As a child, I was normally fearful of the darkness when I went to bed, having to have a nightlight on not only to see my way to the bathroom but just for the comfort it gave.
However, there were certain times when the opposite was true.
I remember that eager expectation of Christmas Eve, lying in my bed with all the lights out, too antsy to stay still as I listened for the gifts going under the tree. Gifts I knew I couldn’t open until the dawn. Yet knowing they were coming, knowing I would have them the next morning as soon as I woke, made the darkness around me seem like a friend sharing a mystery, like something filled with magic, like something I wanted to explore.
Those were times when I loved the darkness. When I would rest in excited anticipation of what was coming next.
I couldn’t wait for the darkness and embraced it because it meant that something even better was going to happen on the other side of it. This was true not only at Christmas, but at other moments in my life. Such as when going away to camp, or when I was heading to college, before the start of a vacation or a new job, on the night before my graduation, the night before my wedding… all times where I embraced the darkness, ready for the change that was just on the horizon.
The darkness represented the beginning of a great adventure, and in many ways that was the moment that I loved the most, the one just before it all happened, when I could feel it coming but I wasn’t exactly sure what it may be, I just knew it was going to be really good. I still do. I love that space when I know the gift is there, but I haven’t opened it yet. Those minutes or hours or days just before I begin something wonderful and new, or I know something joyful is headed my way.
Yet it is often that these times of great change and/or happy circumstance have also been prefaced by an equally great amount of chaos or even pain.
Think of all the craziness of holiday shopping just before we finally settle in to enjoy the occasion itself. Or the work it can take to prepare for a big move, even if into the home of our dreams. Or the relationship that must end before a new one can fully form in our lives. Think of when we work out our bodies to get them healthy and in good shape. Or build something, create a work of art, write a song, finish that final essay or paper, work on a doctorate… so many ways in which at the very least it is hard or difficult labor, and many times it is with pain, that the gift is created and ultimately brought into our lives and the lives of those around us.
That final time of darkness, that last push of pain, is the magic night when the great transformation happens.
It is special because it arrives just after slogging through the chaos in the shadows, and just before everything comes together in the harmony of a new dawn. It is the transition point from blackness to brightness, from pain to pleasure.
In fact there are some gifts which we can receive only after going through the pain first – such as with the birth of a child. Yet the beauty, delight and miracle of the gift we then receive is made that much greater by the pain which went before it. That one tiny child can change the world. At the very least, it will change the world of its parents.
Just look at the gift of love that the Christmas holiday celebrates each year, a burst of light sent to drive the darkness away, brought into being by the birth of a baby in a barn. Whether you believe the story or not, there is no denying it has had a global influence like no other, and has caused some of us to be better, kinder, and more compassionate people because of it. At the very least it began a tradition that puts our focus onto those aspects of love, peace and joy during this time of year, and encourages us to embody them.
So often the best gifts are the ones that arrive in the darkness.
These are the gifts crafted unseen and unnoticed by us until that time of pain and exertion makes it clear something is happening, something is changing, something is being done. These are the gifts that often surprise us the most and please us the best.
These are the gifts we usually refer to as miracles that make our hearts flutter and our faces shine. It is because they come in and with the darkness and are unexpected that we treasure them even more.
We may not be able to control the circumstances that created the darkness, but we are able to control how we feel about it, and how we then react to it.
When we are in the middle of the darkness, if we can adjust our mindset to recognizing it is simply ushering in a new dawn that will be filled with good things, then we will be able to face it and move through it without fear. In fact, when we do, we’ll find that we can face it with acceptance, readiness and even gratitude.
For there is a power that exists inside each of us, an ability to be the child waiting in joy for Christmas day, that shifts the darkness around us from scary to something filled with mystery and magic.
It is the light within us that makes all the difference in how the darkness is perceived.
I have a friend who recently told me some “bad” news she’d received. I put quotes around the word “bad” because, as she told me, the reality is that instead of getting upset about this news, her reaction was; “All right then. I can’t wait to see what’s coming!”
Rather than allowing this circumstance to cause her stress, worry or anxiety, she found herself greeting it with a nod of the head as she got herself ready to receive the good things she knows will be coming on the other side of this.
Though she has no idea what these good things are going to be, she knows they will be tied up in pretty colors with a bright bow on top and contain something she is going to want, need, and be excited about. And so she waits in anticipation. Because in her experience every time her life has taken a downward turn, just around the corner from it was something unexpected and good.
Now she didn’t always have this mindset or reaction. She has worked on herself for a long time to get to this point. By which I mean years ago she went through a deeply hellish time, and she chose to use it to grow in her heart, to grow in her mind, to grow in her spirit, and come to understand the ebb and flow of the universe, of Life itself.
She came to accept the highs and lows, not by denying them, but by recognizing this just is…Life. For every high there is a low behind it. But also, for every low, there is another high coming again. And this should give us hope.
It is a natural pattern, and we see it in everything, in every part of nature around us, and in ourselves. It’s about learning to go with that flow, and by doing so, to find yourself able to float through the lows so they don’t drown you as you anticipate the highs and enjoy them once they come again.
After the deepest darkness I’ve always then received the greatest gifts.
Life has slowly been teaching me to change my perception of that darkness. It has taught me that instead of greeting the darkness with a negative mindset, if I go into it knowing that on the other side there will be light again, and trusting that within that light there will be gifts, it completely changes how I react and respond to the darkness around me.
By learning and choosing to see the dark times around me as just an indication that something really big and good is about to be birthed, it has given me the ability to remain calmer during those difficult times. To overcome depression caused by it. To be at peace with it. To even be grateful, knowing the truth of the axiom: “it is always darkest before the dawn.” Knowing the sun is on its way.
And I’ve been finding something even more profound happening as I’ve used this method. I’ve found myself able to see, even in the midst of those midnight hours, the numerous gifts that are already there waiting for me notice them.
The gift of sunshine on my face, for instance, and the gift of rain to water my plants. The gift of a smile from a friend. The gift of my cats purring on my lap, the gift of a fire and a good book, the gift of a hot cup of coffee. The gift of the colors in the flowers and the sunset, or that favorite song playing on my radio. The gift of my husband and my home. The gift of breathing. The gift of Life.
The gift of laying down to rest knowing I will wake to a new day, and a whole new beginning with it.
There are a multitude of gifts around us, ready to be appreciated and enjoyed, if only we open our eyes in anticipation of noticing them.
Don’t get me wrong, when there is pain I still feel it. When there is something to be concerned about, I still may worry or get anxious.
But I am learning to set the worry aside, and to allow the pain to process and pass through me, and instead transform my mindset into one of acceptance, if not anticipation and even excitement.
…Just as I did when I was a child waiting in my bed for Christmas morning.
Because like my friend, I found the hardest times in my life have always transitioned me into the best times of my life.
So take hope my friends, those who may be experiencing your own darkness as we travel now through literally the darkest time of the year. Know that in this darkness many gifts are being put into place for you, ready to be revealed when that morning light arrives.
By JEANETTE DUBOIS
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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