Dark Night of the Soul + Two Dark Beers
A lot of big changes have been happening in my life lately. Most of them are exciting: starting my freelance writing, editing and marketing business back up, focusing on the food and beverage industry that, as this blog reflects, is such a huge part of my life. Experiencing huge success right out of the gate, landing clients I thought were out of reach and gaining valuable experience. Quitting the full-time remote job that was one of the few steady things about the past two years, all those trips to Denver and familiar faces on Zoom, but that slowly sucked the life out of me, with all those hours logged writing reports about things that I cared less than nothing about. I've made new friends, grown my tribes and gotten below an eight-minute mile. But that one part is still missing. And it's a big one. That four-letter word.
As a growing proportion of each day becomes shrouded in darkness and the nation prepares to fall back, so too has the darkness come back into my life. An old pattern has recently been brought to my attention, which I am working actively at breaking.
I have spent much of my three-decades-plus on this planet living in shadow. As much as I decry it, and want more, and work to get better, the Fear has been my most constant companion. I am weary of the longing and the suffering, but after a while, it gets to feel not only familiar, but almost comfortable. The devil you know and all that.
As a result, my adult life has been defined by the search for a companion to trudge through the darkness with me. Someone to share in the shadow that has been mine alone since childhood trauma brought the reckoning. I thought it was the only way; that I could never be understood by someone who wasn’t a dweller of the underworld.
So I have chased the walking dead: fighting for relationships with those whose own darkness makes them forever out of reach. These are the people I have always felt most comfortable with—and yet, those relationships are where I end up feeling most alone. When you seek those who live in shadow, darkness is what you will find. I have also known that I don’t want to stay in the darkness forever, and so I have tried to bring the light to these dark corners; to raise the dead; to help all of us find another way. But the burden is always too much to bear alone. And so the story always ends the same way.
I try. I cry and I pray and I beg. No wonder that's my go-to karaoke track.
Well, that cycle ends now. I’m sick and tired of begging people to love me. So I must learn to truly and fully love myself. That’s easier said than done. But I’m trying.
What I’ve learned is that the only way out of the shadow is through, and the passage is single-file only. We must all face our own darkness, and we must do it on our own; we need the support of friends and family, sure, but no one can carry us through. The only way out is to look the darkness square in the face, and in doing so, to realize that it is no so scary after all.
I am starting to see that the darkness can even be beautiful; it is simply a new perspective, the same landscape through a different lens. We in the West think of darkness as the absence of light, black as the absence of color, but the opposite is in fact true: black contains all the colors, and the darkness contains the light as well. It is all one and the same thing. There is beauty in our brokenness—as long as we choose not to dwell in it, but to acknowledge and embrace it as part of what made us who we are, and be grateful for that, and then to let it go.
And then the key is to choose a new path forward. Both the light and shadow are always within us, and both are necessary to become a whole and evolved person. But we also cannot let the tragedy define us, and it is only once we realize this that we can finally be free.
I’m getting there.
The days are getting darker, and the weather is getting colder. And as autumn draws nigh, we seek warmth for our bodies as well as our souls. And this is where a beverage comes in. A rich, robust stout or porter is a perfect example of the darkness that brings the light from within. As I've said before, this is the time I wait for all year. And so, seeking solace for a wounded heart, I tried two new dark brews this past weekend.
First off, I visited Figurehead Brewing in Interbay for the first time. I went in search of their Belgian dark strong ale, Midwatch, which won the gold medal in the Great American Beer Festival—but sadly, it was not available on tap. However, they had a wee heavy that turned out to be exactly what I was looking for, oh-so-aptly named Love Is a Wee Heavy. A touch of sweetness hits you up front, the raisiny taste of 8.8 percent ABV; then the rich and complex maltiness creeps in, and it finishes silky smooth, dangerously drinkable, with a mellow and well-rounded mouthfeel. Interestingly, despite the malt-forward character, it is a gluten-reduced beer, which my flora always appreciates.
My time at Figurehead was quite a magical autumn adventure. It was a warm day that turned chilly as the sun went down, making the space feel increasingly warm and cozy, like my parents' living room or one of London’s old neighborhood pubs. A man from a local bakery was serving fresh baked bread —garlic, jalapeño and orange cranberry—and fresh brie, free to all patrons. Throughout the evening, he produced a seemingly endless supply from a black canvas Mary Poppins bag he kept under the table. My friend and I left full and happy.
The second new beer was at an old favorite spot, Lucky Envelope Brewing in Ballard. I had been longing for the Peanut Butter Cream Stout since I missed it by THIS much last year, arriving just after they tapped the last keg. I was determined this year.
I was at the brewery attending the second anniversary party for Beer Necessities: the women's craft beer group my friend Sarah runs, and a few of us beer-savvy ladies help with. When I finally sidled up to the bar, I ordered with gusto, sharing my enthusiasm for the brew with the bartender, who was more than happy to indulge me in completing my quest. Watching her pour was a beautiful sight: thick and rich, dark black-brown liquid gold: like chocolate or the nutrient-dense soil of the earth itself, topped with a brilliantly foamy head. Heaven.
The cloud of sadness from the prior night’s realization that I was riding with another ghost still hung thick over me that day at Lucky Envelope, but when I finally put the Peanut Butter Cream Stout to my lips, it was like a ray of dark sunshine breaking through the clouds. I couldn't help but grin ear to ear at the first taste. Hints of nutty peanut, just barely sweet, subtle—immediately followed by the robust, slightly roasty, full-bodied malty delight that was everything I had been hoping for. I savored every sip of my one-and-a-half pints, and for a few hours, everything was just a little bit better in my world.
And so I carry this lesson forward, as each day gets a little easier; as I break through a little more; as the shadow releases its stranglehold on me, and I learn to love it, and embrace it, and then to let it fall behind me instead of leading the way. Like these rich autumnal delights brought comfort to my palate and my mind, the darkness, too, can bring light to my soul and my heart. By seeing it for what it is, I relieve it of its power. I use it as fuel to propel me forward to bigger and better things.
Maybe the shadow ain’t so bad after all.