How to use the dark times of life to capture ideas & why you want to.

We can’t always see what is right in front of us. Perhaps we just got used to burying it. Someone along the way said that wouldn’t work and we listened to them. So when similar ideas popped up we dismissed them as folly.

A man grew up on Long Island. He was a train ride away from New York City. The city that doesn’t stop and offers unlimited opportunity. His school trips included visits to Broadway, museums, and culture. He was given a vision of what could creatively be, but that vision was extinguished. Dad I want to draw. No son. You will never make money.

This man did the right thing. Gets a good job and raises a family. Drawing seems like a dumb idea now. Yet a midlife crisis and career burnout start to stir things around a bit. He is dissatisfied and hungers for meaning in his life. He shares an idea. What if I carved boats? What if you did! Do it. A small voice says no. You won’t make any money.

When life gets hard we are cut to the bone. Our normal is disrupted and we walk around dazed and confused. Sometimes all we can see is darkness. Our souls are exposed. The pain bares all. It is at this time that we may get some very raw ideas of how we want our lives to be. We may get ideas to help us survive and cope, or we may get ideas that give us a clue as to what we are truly passionate about in life.

A man did what he was supposed to do. He followed the path laid before him. He went to university to study to become a clergyman, but was unable to pass the courses. His heart was in ministry so he sought out another way of fulfilling his desire to help others. He served as a local missionary for some very poor people. He got into their lives, into their minds, and way of life. A disaster struck the small town and hurt the very people he learned to love. As he sought to help them his physical and mental health deteriorated. At a key moment during this time of his life the very people who should have supported him abandoned him. He was left distraught and turned away from the god he sought to follow. This was Vincent Van Gogh.

During the years that followed these dark times Vincent got an idea. He was cognizant of a desire. For a long time he wasn’t able to grasp what was happening. He couldn’t have told you what he decided to do. He wasn’t even aware. On the verge of hunger, a complete breakdown, and physical exhaustion he began to sketch. He took some scrap paper and started sketching what was right in front of him. The more he sketched the more a hunger grew for learning how to draw. He still wasn’t cognizant of what was going on, but kept following this desire he had. Eventually this experience would lead him to understand that he was meant to be an artist. His life calling came out of one of the darkest times of his life, though more would follow. He simply followed an idea.

When things are going good there is a lot of noise in our life. There is the noise of traffic, the 9-5, our home, marriage, children, and a long list of responsibilities. When it all goes to crap there is silence. When the clock stops ticking all we can hear is our heart beat. When the noise subsides is when we need to listen. Listen for what comes from within our soul and calls out to be heard. Listen for that small voice that has been silenced for way too long. It may just be an inkling. A faint desire. Something that you can’t put into words, but that prods you forward.

Do this.

Pick that up.

Go there.

Call them.

Drive over there.

Quit that.

Try that.

Take that class.

Pick up that brush.

Type that letter.

Get out your flute.

Take a lesson.

You get the idea. Vincent didn’t know what was happening. He felt a nudge, picked up his pencil, and started sketching.

If we pull ideas from the dark times of our lives and act on them then we have created meaning amongst the meaningless. If our very being is cut wide open then that is the perfect time to search its depths. To listen to a voice that we have buried. To awaken our passions for life. To discover what we were meant to do.

If we will not explore ourselves when it gets dark then there is no hope for discovering what our passions are, for acting on ideas, and for creating a life that is truly ours. Stay in your 9-5. Find solace in the milieu. Acknowledge that you are okay with being like everyone else in the Burbs because if you will not listen to your heart when it lies wide open then you have turned your back on a life worth living.

When things get dark:

Journal. Capture every dark and secret thought.

Do. Do what your heart says to do. (Within reason of course). Sing, dance, laugh, cry, write, jog, eat, cook, start, stop, jump, run, leap, fall, sketch, paint, move, stay, open, close, do it.

Don’t think. Vincent felt the urge to pick up a pencil and sketch. He didn’t think about it. In fact he was starving. He followed his urge to the point that he almost died. Don’t make this thing fit. Follow what your heart is saying.

Connect. Connect with someone who you can share with. Share your secrets, your urges, and your despair, share it all. Let them help you pick up the nuances to what your being is saying. They can pick up themes, hear ideas, and help you see what your heart is trying to tell you.

Coping. After a long bout with depression, sadness, and grief I felt the urge to write. I am following that urge today. It started with a journal and is growing. It doesn’t fit, doesn’t make sense, and I am not sure I have the talent for it, but I am doing it. I am following an idea that my body screamed to try when I couldn’t take life anymore.

I was sad and confused last week. I felt settled this week–when I could write.

I implore you to observe your life when things are good, but especially when things get tough. It is then that the most beautiful ideas will come to light if we will simply look for them.

When all is silent, listen.

Marcy Pedersen


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