Year To Live Project: Scared In The Dark
Scared In Dark,
Luke Skywalker asked Yoda, “What’s in there?” as he pointed to the cave he was about to enter.
“Only what you take with you,” Yoda replied.
I’ve played this scene over and over in my mind during the past few months as I have prepared to enter the darkness myself. If you’re reading this on Monday May 9th, come sunset Guatemala time tonight, I’ll be entering the period of the Year to Live Project of which I have great trepidation.
When the door closes behind me in a few hours, I will be alone in complete darkness for a period of twenty-eight straight days. Complete darkness. No light. Not a drop. No electronics. No music. No books. No other human beings. Nothing. Nothing but what I take in with me. And I’m taking in a lot more than my picture of my dog Lucas, my meditation cushion, and yoga mat.
Why Are We Afraid Of The Dark?
When I told people I was volunteering in hospice, the response was something along the lines of, “That’s beautiful, good for you.” When I told people about a month in darkness, the response was more like, “Are you fucking insane, how can I talk you out of this?” People have emailed me with articles on how unsafe this will be and have reached out from across the globe with questions and inquires that I can’t answer.
My mom doesn’t like it. Adrienne, my hospice volunteer coordinator/life coach/new BFF, has offered me the sun and moon to change my mind. And my friends have all either made me promise to leave before insanity takes over or tried to prepare me for the inevitable PTSD.
Everyone asks me the question, “Why?” What’s the point of something so extreme? What do I hope to gain from voluntarily engaging in an activity usually inflicted on political prisoners?
Who knew we are all so afraid of the dark…
What lies in that room that is so scary? I hope to find out. I want to know what’s underneath everything. Everything. I want to touch the place that exists below the constantly growing layers of distraction that despite my best efforts continue to infiltrate my life. I want to know what’s there when you take everything from a man and make him sit there, in the darkness of his own thoughts and emotionality. What happens when there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and nothing to do but be still? Hospice taught me there is strength beyond the physical, but what strength lies underneath it all?
I fully expect to go insane. Multiple times. Despite my best efforts, I’m addicted to caffeine. I’m addicted to my phone. I’m addicted to my thought patterns. And I want none of them anymore.
I look forward to “insanity,” as sanity appears to be a prize that pays no dividends. “Sanity” is a smoke-and-mirror show created by my own lack of understanding of myself at the deepest, darkest level. That place. That place that I don’t want to go, yet I have all this time already been living with the outcropping of behaviors that surface because of its existence. Being left along with that place is what we fear in the dark.
I Have A Secret
Years ago when I told people I was going to fight in a cage, the reaction was fairly consistent: “Are you fucking insane? How can I talk you out of this?” But it was something I knew I had to do.
I needed to know what it was like to hear the cage door close behind me and face not only the snarling man bouncing up and down before me, planning to beat the shit out of me in front of a sold-out convention hall, but more importantly to face myself.
I had to face all of the fears I had conjured up in the eight-week training cycle prior to that night. I had to answer the questions once and for all: “Can I do this? Can I do something that will change the course of my life forever? Am I man enough? Am I strong enough? Am I brave enough?” Or maybe, “Am I dumb enough?” It had to be done regardless.
Not only did I need to know what it would feel like to hear the click of the cage door behind me, I needed to know what it was like to hear it “unclick” and be able to walk out no matter what had transpired in the fifteen minutes I was in there, – loss, injury, or otherwise.
I needed to know I had done it. I needed to have that experience burned into my DNA forever so every time I walked into a meeting, onto an elevator, or down an alley, I had a secret in my pocket. A secret that said, “I can take you, no matter what you throw at me. I’ve been in tougher spots than this. I’ve had a fully trained grown man sit on my chest and rain elbows down on my face and turned the tide. Fuck you and fuck whatever you think you’re going to be able to do to me.”
Although I only fought four times, the experience served as the physical foundation upon which served as a coach and an acupuncturist. By knowing I could handle my deepest fears, I had given myself permission to be with people dealing with their own darkness.
A New Secret
While all this may sound intense, extreme, and even outlandish, I am not a masochist. Quite the opposite. If I did not have a sincere expectation of healing associated with this activity, I wouldn’t be doing it. To say I’ve learned a lot in the past fourteen months is an understatement. To say that everything I believed to be true on a certain level has changed, is truth. It was not until I sat with a therapist months after things fell apart and heard, “The darkest places you’re willing to go will bear you your greatest lessons. That is where the real gems lie,” that my thinking shifted around pain, suffering, and depression.
I’m taking a backpack full of buried grief into this darkness – a miscarriage, a divorce I didn’t want, a business that I birthed and am now separated from, and addiction – and I want the opportunity to alchemize all of it, to walk out with a new secret if possible.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: what you are currently reading is a comeback story. A comeback story. I know it in my heart. But it’s not there yet. I’m not there yet. I know I can’t snap my fingers and make the past go away, it’s too soon. I have to pull it all up and look at it. Be with it, and breathe it before I can clear it from my body.
I’m tired of giving myself pep talks. I’m tired of filming videos about how amazing things are going to be someday—but not believing them myself. I’m tired of repeating to myself that I’m solid and healed and then seeing a family with a baby or catching a hint of a familiar perfume and having to lock myself in a room to keep from driving straight to a bar or picking a fight with someone who’s ego won’t let him back down once we lock eyes – but doesn’t know my secret. Hurt people hurt people, and hurt men usually end up hurting women. I don’t want to walk around with that burden any longer.
That’s my “why.”
As the sun sets on Lake Atitlan tonight, I’m entering the darkness. Mine, yours, all of ours. To find out what’s there underneath it all. To crawl into my own skin. To wait for the visions to come. To speak with the hospice patients I lost this week. To watch movies of my past and hopefully make peace with them once and for all. To entertain myself for a solid month. To laugh, to cry, and to surrender— to what is there when everything else disappears.
Yes, I’m terrified.
Posts will continue to go up every Monday and Thursday while I am away in the dark. In my absence, you’ll read the thoughts and struggles that have come up over the last few weeks about hospice, leaving Santa Fe, and those people who have touched me. I’ll be out of touch for a stretch, but the trip goes on.
Thank you again for all of your support, well wishes, notes, and love so far on this journey. Mostly, thank you for listening.
See you all on the other side,