Defining Amidst Darkness

BY: Natalie Jensen, MSW

As we are walking through the beginning of 2020, we find ourselves in the unknown. Literally, we are living in the ambiguous world of global pandemic meets human experience. We know first hand that there are numerous options for thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions (or inaction). Many of us are finding it incredibly difficult to be separated from face to face contact. Some who may be more introverted may miss their chosen tribe of trusted individuals or those we can just “be” with in the same space – without expectation. Those who struggle with depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and substance use may be in a fight to gain motivation, calm, and remain in recovery. People are longing for and missing connection. People are experiencing distance, isolation, and loss.  Places and spaces are desolate, sparse…dark.  

We may ALSO notice there are other experiences we are living. There are stories of communities uplifting each other from a safe distance. There are everyday heroes among us – dedicated to our health, our safety, and our well-being. There are caregivers and professionals who fight each day to keep darkness at bay. There are companions walking with patients and families through an unknown amount of challenges. There are those who lift spirits, if even for a moment, with music, dance, laughter, and levity. There are sacrifices and good deeds happening. People are noticing what they treasure in each other. People are noticing what they treasure in the great outdoors. How can all of these experiences be happening at once? How can we manage it all as it is coming at us at a rapid, sometimes frantic pace? How will we find our way out of this?

As I was reflecting on our current situation, the following quote struck me:

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”  — Anne Frank

I found myself drawing wisdom from a young girl speaking to human experiences. Anne invites us to be open to how the light of a single candle influences a current reality. In her own struggle, she shares the awe-inspiring message: a candle or light can bring about change to the surrounding darkness. It can be viewed as defying the shadows to present a small glimmer of hope. In the same breath, she notes it can also define the darkness. What might it mean to define the darkness? What if we might know it as more than an enemy? I am not suggesting the darkness of our current experience is light hearted and easy to reframe. I think Anne Frank was suggesting both action and emotion can be held within our lived experience.

I’m inviting you to consider what effects this journey can have on you. Perhaps you take a moment during meditation, journaling, drawing, or in conversation with those within your home and via virtual visits to explore some of these questions – or create your own:

What am I seeing in the “darkness”?  

How am I defining myself in this experience? How am I defining others? 

Do I notice aspects of my life defying the circumstances? 

How am I defining my days/accomplishments/challenges within this time?

What light am I creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?

If I’m noticing light in my life, what truth or wisdom is it also showing me about darkness?  

What does it mean to hold both darkness and light in one experience?

While we walk through this experience, may we continue to give ourselves, and others, compassionate grace, attentive kindness, and intentional respite from what may feel like a whirlwind. Whether we see light, darkness, or a combination of both, I hope we may consider the words of Anne Frank, who searched for meaning amidst unimaginable circumstances.  

Be well community – take good and gentle care of yourselves and each other.