Dark Night of the Soul

If you don’t know what I am talking about, stop reading now.

Seriously,  I’m not joking.  If you have never had this experience.  Stop.  Close out of this page and continue on with your life.  You won’t be able to relate to anything that comes after this paragraph.  So stop reading.

Okay.  I warned you.

There are these moments when you question your entire existence.  I call these moments the dark nights of the soul.  They are not frequent occurrences.  And although they often happen at night, they can occur at any time.

These experiences cause you to lay in your bed, sit alone in your dark studio or where ever you happen to be.  You cannot speak.  You can hear and feel your heart beating as if it were a distant object you are observing separately from yourself.  All sounds seem amplified.  And it almost feels as if your thoughts are a spoken conversation.

The one thing that you know….. the one thing you hold onto is…. the thought that if I can get through this night.  If I can just make it to dawn.  If I can get though tonight, tomorrow will be easier.

These moments may happen because of something that you have done, a choice you have made.  It may be because of something that has been done to you, a choice made by someone else that affects you.  It may happen because of forces out of your control.

I want to be very clear that this experience can come about because of a positive change.  It may be hard to see it as a positive change at the time though.  Most of the time it comes when you are questioning yourself, a decision, or something that is happening in your life.  Major life changes can cause the dark night of the soul.

In these moments the doubts, all the negative thoughts you keep at bay, loneliness, and fear come rushing into the vacuum of quiet and sit on your chest.  You roll that last conversation through your head once again and possibly over and over again.  You agonize over the decision that got you to this place.  You agonize over the decision made by the someone else that threw your world out of alignment.  You contemplate over and over again, did I make the right choice?  Am I making the right decision?  Should I do this?

The last time this happened to me, I felt as if my world had imploded.  I was so confused and hurt.  I remember going over every little detail.  I remember laying in the dark of my bedroom listening to my cat purring.  I kept thinking if I can make it through tonight, tomorrow I will go on with my life.  Yes, there will still be pain.  Yes, I may have to make some major changes to myself…to my life.  Yes, I may not be happy for a long time.  But I am strong and this too I will survive.

I don’t have a magic formula for surviving these moments.  I just know that you have to live through them.  You have to feel through the experience.  There are no short cuts.  And if you have lived through a dark night of the soul once, you know that it doesn’t make the next one any easier.

For those of you who have had this experience you know of what I speak.  Yes, there is pain.  Yes, you may have to make some major changes to yourself and your life.  And yes, it may take a while before you feel again.  But most importantly, I want you to know that you are strong and you will survive.

Dawn is coming.

Mixed Tapes

The collection of short stories entitled Love & the Tsar of Techno by Anthony Mara are set up like a mixed tape.  There is a Side A, Intermission and Side B.  Some of the stories in the collection involve a mixed tape that several characters have at one point or another.  The author even includes a playlist to go with the book.

A couple of years ago when driving back from a hike in my friends old car (it is from the last millennium and has a tape player/radio combination) he asked if I would mind listening to a tape.  I said that it would be fun and that I hadn’t listened to a cassette tape in ages.  We talked about how when we were in high school you would make mixed tapes for friends and/or that special person you had a crush on.

Recently when talking to another friend the subject of mixed tapes was the topic of conversation.  Again we talked about being in high school and how you would spend your Sunday afternoons listening to American Top 40 with you tape player poised and ready to capture your favorite songs as they would play.  My friend said that one time he listened to the radio for three nights in a row waiting to capture the song “The Final Countdown” by the band Europe.

A lot of thought and creativity would go into making mixed tapes.  It had to have an audio flow.  I still have several mixed tapes made by friends that are still great to listen to.  Yes, I own a cassette tape player.  If the tape you were making didn’t catch the listener, they wouldn’t listen to it.

Another friend of mine who is a musician bemoaned the advent of iTunes and other computer programs the “choose” music for the listener.  He said that so often people choose a song without listening to anything else that the musician/band has produced.  The sad thing is that the musician/band worked very hard to create an album that is an auditory novel.  Take a moment to think about entire albums that you have listened to…. sure you may have a favorite song on that album… but it is the album as a whole that really makes the statement.

One of my friends recently confessed that he still makes mixed tapes.  I think that is very cool.  I am hoping he will make one for me.

Opinions are like….

If everyone has one, why has it become so tricky when one wants to express theirs.

Have you ever had one of those moments, when you realize that the universe does not revolve around you?  No, I am not talking about egotism run amok.  I am talking about that moment when you realize that not everyone is going to like the same things that you do all the time.  I remember being in fifth grade and a girl in my class who I was friends with thought “Tears for Fears” was the best band ever.  Another girl was really into the music of “Wham.”  They had this big fight over who was the better musician.  I realized at that moment that people do not all like the same things.

In fact, sometimes you may be in a very small minority.  Like the people who honestly enjoy eating fruitcake.  My Grandma Margaret (Grams) and I do.  And I know of one or two other people who like to make it as well as eat it.

At one time the status quo suggested that the earth was flat.  If you challenged this idea or opinion by consensus, you were considered a radical, stupid, and would be publicly humiliated.  Computers that we carry in the palms of our hands were once science fiction, and now a majority of the planet is connected through what we call a cell phone.  Ideas change.  Everything changes.  Just because the “Status Quo” says something or expresses an opinion, it does not mean it is right.  It just means it is someone’s opinion.

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”  -Haruki Murakami

The challenge is being able to express an opinion and being able to recognize and respect that others will have different opinions.

I have a friend whose first husband loved Star Trek, was beyond the textbook version of a Trekkie.  He could watch it twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.  I enjoy watching an episode of Star Trek or one of the movies randomly at any given time.  I have even enjoyed catching one of the marathons where they show several episodes in a row.  This man was obsessed and his marriage crashed and burned for more reasons than his obsession.  To this day, my friend has a deep aversion to anything Star Trek.  In her opinion they should have stayed home and gone to bed early instead of going where no one has gone before.  I understand her aversion and when I plan to go see a Star Trek movie, I do not invite her to go along.  We respect each others difference of opinion.

Having an opinion, different likes and dislikes, is what makes each of us unique.  This is where creativity comes from.  Respecting and appreciating each person’s uniqueness is an art of itself.  You may not like someone else’s opinion and they may not like yours.  Respect each other’s differences.

If you don’t like fruitcake, that’s great.  Don’t eat it.  It means another slice for me and my Grams.