I keep a poem by Lori Hetteen on my dresser. It’s been there for several months now. When I ordered her poetry book, it came on a small square card. I typically have it propped up against a glass bottle that holds a paper flower. Sometimes the little card slides down and becomes covered with the messiness of my dresser, but I always find it and prop it back up again.
At first, I didn’t understand the poem, but I kept it because all of her poetry should be treasured — even if I didn’t quite understand this one.
It wasn’t until this week that I genuinely grasped the poem’s meaning. After months (years, really) of questioning myself and whether or not I’m a good enough writer, some words of a person I don’t even truly even know knocked me down and made me really sad. I stumbled into the darkness of insecurity and embarrassment.
After a week of this person’s words bothering me, Lori’s poem popped up in my head. It was like a reminder that all was going to be okay. The poem came to me from memory, and it resonates with me like it hasn’t before.
Her poem is in the bold italics, and my words follow. My words are not to change or enhance her words, but to document how the poem made me feel. When I talk about the work, for me, I mean my writing, but it could be anything you’re passionate about, a talent you’ve been given, or the things you’ve felt called to do.
The darkness will not go quietly.
The darkness will not move willingly. There will always be busyness. There will always be unmet expectations. There will always be insecurity, sadness, loneliness, grief, guilt, shame.
There will always be people who say mean things. There will always be those who call us not good enough.
There will always be the darkness that haunts us. Those subtle and strong feelings make us wonder, “If it wasn’t for this, we could do the thing. We could be happy. We could feel on top of the world.”
The darkness will not go easily, and it will not go quietly. It will always be here, knocking on the door, prancing onto our welcome mats, peaking in the windows.
If we let it, the darkness will come right in, curl up next to us on the couch, and make a home. It will whisper in our ears and play tricks on our mind — enflaming the words of other people, fixating on them, consuming us until all that’s left is tears and no willingness to move on.
We must be bold.
But even with this darkness pounding on our doors, sometimes making a home in our hearts — we must stand up in defense. We must rise and become strong. We must march the darkness to the door and onto the street, saying it doesn’t belong in our heart’s home.
We must remember that a greater power will fill our weak cracks, broken bones, and bruised souls.
We must be bold by continuing in the direction we’ve had our eye on, keeping our head focused on our work. Keeping our hearts and minds grateful. We must be bold for love. We must be brave for the wonders of being human. We must be fearless because this life is a gift.
Despite the darkness that temps our minds to ruminate, we must stand in shaky confidence and do our work anyway.
And also scrappy.
Once the darkness is on the street, it will become angry. It will become like a great wind that whips past our shutters and calls us cowards and selfish creatures.
But despite this, we must seize every moment we find. In the tiredness, in the middle of crazy life, when everything seems more important, the work calls our name. With must be scrappy with resources available to us.
We must stop comparison, jealousy, hatefulness, greed, consumerism — the friends of darkness. They’ll surround our homes and keep us from focusing, occupying us with their banter. But we must say no to these feelings that consume us and keep us from the work.
We must continue — even if we’re unsure of the processes. We have to trust ourselves and our Maker for giving us the intuition to keep going.
We must work amongst the piles of dirty dishes and laundry, the ever-growing to-do list, the texts, calls, and emails to make. We must do our work when everything seems to be caving in, and we hear the darkness say, “Stop. You’re not good enough. Look at them instead; you’ll never be as good as them.”
We must pick up where we left off when the darkness pushed us down. We have to trust that we have the pieces in our hands to finish what we started. We must take what we’ve been given and where we’ve been placed and make the most of it — and most importantly, be grateful for it.
We must continue like our life depends on it. To say we can do it anyways. To live out our story. To do our work. To keep the embers in our fire warm so darkness and friends can’t come in uninvited. Because this is our heart, our home, our life, and we are to make the most of it.