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COLUMN: With darkness comes light

Tanya Ryan's monthly column #LightSideUp
Tanya Ryan 2

When I was little, I didn’t like the dark.  

Naturally, I was equipped with a nightlight and a fuzzy yellow rabbit that warded off the monsters and Boogeyman. And of course, I knew better than to leave a foot hanging off the bed; this bedtime system made the darkness tolerable. 

I dreaded the time of year that everything got darker. I longed for the long, warm days of summer. I liked bike riding, and playing on the playground. I liked laying in the pokey grass and looking for pictures in the clouds.  

It felt like wintertime limited the options for play and we had to spend so much more time indoors.  It didn’t get much easier as I got older (though I didn’t have the nightlight and the bunny anymore… but I still made a running leap to my bed after tuning the light off and ensured all appendages were wrapped tightly in the covers, cause what am I, crazy?)   

Daylight felt even more fleeting when I got a real grown-up job - I’d be driving there in the dark, and driving home watching the sun sink away. I missed the light. 

My perspective has shifted a lot over the last while. I have found a lot of beauty in the season of winter; so much so that I look forward to the dark months now. It shifted a lot when I realized that the darkness can be used as a backdrop for us to create our own light… and there’s a lot of magic in that.  

Christmastime is a good example. We hang lights on the front of our house. I love them so much. They’re bright, colourful, and our front yard looks better than it does all year. And because of how little daylight we get this time of year, those beautiful lights get so much time to chance to shine. 

Candles, fireplaces, hot chocolate, fuzzy slippers, blankets, cosy jammies… there’s some things that just don’t have the same effect in the summertime. But when it’s darker, and colder… we have to go inward. We quiet ourselves, and life slows down a little.  

This has also become an incredible metaphor for how I’ve approached all the darker aspects of my life and myself. For years I avoided looking at the parts of me that were intimidating… the parts of me that made me feel dark, shameful, alone, fearful, scared, and lonely. But the last few years I’ve been slowly welcoming these qualities in.  

I started with the gentle shadows: acknowledging bad habits like people-pleasing and loose boundaries. Slowly I continued my descent into the darker depths; seeing qualities in myself  that I felt repulsed by - like manipulation, control, poor communication skills, blame shifting, being hyper-critical, and even cruelty.  

I’m far from proud of these aspects of myself… but I guess I’m allowing them to lay as a backdrop to make it clearer where my bright spots are.  

Every single personality trait we possess has an equal and opposite way of showing up in our lives. Our gifts and talents are exactly the same qualities that are our flaws and downfalls.  

Someone that is stubborn, pig-headed and defensive is also someone that is persevering, driven, ambitious and brave.  

One doesn’t exist without the other. The lightness can’t be truly cherished - without the contrast of darkness. But if you still feel a little intimidated, nightlights and fuzzy rabbits are always helpful.