the edges of my comforter.

Did you ever feel like this?
What did you do to ward off the demons of the night as a child?

My defense was stuffed animals, and I had them on BOTH sides; piled high so no matter where the monsters arose from, I was protected. I would disappear under my sheets, because here it was safe.

Safe from the dark.

While I would love to share this fear fell away as my Barbie’s were sold, it actually dug in.

I remember seeing M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller, Signs, and barely sleeping after seeing it, waking my then-husband in the middle of the night to walk to the bathroom with me.

I was 27.

This fear of the dark stayed with me, for ten more years, until I had to face what the dark was really about for me….loss of control.

 

At 37, I lost my home, marriage, my car, a dear friend, and many belongings that were stolen.

All of this was out of my control.  I felt like I was swirling in a tsunami. I didn’t know who I was anymore…
Who was I without these things?
These identities?
Mother to be, wife, artist?

I sat face to face with a Zen master and sobbed my deepest question which was hounding my days,
How do you let go?

He looked at me, gently handed me a box of tissues, and asked me the most powerful question,
Are you ok without him?

As if snapped awake from a terrible dream, an energy released in my body.  Indeed, I WAS ok.  I was sitting here breathing, my basic needs were being taken care of.  I was alive.

And something crazy began to happen.

I began to take solace in the dark.

I would come home from a busy day, or a disappointing date, and leave the lights off in my apartment.  I would sink down onto the floor and just sit in the dark, the vibrant city alive outside my window…and me, taking a moment.

Turns out there was no boogeyman waiting in my closet, or alien under my bed.  This space that once held such fear and uncertainty was now actually comforting.

The dark was just darkness….nothing else.  Now that I had realized I am ok within it, I was willing to spend more time there.

Being in a place of not knowing and releasing control actually was HEALING. I had spent so much energy in feeling I had to KNOW every step, control every aspect of my life, and that had only exhausted me, and stolen my ability to show up most powerfully as a performer.

I wanted to believe for the first 37 years of my life that things were permanent….and that I could control that. My year of loss taught me differently.  And to be honest?  It was a huge relief.

Maybe there was far more magic occurring.  What if I took my hands off the wheel and tried something IN PLACE of control….what if I tried TRUST?

Was this what was waiting under the bed for me all along?
What’s waiting for you?

 

Where do you control in your Art?
What monsters have you convinced yourself are waiting in the dark for you?

What is YOUR dark?

The creative process is full of magic and mystery.  And it requires we release control to allow not only the muse, but to enjoy it!

I watch so many Artists stop themselves because they get caught in uncertainty.  And trust me, I get it!  I could have won a prize for how many times I did this in my professional career. But, the dark was not what I thought it was.

I thought letting go of control would harm me.  Instead, it freed me.

Letting go of control freed me to take risks, to play stage roles I could have never played before.  Letting go of control freed me to launch a business, build a global fan base, and get back to my childhood love of writing.

 

What if the uncertainty is actually your gateway to powerful creation?

And if you released control, what would you do differently?

You may peek under your bed and see simple dust balls piling under the bed frame…..and beyond that?

That’s where the real discovery lies.

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

The Sun in St Paul

Have you ever gone on a vacation and gotten sick?
Have you ever had a BIG exciting trip waiting for you, only to experience delays, snafus, and disappointment?

It can be so frustrating!

We have so much to balance these days, and those precious vacation days or DAY are what we look forward to.

A chance to have a NEW experience, to relax, to get away from the GRIND.

Isn’t everything supposed to be perfect in these moments?
Haven’t you worked hard enough that you deserve peace and ease?

As an Artist, these moments are so crucial to recharge.

Has this ever happened to you?
How did it affect you?

 

Two weeks ago, I boarded a plane with my fiance for Anchorage, Alaska.  My bags were packed with my binoculars, and many warm layers, ready to stand in the cold winds so I could witness the bountiful birds far North.

If you didn’t know, I’m a birder:)  I geek out over feathers, migration, and wing spans.

Birding nourishes me.  It’s time in nature slows me to the present moment, and has commonly been bonding time with my family.  In the wake of my divorce, my parents bought me a pair of binoculars, and I started going to birding festivals with them.

At a time when I was in deep pain, I found birding to be a healing balm.

My family and I planned this trip over a year ago, and we’ve been talking about it for months, getting so excited and even all buying the same Eddie Bauer coat in different colors.

On every level, I was VERY ready for a break.  Planning my wedding, running my business, settling into NJ, and recovering from a shoulder injury, I could feel it was time.

We touched down in Anchorage, after two long flights, and I could feel my body relaxing.  We took a selfie with a stuffed moose in the airport and met up with my aunt who’s flight got in right after ours.

VACATION! Yay!

We met up with our family, our tour guides, and the rest of the tour group (16 in all!) and crashed right after dinner.  With travel, we had been up for 22 hours.

The next morning we all flew to St. Paul, part of the Pribilof Islands, and the farthest west you can go in the United States.

St. Paul was cold, barren, and very windy.  The sign at our hotel said, “The Galapagos of the North”, as it is a huge destination for birders.  Indeed the hotel was full, not only with another tour group, but Cornell Ornithology research teams.

At dinner I started to feel light headed and nauseous, so I turned down the night birding and went to bed early so I could be well rested for the next day.

After a long night of sleep, I woke up feeling better, but as the morning progressed, I felt like my energy level was at 20%.  At breakfast, I turned to the tour guide and said,
I’m not doing so well….

My mother held her hand to my forehead, no fever.  I looked at her and said,
I think I’m going to pass out.

The room swirled for a moment, and I knew I couldn’t go birding.  One of our guides drove me back to the hotel, and I could feel the disappointment rising.

This isn’t what I wanted.
What’s happening?
Why NOW?

Have you ever felt like this?

I went back to my room, feeling like I was walking through soup…crawled under the covers, and crashed.

 

Two hours later, I woke up.  The hotel was so quiet. The guide was going to be coming back in another hour or two to check on me.  I had time, and reached into my bag for The Sun.

The Sun is a collection of interviews, short stories and poems.  I love it.  I started reading it four years ago, and it used to be my weekly joy.

Then life became very full with launching my business, and my daily time to read was cut shorter and shorter.  I used to take it on the subway, but my commutes were soon filled with social media and catching up on emails.

I had to stop my subscription to The Sun, because I had so many issues piling up.  I would wistfully look at all the magazines, hoping time would open so I could read them.

And here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean…..I finally had the time to read.

As I opened the page, I could feel a warmth coming over my body; almost a sigh of relief. After reading a few stories, I decided to check in with my body and do some healing.

I did Walter McKichen’s Rainbow Meditation, where I brought energy up from the earth, to each of my chakras, one at a time.  On every chakra, the color was strong and traveled up my right leg to my center line, and then down my left.

Except one…my second chakra.

This is the chakra for creativity.

The color was so light, and barely traveled up my right leg. Usually bright orange, it was almost a dull gray.

So, I went back to bed.  I slept again, and again.  I stayed in the hotel, not going out birding.

And I finished reading The Sun.

As I closed the last page, a huge smile came across my face.  I could feel my energy coming back, and the dull gray morning light had now turned into afternoon sunshine coming into my room.

I remembered coming home from college, so exhausted, and then sleeping for a day.  I remembered a Christmas where I laid on the couch opening presents because I had the flu.  I remembered so many times I had gotten sick….and I realized what they all had in common…

My body needed to rest.

I had finally given it the space to recharge, and this is what it looked like for ME.
I actually was given the space to nourish what needed the most nourishment.

I had finally stopped, gotten off the carousel of my life, and here I was…..me and the Sun; shining it’s bright lights of inspiration and stories of humanity.

Right before dinner time, I sat up and did the Rainbow Meditation again, and when I came to my second chakra, the brightest orange light climbed up my right leg, connected at my spine, and then gloriously traveled down my left.

In flow.

I opted out of evening birding again, and slept soundly for 9 hours.  And the next day, I put on my binoculars, and saw Puffins for the first time in my life.

 

It’s a fallacy that we can push forever.  We all need rest, and most of all, we REALLY need it as Artists.  Our work comes from a very deep place, and is highly personal.

We decided to become Artists because we LOVE our Art, and we love expressing it.

This is not a process to PUSH through, or create on fumes.

The body never lies.  As Creative forces, we need to stay connected to our inner life, because it is our inner life and humanity we are expressing in our work. If your body is calling for rest again and again, listen.

So, what is your Sun?
What nourishes your Creative flow?

If you were to take a moment and stop….what would happen?

Things may really slow down….AND you may be getting exactly what you need.

Open the pages.

Open to your Sun.