I came home from Los Angeles a year ago today. I was trying to figure out why today felt the way it did, and well, there’s your answer for you. So, let’s light it on fire today…look for the black smoke in the sky.

I’ll never forget walking to the gym from my downtown apartment every single morning at 5 am and every single evening. Headphones in, backpack on…listening to Eminem (pretty often at that time) and just struggling. That 15 minute walk winding through people was my time to really reflect…think on the things that were happening…and drop into the music. I was so disconnected. Horribly disconnected – starting with myself. I fell into this horrible pattern of financial stress causing physical stress…leading to emotional stress…leading to overeating…spending too much time in the gym to compensate for all of it, and then doing it all over again. Train wreck in motion. I’ve never felt so much pressure in my life. Add on a couple promised dreams that turned out to be shallow and I felt hollow, empty, and pretty much useless. I was grasping at anything back then. There’s a lot more to this story…but the gist of it is…I was in the worst place mentally, physically, and emotionally I’ve ever been in. I couldn’t write…I couldn’t think…the mirror was killing me and I was falling apart.

I remember calling my best friend one night and saying, “I think I’m really ready to come home. It’s time to go.” “Yup…it sure sounds like it.”

A couple weeks later, I was home.

It’s amazing what can happen in a year. I mean…amazing. I’ve been taking care of myself for 12 months now, my diet has improved exponentially, my body has completely changed – to the point of actually creating what was a dream from when I was 12, I have so many incredible people in my life, I’ve found my true passion, I’ve started school to become an integral life coach – another dream of mine, I’ve come to the writing block every single day and poured it out, I have loved my freaking heart out, and I am roughly a week away from taking the biggest risk of my life. There has been so much happening…but there’s one thing that transcends all of it.

The way I feel and experience things has drastically changed.

I function very differently than I used to. In fact, I was completely caught up in trying to bypass the hard times a while ago instead of diving into them. All of that LA stuff…I hoped like crazy it would just disappear. It didn’t. All of the things before that, yeah, I’ve had to dive into those as well. When I close my eyes and try to visualize this concept of light and dark energy, I see these two swirling opaque pools of color mucking about. Funny thing is, they swirl into each other, never really mixing but creating this type of dynamic…similar to that of when you put two different colored frozen yogurt swirls into a cup. It mixes but doesn’t become one of the same. I’ve been challenged like crazy to tap into that dark stuff…and use it to fuel me. That’s exactly what I am getting into today.

When is the last time you felt really angry, furious even…and didn’t act it out or act it in? It’s one hell of an experience to sit with that…and there’s so much vigor and energy in that feeling. I mean true anger – really flipping pissed off…that type of “get out of my face or something will happen” type of anger. Have you allowed yourself to get close to that feeling? What is its shape? Where does it sit in you? What’s the feeling in your body you get when it happens? Really feel it…and then, use it constructively. But you have to get close to it and be safe with it before you can furiously act out of love.

What? Furiously act out of love?

Yeah, like that man going into war for love. Standing up for what you believe in. That type of anger…when your back is up against the wall and you make your stand. Sometimes that’s not just courage that roars…sometimes you have to get mad, upset, and really ramped up – and act out of love. You see, that’s the nature of this darkness. It looks pretty intense on the surface, but there are always greater forces at play here. This pitch black junk that you have in there, oh there’s so much power in that. There’s so much wisdom in those experiences. Continuing to hide though…you’re so screwed. Just imagine it smiling at you when you turn your back on it…because it does…it’s got you then.

You’re going to run out of positive motivation every single day. That battery dies so fast and you have to recharge it all the time. There are going to be days where you have to burn it black…go into the things that hurt, the times you’ve felt destroyed, the times you’ve felt like nothing…and kindle that fire. Because while that energy burns dirty, you are converting it into something new. Just like the war painter. When you go there and you decide to use those situations, and passionately…unapologetically…compassionately…and full of love use those things – they change in front of your eyes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this lately. There are days where I wake up going – yep…I know what type of day it’s going to be. And I dive into that pain – for whatever reason (I woke up to it, I was dreaming of it, it carried over) and I lovingly light it on fire.

And that’s the key – you can’t act out of hate, anger, or trying to prove something to someone or to the world. Oh no, it’s still got you then. It’s got you even more than it ever did. I used to do that – “Oh yeah! Well I’m going to show you and everyone else that I don’t need ANYONE!” Haha, perfect example of a hurt ego screaming isn’t it? But that’s the truth. That’s the god honest truth. And it never works – you just end up accomplishing something, or even not in most cases, and are left with the exact same amount (or even worse) of pain that you had before. Love and compassion…those are the only ways to go.

Don’t get soft. Don’t lose your bite.

I speak and write about positive vibes and thoughts a lot, but the reason I go into these places – the places that many don’t even talk about – is because that’s where my bite is. I have a story before this story was ever written…and in fact am confronted with all sorts of things day to day that I know I am going to have to work with. Anxiety? Oh hell yah I’ve eaten that for breakfast for so many weeks you would throw up even thinking about having another bite. Depression? Mhmm. Fear, like it was my best friend. Paralyzing amounts of procrastination. Doubt. Worry. Hell, I even completely gave up on myself once…worst night of my life and I felt like I was literally laying down in flames. I’ve lived life. I’ve actually hit rock bottom for me. I mean real rock bottom. The type of rock bottom where you look around and you see nothing but a type of black that’s darker than anything you’ve ever seen – like the light was choked out of the room. I’ll never forget these moments…I’ve raged, I’ve separated myself from anyone and anything, I’ve stormed, I’ve crashed and burned…and that’s why I can sit here and write to you in the way that I do.

I do not fear these places. I go there often. Why? Because I know that I can illuminate those places. As time goes on, it makes more and more sense to me why people come to be when they feel like they’ve got nothing left – I think they know I’ve been there. I also think they know I can help them light their own candle again.

Don’t be afraid of the dark. Live there sometimes – really, when it hurts…go there. It’s calling you to do some work. It’s calling you to explore a little bit. Deep anxiety? Time to dive into some things that you are feeling. Scared to death – you must face the thing you are so scared of…and every single time it’s not even close to as bad as you have made it in your mind. Not sure if you should say something? Say it…with love and compassion…people will surprise you time and time again.

Do not fear those mixing colors of the dark. They’re delicious.

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project