“I tilted my head back, breathing deeply. It was a clear, moonless night, and after those long months underground, the sight of all that sky was dizzying. And so many stars—a glittering, tangled mass that seemed close enough to touch. I let their light fall over me like a balm, grateful for the air in my lungs, the night all around me.”
–Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising
I recently read a fantastic series by Leigh Bardugo entitled The Grisha Trilogy. One thing The protagonist’s references to light and darkness struck me. This integral theme fuels the main character’s understanding of balance in the world. I included this particular quote, which comes from the final novel in the trilogy, to encapsulate how I presently feel about the heavens and the night sky.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with looking up. Clouds enthralled me. Sunbeams enchanted me. Birds carried me away on wings, big or small. And the stars, oh the stars, how they spellbound me. From heroes immortalized in the heavens to the possibility of new life on distant worlds, stars ensorcelled me.
“Remember that stars only shine in the darkness. Transform the energy of your dark side to enhance your star quality.”
Iyanla Van Zant, Until Today
When I think of the stars, I remember how their light pulled me from the dark spaces in between. It wasn’t because of a boy I kissed beneath them. White knights on horseback spare you reality, but not pain or darkness. It wasn’t love of myself, either, seeing as I couldn’t see why I was lovable, even in my darkest moments. It wasn’t the near-unconditional love of my parents and brother, either. If I couldn’t love myself, how could I believe in anyone else’s love?
His existence is my true saving grace. I could hope to find trust in an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent being who knew me before my first heartbeat. He could forgive, accept, and love the gaping maw of darkness within me. When I trusted none else, He patiently waited for me to return to myself. God gingerly uncoiled the inky tendrils clutching my heart. He purged my core of poisonous, acidic doubt and left me with a tranquil sea. I finally began to believe in the possibility of hope.
This was no easy thing: my acceptance of God’s love. These demons of mine were something I’d struggled with for years. I thought they were something I had to fight alone. Then, I thought they were a monstrous, martyr-like badge of honor. I thought my internal suffering made me “special” or “emotionally superior.” I felt that my suffering was a righteous rite, initiating me into a meaningful life.
Don’t Hug Your Demons
After smothering, ignoring, and fighting my mental monsters, I turned to embrace them. I cloaked myself in the mantle of the Tortured Artist. I listened to sad songs. I wrote and read bleak, nihilistic things. I threw myself into one fatuous fling after another. I shrank from human connection. I put myself on an iceberg. I stranded myself on a desert island. I was stuck on side of an erupting Mount Doom, with no great eagles in sight.
And then, I wasn’t.
I experienced one of the worst things I’ve ever known in my almost-quarter-century life. It pushed me down a dark tunnel and out the other side. I still had miles to tread through the darkness, but the other side came with light and a glimmer of hope. It’s funny how experiencing terrible things can make you appreciate life more. I finally had the chance at faith and trust and believing in love (i.e. God) again.
You can’t destroy your inner black hole. You can’t ignore any part of yourself, good or bad. You certainly shouldn’t embrace your darkness, flaunting it about like a fool. You can fight and tame the darkness, but never entirely alone. You need love and light, and these you’ll find infinitely accessible in God and those who love you.
“We are alike,” he said, “as no one else is, as no one else will ever be. The truth of it rang through me. Like calls to like.”
Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm
The dark matter within you cannot be removed. It’s a counterpart to all good, bright things within you. There’s a potential energy for things far greater than you could fathom alone. If you’re willing to act on that energy and ask God for help, you will shine. Think supernova big. Think constellation Sirius bright. Think: first kiss, first love, finding your soulmate kind of potential energy.
Again, only stars shine in the darkness. The next time shadows come, do what stars do best.