LIGHT in the DARKNESS

May I be brutally honest with you?

I hit a wall on our November “staycation” — not a literal wall, but an emotional hard stop.

This fall, Kevin and I really needed a break, but both of us were too exhausted and decision-fatigued to plan a trip. You see, 2019 has felt like a bit of a slog.

Earlier, our smokehouse which was only 10 years old decided to give up the ghost, deemed unrepairable, and we had to scrounge $80,000 to buy a new one which will arrive in early 2020. Ugh! We’re trying to get out of debt, not create more!

Throughout 2019, we had to make some tough decisions about Partner Producers, new staff hires, budgets, lost wholesale accounts, and a slew of other little things that started to feel like big things when the days became long and sleep was short. Perspective is everything, isn’t it?

Anyway, we decided on a “staycation” in November. We’ve never done that before, but hey, how hard can it be? We would go to Elk Ridge Resort for a couple days, then come home and enjoy some local restaurants, Christmas shopping and maybe catch a movie or two. It would be date night every night for an entire week, right?

Well . . .  it turns out that a staycation was a brutal test of self-control for us farming workaholics — and we failed miserably. I don’t recommend staycations for farmers whose butcher shop and barns are within 150 steps of their house!

Coupled with our workaholic revelations, a combination of election exhaustion, climate change anxiety and a healthy dose of entrepreneurial burnout over the past year(s) finally caught up with me — and I had time to actually sit and think about it.

Farming issues aside, the past few months have overwhelmed me with a sense of pervading unease and precarious uncertainty in the world. I was searching for a “win” and couldn’t find it anywhere.

I dealt with mild postpartum depression years ago and I’ve always been one to pick myself up, dust myself off and move forward after a setback, but this felt different.

What I realized was that I had lost hope and the belief in possibility and felt a foreboding sense of lovelessness in the world.

I was so miserable and down, I wasn’t sure I could face Christmas with its expectations of merriment, light and frivolity.

But since then, miraculously, a book, a blog and a podcast brought me exactly what I needed to hear in a matter of days.

Hope

The first thing I read was Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly”. In her chapter on wholehearted parenting, she writes that letting children experience struggle and adversity without leaping in to rescue them is one of the most vulnerable and bravest things a parent can do for their kids.

The reason this is good for our children is that “Hope is a function of struggle. And if we want our children to develop high levels of hopefulness, we have to let them struggle” (page 239).

Ms. Brown goes on to point out that “hope isn’t an emotion; it’s a way of thinking, a cognitive process”. C.R. Snyder’s research on hope says that hope is a “thought process” — when we can set goals, figure out how to achieve them, develop a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work out, and we believe in ourselves — we find hope! (page 239-240).

The surprising thing? Hope is learned! That means if hope is a function of struggle, I can learn to hope again by making a plan, creating alternatives to overcome obstacles and believing in myself. I don’t have to wait for someone else to give me hope, I can create it!

I have agency! I’ve heard it said that “fate is a terrible writer” and if we allow fate to write our life story, it will not end well. Instead, I will work alongside fate to determine my best life outcome, dealing with roadblocks and overcoming them — because I am able! That is hope.

Love

A few days later, a re-post of Brene Brown’s October 9, 2019 post “Doubling Down on Love” reminded me that Love is my fuel for living.

Somehow, Love vacated my brain with all the political divisiveness, nationalism, racism, sexism and fear running rampant in our world and in the media. Without Love, my hope was stifled and I was left an angry and empty shell.

You see, I believe in a higher power, an energy, a life force, that is greater than us. I believe it is LOVE. I also call it God.

I do believe that in the end, Love wins and that Love is for everyone. I believe this so strongly in fact, that I have a little “M” stylized in the shape of a heart tattooed on my torso to remind me of Love.  But, for most of this past year, Love felt very far away.

I am finding my way back to Love again. Brene Brown quotes bell hooks:

Individuals who choose to love can and do alter our lives in ways that honor the primacy of a love ethic. We do this by choosing to work with individuals we admire and respect; by committing to give our all to relationships; by embracing a global vision wherein we see our lives and our fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet. Commitment to a love ethic transforms our lives by offering us a different set of values to live by. In large and small ways, we make choices based on a belief that honesty, openness, and personal integrity need to be expressed in public and private decisions.”

Darkness Doesn’t Last Always

Lastly, in this season of short daylight hours, darkness pervades our days. A meditation from Fr. Richard Rohr landed in my inbox this week. He writes “Advent is a time of waiting, a time of hoping without knowing . . . take time to allow the Advent darkness to do its work as well.” (Waiting and Unknowing, Sunday, December 1, 2019)

He goes on to write that at times in our lives, we all take “ . . . a dark journey, a path where we must discover for ourselves that grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness are absolutely necessary for survival in an uncertain world. You only need enough clarity to know how to live without certitude! . . .  People who live in this way never stop growing, are not easily defeated, are wise and compassionate, and frankly, are fun to live with. They have a quiet and confident joy.”

Yes, yes and YES! That is what I want!

My period of darkness and doubt was, and is, a good and necessary teacher. Because of that, I re-commit myself to:

  • Creating margin, white space, on my calendar for reflection and rejuvenation so I can always circle back to Love.
  • Reading novels, listening to podcasts and reading blogs that delight my imagination and trigger creativity.
  • Making sleep a priority. A rested body and mind can handle adversity so much better.
  • Making physical activity a priority — and not just farm work!
  • Making self-care a priority — physical, spiritual and emotional. It’s not selfish to take time for what I need. In fact, I will serve our staff and customers at a higher level when I am well and rested.

The holidays can be a difficult time for many people as the sparkle, hype and expectations exacerbate feelings of uncertainty and hopelessness. We need to sit with it, not run from it, but rather name it and work through it.

Because of my own struggles with darkness, maybe I am better equipped to feel the struggles of others and be Light for them on their path.

She,
In the dark,
Found light
Brighter than many ever see.
She,
Within herself,
Found loveliness,
Through the soul’s own mastery.
And now the world receives
From her dower:
The message of the strength
Of inner power.

—Langston Hughes [1]

[1] Langston Hughes, “Helen Keller,” The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, ed. Arnold Rampersad, assoc. ed David Roessel (Alfred A. Knopf: 1994), 146. Copyright 1994 by the Langston Hughes Estate.

Melanie Boldt Written by:

19 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Karen Muzika
    December 17, 2019
    Reply

    You are in my prayers!

  2. Avatar
    Judy Wood
    December 17, 2019
    Reply

    Bravely and eloquently stated. I agree we live in uniquely challenging times. I’m glad you’ve found the tools to help you keep on navigating the troubled waters. Cheers to you!

    • Melanie Boldt
      February 19, 2020
      Reply

      Thanks Judy. I do believe there is goodness in this world, we just have to move beyond fear into hope.

  3. Avatar
    Luaine
    December 17, 2019
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing Melanie, you are such a great writer, i could not get through your blog without tears flowing being sad then happy it was like reading a book i did not want to put down and was left wanting more.
    I am hopeful that 2020 will be a much better year and that you will stay committed to your needs.
    We are so grateful for having food on our table from Pineview farms.

    • Melanie Boldt
      February 19, 2020
      Reply

      Thanks for the compliment. I struggle to write, believe me. I wish it flowed better. But this one just came out of me. Here’s to 2020!

  4. Avatar
    Jennifer Hackett
    December 17, 2019
    Reply

    Beautifully written 💙

  5. Avatar
    Kellie Garrett
    December 17, 2019
    Reply

    Melanie – I absolutely love your candour. I too struggled long ago with post-partum depression, and then a major one several years later. Choosing to dwell with uncomfortable feelings and choosing love and hope – these have been a life-long quest for me. How wonderful for you – a successful businesswoman – to share such vulnerability.

    Kellie Garrett

    • Melanie Boldt
      February 19, 2020
      Reply

      I appreciate your words Kellie. Looking back, I can see shadow times at various points in my life and this is another one to work through. I couldn’t not write this post (pardon the double negative) but it had to be done, in spite of the risks, which I know are many. See you soon!

  6. Avatar
    Ruby Dyck
    December 17, 2019
    Reply

    Great thoughts! Have been there, done that . A cruise is a wonderful way to disconnect from ur work world, and connect with yourself and your partner. . Go for special time.away, whenever you can .

    • Melanie Boldt
      February 19, 2020
      Reply

      That’s what we intend to to! Thanks for reading Ruby. Thinking of you lots these days.

  7. Avatar
    Donna
    December 18, 2019
    Reply

    I love reading your blog . It’s so personal and honest . I can relate to your struggles. It is through the darkness we find the light.
    Love, forgiveness and gratitude ❤️

    • Melanie Boldt
      February 19, 2020
      Reply

      Thanks for reading my blog Donna. That feels really good. And we are moving towards light!

  8. Avatar
    Sue Barrett
    December 19, 2019
    Reply

    Bravo for taking the time to share your journey. And for being so honest. Only by opening up about difficulties we face and offering some beacons of light that have helped, will we support each other and foster tolerance and understanding. Thank you for this very timely message.
    Sue

    • Melanie Boldt
      February 19, 2020
      Reply

      Writing is cathartic for me, albeit quite difficult. I appreciate your support and the love is coming from all around.

  9. Avatar
    December 20, 2019
    Reply

    Peace and Love to you and your family Melanie. Thank you for your open-hearted words. The world needs more of that ♡

    • Melanie Boldt
      February 19, 2020
      Reply

      Thanks for reading Amy Jo. That means a lot coming from you.

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