There’s A Reason It Was Called The Dark Ages…

I was not a good teenager.

Now, I know my parents would probably say that, compared to a lot of teenagers, I was picture perfect. This is true to a point: I made good grades, I had a part-time job after school, and the most mischeif I ever got into was making a late night Wal-Mart run with my friends and buying 25 packages of toilet paper so that we could go roll some other friend’s house up like a mummy. And maybe Saran Wrap their mailbox.

And, if we were feeling particularly devious, we would dig a small hole in their front yard and plant some Kudzu.

So, no, I wasn’t that girl who drank in the Winn-Dixie parking lot or fed weight gain bars to my frenemies. I was a great teenager on the outside, sure. But my heart? My mind? My thoughts?

BLACK AS NIGHT.

(You’re probably starting to wonder if this has a point. I assure you it does, although when I’ll actually arrive there remains to be seen. Feel free to start placing bets.)

Anyway, this black-soul thing continued, expertly concealed under the guise of a cheerful, caring teenager, until 2002 – which marks the beginning of The Dark Years (previously known as The Train Wreck Years).

The Dark Years spanned from January 2002 until November 2004, and are so named because of the various and sundry Dark Decisions made by yours truly throughout those three years. This is when I dropped the aforementioned guise of cheerfulness and let my true Sinful Self out to play for a while. It was the basement of my existence. The time in my life when I saw who I really was – who I had the potential to be if left to my own devices – and it was truly horrifying.

One of the main things that I believe contributed to The Dark Years was my lax restrictions on certain unsavory character traits, namely: Selfishness. Pride. and Arrogance. Not necessarily in that order – they were pretty much all up there together.

I thought about Me. I took pride in Me. I watched out for Me. I was interested in Me. I cared for Me. I acted in My best interest. I did what I wanted to do. I loved Myself. And no one else. Sure, I would have said I loved other people, but I didn’t really. As far as I was concerned, the world was mine, and anyone who wanted to share it with me had better remember that I was Queen.

(Tragically, a portion of The Dark Years took place in Europe. Oh, how the turn tables.)

The end of 2004 brought the end of The Dark Years, and I found new joy in living outside myself. In allowing myself to be “reachable” to others by not flaunting my accomplishments (which I had previously done oh-so-subtly, of course) and admitting to my mistakes. In laughing more. In not taking myself so seriously.

By 2005, The Awesome Years were in full swing. And they have been ever since… until this month.

Maybe it’s just January (for those of you who don’t know, I harbor a deep and irrational hatred for the month of January), or maybe it’s my stress level because of these book revisions; but regardless of the cause, I feel myself slipping back into Darkness. Here’s why:

1) I don’t laugh nearly as much as usual.

2) Instead of brushing things off, I am taking everything personally.

3) I often feel overwhelmed about everything on my plate – not because it’s too much to handle, but because I feel like everyone is counting on Me to do all these things. And they’re not. Trust me. No one else cares.

4) I have started thinking and acting more like Joey Potter than Pam Beesley. (Do you remember Joey Potter? Katie Holmes’ character on Dawson’s Creek. Moody and brooding.) I don’t want to be social, so I cancel plans and just sink deeper into myself. I pity myself a lot. And did I mention the lack of laughter?

5) ALL I can see is this book. That’s it. It has officially taken over my life. And what does that mean if, say, IT DOESN’T GET PUBLISHED? Yeah… I can’t even think about it.

6) Currently, I am not concerned about anyone but myself. (How awful is that??)

So obviously, this didn’t have anything to do with writing, except for the last part. But if you were ever hoping for a glimpse inside my head, well… there you go. Ha!

I guess I would just really appreciate it if y’all could keep me in your thoughts and prayers, Dear Readers. It’s been kind of hard lately, for no other reason than the Darkness creeping back up. I think I know how to solve it, but it might take a while. Let’s hope things progress speedily back towards Awesomeness.

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18 thoughts on “There’s A Reason It Was Called The Dark Ages…

  1. Mireyah Wolfe says:

    Suggestion Intended to be Helpful: Create a character that acts JUST LIKE THAT and then kill them in the worst possible way you can think of. (I suggest consulting the list of ways characters in the Final Destination movies died.)

    It might help. 🙂

  2. Amanda J. says:

    Everyone has dark days. You just have to get it out of your system or give yourself a few days and then if you aren't feeling better about things, force yourself to laugh and smile and eventually you'll actually start to smile and laugh again (hopefully).

    If not, either kill a terrible character like Mireyah said, or watch a movie with lots of stuff blowing up. Destruction should make you feel better! 🙂 (It's what I do.)

    Hope things start looking up for you soon!

  3. Jemi Fraser says:

    I have an incredibly difficult time imagining you as anything buy cheerful & upbeat. You are such a sweetie!!

    But, we're all real & we all go through those yucky times! Give yourself a treat a day – bubbles, silly show, chocolate, gag reel from a movie, find a baby to cuddle (don't steal one!!), watch a sunset…

    Take care of yourself *hugs*

  4. Lorel Clayton says:

    Ah yes, the Dark Years. I had a few of those myself, and the people who knew me then never let me forget. Fortunately, they were the abberation, and I've returned to my normal, moderately outgoing, considerate self. Everybody's got a Shadow self (you can read Jung but he's not much help on the subject–he just points out it's there), and it has to be let out in little ways before it blows up into something bad. A bubble bath, chocolate, and a day of indulgence usually does the trick, but if you've gone beyond that…then try visiting a homeless shelter, a hospital full of sick kids, or having a chat with the guy who works at 7 Eleven. I stop feeling selfish whenever I really look at everybody else around me.

  5. Heather says:

    We kid ourselves when we become convinced that the darkness is gone. It never leaves, its a part of us. But without it we wouldn't be whole. Without darkness there can be no light. I've been there, both as a teen and while writing a book. Sometimes just remember the things you love on the light side helps to balance it back out. We're here for you!

  6. Simon C. Larter says:

    Um, I think the inner life of teenagers is pretty much always dark and selfish. This is based on a vast, scientific statistical sample of one (me). Well, maybe two, since you're included in the sample now.

    You might just feel isolated because of all the work you're putting into the book. It's lonely work sometimes. Maybe put the MS aside for a few days, get out and talk walks, meet people for lunch, have a happy hour or three. Just some suggestions, good lady.

    You'll dig back out soon enough.

  7. Anne Riley says:

    Mireyah – That might be the best suggestion I have ever heard! Maybe I'll write a short story about my evil inner self and kill her off in a gruesome way. If I do, I'll post it for sure! Thanks hon!

  8. Anne Riley says:

    Amanda – I've started reading Bridget Jones's Diary again, because it makes me laugh so hard and she is so ridiculous. But movies with stuff blowing up sounds pretty good, too. Thanks!

  9. Anne Riley says:

    Jemi – I actually need to go meet one of my best friend's baby. I bet that will cheer me up. And a bubble bath sounds awesome. Great idea! Thank you!

  10. Anne Riley says:

    Lorel – you're so right. There are so many people who have legitimate reasons to be Dark. I have absolutely nothing to worry about, yet I brood over… what? I don't even know. Thanks girl!

  11. Anne Riley says:

    Heather – thanks so much for the encouragement. You're right – without the darkness I would be a two dimensional person. It's so great to have you guys around!

  12. Anne Riley says:

    Simon – you know, you might be right about the isolation thing. I have been working on it pretty much every spare moment after work. Maybe I just need to get out? Good suggestion. Thanks!

  13. Kristie Cook says:

    I've been there…both times. I was obsessed with my first book (still am, just not as bad), totally immersed in it every chance I had. Like you, I felt everyone counted on ME for EVERYTHING and it was overwhelming because all I wanted to do was write. After years of giving to everyone else (I'm a mom of 3 teen boys + hubby), I wanted to be selfish again. And boy, was I. Everyone was doing their own thing, so I didn't think anyone noticed. But they did.

    It all came to a head in my household, because all of us had these pent-up feelings, especially me. But now that they understand, they're more helpful around the house and supportive of when I need to go into my hole to write. And I don't feel so selfish, which, in turn, helps me look out beyond myself even more. I've finally found a balance for reaching out to others to help them with their needs and hiding in my hole to take care of myself.

    I don't know if this helps, except to let you know you're not alone. 🙂

  14. Anne Riley says:

    Kristie – it helps SO MUCH. That is exactly what I do… I think about my responsibilities and then I start to resent the people who I feel are "counting on me" for something. Thanks for posting this!

  15. Carolina Valdez Miller says:

    Awwwww…wish I could just give you a big hug. I've had some pretty dark days, too. We all do. I know how hard it can be to feel chipper when it feels like you've put everything you have into something and there's the most horrible chance–or merely worry–that it's not going to work out. It's scary. And right now, it's pretty hard for anyone else to understand, and it feels easier to cast everyone aside–and of course, they want to see you smiling, not brooding, so the thought of facing people makes you nauseous. But I think you've taken a really big step in acknowledging how you feel and the direction you're going. Now you know you can do something about it. Talking helps, I think. Finding a good listener does, too. My suggestion? Surround yourself with people that care about you, eat some ice cream, and try to create some distance between you and that book. Devote some time to other things that you have always loved and cared about. You need to remind yourself that there are other things in life worth AWESOMENESS.

    And you're going to think this is really weird, but you know one thing that helps me? Volunteering (for me, it's a soup kitchen). There's nothing like experiencing others' dark days to help you find the Awesome days in your own life again.

    Hang in there, honey.

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