The darkness doesn’t come all at once.

Instead, it settles in quietly, creeping over us like twilight
as the last bright edge of joy slips past the horizon.
You never saw it coming, and yet… it was inevitable.

Suddenly you blink. You wonder why you can’t see.
And it takes a moment to truly realize that you’re in the dark.

You fumble. You stumble. Your breath catches in your chest, heavy.

This night is thick and viscous and it smells of emptiness,
a faint metal tang with a hint of dirt.

.

Here I sit, today, blinking and breathless.

The void had crept up over the course of this year,
bit by bit until it smothered me.
My head down all this time so I couldn’t see it happening.
Optimism and obligation make volatile dancing partners,
because I really thought I could accomplish “all. the. things.”
But with my nose to the grindstone all the rest of the world disappeared.

And so did I.

Grinding myself away, my task list scraping off a layer at a time…
Imagine a sculpted head at a literal grindstone, the nose disappearing first.
Then the lips, the forehead and chin, the eyes,
until the face is not a face anymore but a smooth and barren wasteland.
No identity. Empty.

Little wonder it all sank into darkness.
I had no face to either see or engage.

.

No more.

It’s time to build myself back.
Break out the modeling clay and create myself a new face.
Create myself anew.
With lips wide for smiling. With eyes bright and curious.
A chin held high, and a nose not meant for any grindstone.

.

I know I am not alone.

Let us waft away the cold encroaching odor of metal and crusty earth.
Let us welcome the day, scented warm like summer roses and vanilla.

It’s time to bring back the sun.
It’s time to bring back the joy.
It’s time to show this darkness that it will not swallow us up…
… because the tiniest bit of light immediately renders the darkness un-whole.

And with this promise to myself, I can already breathe more freely.