Over the past 6 months, something happened to me that took me a long time to understand. The fire burned a little less hot, the dreams became a little less bright, the passion because a little less dull, and I started to become more and more disappointed. I was disappointed in life, people, and myself mostly. This may seem like quite a shock in the face of the fact that I just spent 6 months on a novel that truly was a defining moment in my life so far. However, as I look back on those past months, I realize how hard they were. I can see the crumbling and the eventual decline of my excitement for life. The words became a little less powerful. My expression dimmed. I saw my potential as a human being, raised my standards, and then failed to meet them. After an enormous uprising in love and determination, my life gradually morphed itself into an unknown denouement.

What sparked this? It wasn’t easy for me to put The Better Man Project into a book. Not because of the process that I had to go through, but the consistent presence of an emotional tax collector jarring at me for more. Drip by drip I drained. As I read parts of the book that were very real once upon a time, I was sent right back into those days of pain, worry, anxiety and doubt. They became very real once again and life stacked its heaviest weights on my back. That crushing feeling became a cross to bear – one that would get heavier each time I edited the book.

But it wasn’t just the toll of the novel that made its mark on me. Life’s failures, losses of loved ones, and a general displeasure with the society I was in all started to pile up on me. I started to develop this overarching complaint…and as time went on and more and more evidence was produced…this complaint went from a seed in my mind to a field of weeds. In between the weeds were very beautiful and powerful ideals such as love and passion, but were being choked of water by other roots.

I became a bit bitter that all the effort I was putting into people was not being returned. The constant let downs drove my heart into the ground and at times I would see the worst of people. I of course knew that nothing is ever simple, especially with people’s emotions, and that everyone is fighting their own battle. I knew this was the case, but in all honesty I hadn’t excepted this idea. I retreated inside  and began to shut myself out from people. I buried myself into the sand hoping that nothing would come along and uncover me. I wanted to be alone. I got exactly what I asked for.

Pieces of me began to disintegrate. Openness. Understanding. Determination. What came to replace these very positive characteristics was a strong desire to just sleep. I was exhausted. If I could, I would sleep for hours during the day hoping that I would wake up refreshed. I never was. There is a difference between getting sleep and getting rest. My mind was a spewing mess of negative emotions that were chomping at the bit of my previously established positive thoughts. And I fed them. I looked for evidence to feed them, and in a world that is often thought to be a very tough and harsh place, there was always a plethora of material to work with.

I gave up on my dreams over and over again. I would start, battle it out for a while, and always come up short. It is important to recognize that I did achieve something monumental in my life, and that the consistent leaning on positive thoughts helped me to get there, but I didn’t feel ultimately fulfilled because of the looming weeds blowing in the wind. I knew they were there. I could see them, feel them, and hear them rustling…speaking to me…anchoring themselves deeper and deeper in my mind.

My outlet – the gym – became a place where I could trash and tear things apart without anyone noticing. I pushed myself harder and harder because after every set of picking up hundreds of pounds, whatever was controlling my mind felt nourished. Satiated, almost as if it was saying “Yes…get angry…get mean…more pain.” I think sometimes we punish ourselves because pain makes us feel alive. We know that life can be one of pleasure, but often conform to the accessibility of readily available pain. We look for it because it is much easier to live in a world full of hurt than it is to take the less traveled path of self actualization. It’s easy to get stuck in this place.

I didn’t want to go out anymore. I wanted to live in my controlled space where I could manufacture specific results that I thought were worth it. But it was all really hollow. It became a self-destructive routine that contributed to a prophecy that continued to fulfill itself. You can continue to feed positive thoughts into your mind and put them onto paper, but as with anything, the application of acid causes it to fade. You can’t lean back on what you have done because it is gone now. It has been burned out over the course of time. You look back to feel a sense of pride in what you have done and you can’t see anything. You finally  realize that the eye of the storm you were experiencing about wasn’t about not being able to understand what truly is going on around you, it’s is that you couldn’t possibly see the impact you were making because of the eyes you had. You were blind to the positive even though you could still create it – artificially. The iron will began to rust.

And even though all of this happened, a flicker of light still remains. While everything over time dimmed to darkness, resilience continues to stay present. It was resilience that brought me out of the cave the first time. It was resilience that allowed me to stay positive even during an eventual decline of character. It was resilience that drove me to publish something to make an impact on the world even though I was emotionally battered raw. No matter how dark things become, there is always light. You can miss it if you aren’t looking for it. The darkness can become overwhelming…and as I laid in my old bed the other night, the bed that I laid in all those years ago the last time I came out hell, it was. Pitch black. But before I let the lids of my eyes fall to their resting place, I saw the little space between the blackout shades in which a flicker of the moon was shining through. It was all I needed to just know that I was going to wake up today and walk  a separate path. A path of warmth and truth. A path of acceptance, love, and passion. A path worthy of walking.

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project