[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]
Dear Andrew W.K.,
I don’t know exactly how to describe what I’m feeling, but it’s not good. I feel like my life is closing in around me, like there’s a dark cloud hanging over everything and slowly enveloping me in a kind of blurry panic. It’s staining everything I see and making it harder and harder for me to notice the good things when I’m surrounded by so many bad vibes. How do I make my way through this? How do I see in the dark?
Losing My Light
Dear Losing My Light,
Sometimes a dark time isn’t necessarily a bad time. What you’re experiencing is a transition, the end of one chapter of life and the beginning of a new one. As the sun sets and night falls, we can feel a sense of loss — longing for the warmth and brightness of the day, when we could see things clearly and take comfort in the security of life at its most illuminated and transparent. But only a fool would expect the day to last forever, and even the longest day must eventually come to a close. The wise person learns not only to accept this transition, but to appreciate it — to see the night and its darkness as an absolute necessity, a natural companion to the day and its brilliance.
We must not mistake the experience of darkness as a sign of torturous death or the end of all good things. It is just a turning point, a part of a cycle. And once the darkness has completed its part of the pattern, the shadows will retreat, the sun will rise, and the light will return once more. We must be able to accept and love the cycles of life, and learn to recognize these signs of transition as part of the ever-unfolding and developing nature of life.
The best thing we can do is use these moments of darkness to rejuvenate and recover our strength, to absorb and grow and prepare ourselves for what comes when the light returns. Do not be afraid of the dark. Do not resent it, and do not seek to artificially illuminate yourself out of desperation. Much like the body wants rest and recuperation during a good night’s sleep, the soul and spirit needs to slumber in these moments of transitory twilight. It needs to succumb to the natural spiraling movement between light and dark, positive and negative, something and nothing. It’s in this space that we come into form; in this space, we hover between being and becoming. This is what life is, and to fight it is futile and counterproductive.
Learning how to allow oneself the space to simply exist is one of the great lessons life can teach us. And it is during these moments of darkness that we sometimes have no other choice but to simply…live. Because it is in that nonjudgmental and non-panicked state of calm acceptance that we can see the dark and the light for what they truly are: both part of one beautiful pulse. Take a light switch, for instance: It must be in the on or off position; it can never be both. Inhale, and exhale. You can’t hold your breath forever or not breathe at all. It’s the back-and-forth of existence that allows us to exist at all.
Most of all, don’t lose hope. Don’t close your heart or make drastic decisions out of desperation. Just know that you are going through these natural ebbs and flows in life, and they’re an absolutely necessary aspect of being a person. Sometimes the pain we feel is simply the discomfort of growing. Sometimes the darkness is just a shadow cast by a beautiful and radiant light. Sometimes our hardest moments will reveal themselves to be the most rewarding and important experiences of all.
Stay strong and remember that you are the light that will continuously see you through all the challenges and darkness you encounter. The shadows aren’t always bad. Sometimes they’re just the result of so much light around the corner.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 11, 2015
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