Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Little Less Dark - Day 11

Day 11 (Monday 11th December 2017)
11 characters are the traditional inumber for a static nativity or crib scene 
(namely the infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph, an Ox, an Ass, a shepherd, a sheep, an angel, 3 Magi).
The first creation of a crib scene is credited to Saint Francis of Assisi at Greccio in Italy in 1223.

The start of a new week. I hope it's a good one - mine seems to be filled with festive meetings, whilst still trying to do the day job. 

Today's piece is written by Sarah Storm, who is based in the Breda area of the Netherlands. She is a loving wife and dog lover. She founded her own consulting business three years ago, working as an OD consultant and coach, but also works as an associate, for example for Roffey Park in the UK. Sarah previously worked in HR, most recently as a Business Partner. She has a degree in History and Education from Stirling University and an MSc in Organisational Change from Ashridge Business School, where she works occasionally as a facilitator and OD consultant. Sarah is active on social media - her Twitter handle is @_sarahsto_ and I am sure that she would be pleased to hear from you.


Dawn comes quite late in the Netherlands at this time of year.

Not much of a dawn to speak of today. It just became slightly less dark – an impression which wasn’t helped by the light drizzle which settled on my glasses as I walked our dogs. It was in this semi-light that I reflected on darkness, dawn and what they mean to me at the moment.

Darkness - typically used as a metaphor for evil, ignorance, sadness, depression and fear. As usual I want to be contrary and look for the bright side of darkness. Starlit nights, parties, fireworks, and Christmas lights. A time for romance and passion.

Darkness is important for us and for the environment. This week it was reported that Earth’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2 percent a year from 2012 to 2016 and that outdoor artificial light is brighter than ever. Light pollution can impact the quality of the sleep we need to thrive. The migration and reproduction of birds, fish, amphibians, insects and bats can be disrupted. And you can forget about those starlit nights.

Light pollution - photo by Tim Peake
In darkness we’re able to take to our bed, which can be the best place to be in difficult times. Hidden from the world and, with luck, the respite of sleep. A good friend whose husband died suddenly this summer told me that the worst time of day for her was in the morning, when she woke up and realised again what had happened.

And yet I know from bitter experience that lying awake burdened by worry or fear in the darkest, earliest hours of the morning feels desolate and lonely. 

Last winter, when my dad was very ill, it was always dark when we left the hospital after visiting. This was when it seemed most hopeless. 

After my husband’s cycling accident this summer it was the nights which brought the greatest challenges. Once he woke in a panic at the hospital and as visitors weren’t allowed to stay overnight I sat in the empty reception trying to calm him over the ‘phone. In the days after, when he couldn’t sleep from the pain, we drank tea, ate chocolate & watched Netflix for hours until he could relax enough to go back to bed.

As darkness fell last Sunday I was making a proper pudding and a stew cooked slowly in the oven. Dark winter evenings demand comfort food. I lit candles and poured some wine. The fading light felt like an invitation to hunker down. Just then I felt particularly grateful and privileged for being safe, warm and fed after being in London and Brighton last week and seeing so many men sleeping rough, begging, or selling The Big Issue. How they feel about darkness and dawn? Does the darkness only bring cold, discomfort and danger or does it provide some welcome invisibility from the passing public?

It’s possible that there could be some projection going on here. Thinking about how much of my writing sees the light of day and how long it’s taken to send off this to Kate, it’s clear that, under some circumstances, invisibility feels quite comfortable for me!

After being diagnosed with lung cancer Mary Oliver wrote in her poem “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac”, 
“Do you need a prod? Do you need a little darkness to get you going?”
Sometimes that’s what it takes, no matter how shocking and painful. Redundancy, mental illness, a break up, even a death, can be the trigger needed for change or to appreciate the life we have. Sitting with those moments of darkness, taking a good hard look and wondering what to do with it. In my work I’ve learned to appreciate the moments of darkness and discomfort because they invariably lead to the most significant breakthroughs.

It’s no coincidence that the most soul-stirring times of day are sunrise and sunset. There’s something about the blending of the darkness and light, and we need one to appreciate the other.

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