Making Space for Sadness

2017 was the hardest year I have ever experienced. My first steps of 2017 I took in an emotional territory I didn’t know existed; I was in a landscape painted in black, where even the sun was shrouded in a mourning veil and all the waters were dark and still and deep. A place where time jumped and sputtered and collapsed like a black hole. A place where the blindness of Justice left victims unseen, abandoned to grapple alone with the truth of crimes committed. Surviving 2017 meant not grasping and clawing for specs of light, but settling into the darkness. I wrapped its blankets around me, curled up in its caverns and practiced the calls of crows and ravens. I was protected by that place. It was a dark womb to nurture those parts of myself that I had ignored. ​         There, I learned how to cry, to fight and to grieve; I learned that no matter how deep I ventured into its twisted wilderness, some indestructible part of me would remain. I found this enduring force to be nothing like the stereotypical little undying light or flame or spark. It wasn’t some kind of warm lighthouse beacon pirouetting in the storm. For me, the force that I found was an empty space, a vacuum, a silent and perpetual void; I found that at my center was the dark matter inexplicably holding the universe together. I found what was before and what will come after.          It is from this space that I now make art; now I know to answer when I feel it knocking at my door, and to succumb when its heaviness wraps me in a gravitational embrace. I can feel myself standing in the gateway of this new year, sifting through the things to leave behind and the things to take with me. I’m only just beginning to sort out which creative projects to pursue for this year and which to let rest.

        Oil painting, it seems, will be set down for the time being. Yet, no matter how far I am from the canvas I can still feel the brush in my hand and smell the bitterness of the paints on my palette. I miss painting desperately (it is a constant itch, a ringing in my ears) but for now, I am called most strongly to writing music. In this moment, music is the medium which allows me to most powerfully dig up the things I have buried and bring them into the outer world. In the past, I had been able to manage writing music, working, and painting all at the same time. But in the crucible of last year I was made new, and self-care prohibits that sort of frenetic creating. The dark, knowing space at the center of my being has a louder voice, and it demands more quiet moments, more down time and more forgiveness.               That voice has become a compass. I can pull it out of my pocket and find which north is true. I couldn’t hear that voice until I took the hand of my pain and followed it where it led. We make so much space and time for our happiness, but for me, in order to make art I can call true, I need to make time for my sadness. In a counterculture which (rightfully) celebrates and spreads the light, we must remind ourselves that all light casts shadows. And who doesn’t from time to time need to step out of the hot sun and into the shade?   The Guest House ~Rumi This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. 

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