On The Other Side Of This Dark Cloud

“All these trips that we lay on ourselves–the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds–never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. This is who we really are: We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.”

– Pema Chodron

Most writers will probably not admit this, but a lot of the time, we are in a fog. By that I mean we have this picture in our heads of what we want our work to look like when it’s finally finished. Unfortunately, that picture is not always clear, and is often obscured by the passing of “a dark cloud.”

Every once in a while, that cloud dissipates, and the sun cuts through, and then we see it. There it is. Our finished product. And we say. “Yes, that’s where I was headed. I can see it. What a relief.”

But then, the picture will slip away, behind the dark cloud… and everything goes foggy again. We question whether we ever saw that finished product in the first place. Often, we will wander underneath this dark cloud, feeling like a train without a rail, fearing we’ll cause damage if we are not careful.

We can spend days, weeks, months, maybe even years behind this dark cloud, and, under that cruel shadow, it can get very lonely. You may feel abandoned. You may feel lost. You may even feel like the sun will never reappear again.

Then the brilliance will trickle through. The dark cloud will leave. You’ll see it again. Bright and perfect. The thing you’ve been aiming for all along. Yes.  For you, this is undeniable proof that you were on the right track–and you wonder how you ever felt lost.

But then the dark cloud swoops in again, and there you find yourself again, underneath this dark cloud. Like a train without a rail.

I am now convinced that the worst thing we do to ourselves when we are underneath this dark cloud is forget. We forget, and forget, and forget.

We forget the days when the sun shined brilliantly and revealed to us what we have known: that this is our story, that this is our path, and we were right all along.

We forget to our great disadvantage.

Because this dark cloud is really no more than our sense of forgetfulness: our constant detachment from ourselves, our lives, our work, and even the world around us. When we fall underneath this dark cloud, we might feel like something is being taken from us.

But maybe the next time we feel ourselves in the fog, we might ask ourselves what it is we are forgetting, instead of what is being taken from us.

What resilience were you born with–and that every human being carries–that we have forgotten to recognize?

Just because you don’t have the answer to that question right now doesn’t mean that one day you won’t.

As Mark Nepo would say, although we may feel like the sun is blocked, we must work to remember that we have been on the other side of this dark cloud before, and we will be again.

much love,


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10 comments on “On The Other Side Of This Dark Cloud

  1. sarah says:

    this. yes. oh my. yes. thank you for writing this. i needed to read it.
    hey so i see pema chodron quotes around a lot, and i am always always drawn to those words. so much truth. which of her books would you recommend most/first?

    • Ollin says:

      You’re welcome, Sarah. Wow, you know I realized I haven’t even read her books yet. I’ve seen so many of her videos online and read some of the stuff she has written. Maybe I’ll check her out and get back to you guys soon.

      I’m glad this post has helped you.

  2. nancy says:

    I have just returned from a TED conference, and even though it wasn’t about writing, I learned something about my writing. The key note speaker’s theme was School Sucks! Why? Because all of the challenges we offer kids have a time limit attached. This speaker, a physics professor at Northwestern, also skateboards. He showed of clip of himself trying to learn a 360. It took him 59 tries, i.e., 58 crashes and one success. Now he is great at it. Does it all the time, and has moved on to harder tricks. He said–what if I was at a school that only allowed 50 tries. I would have failed.

    Don’t we or our significant others psychologically impose time limits? I see progress on my writing, but my husband says–you have been at this novel for two years, give it up already. And I say, but I’m just starting to get it. And my husband keeps saying, time is up.

    Anyone who has read OUTLIERS knows that it takes a lot of practice to write a novel. And anyone who reads author biographies knows that some writers take seven-nine years to perfect their first book. So why do we pressure ourselves and say enough already. We should say, okay, it’s not good yet, but some day. . . .

    • Ollin says:

      Oooh, TED Conference. Sorry, I’m a super TED nerd, can I look through your tote bag? Do you have a blog where you’re going to talk about your experience, please share! Ok, I’m going to let go of my geek moment to address your comment.

      I love your thoughts on this. You are absolutely right, we’ve got to let ourselves have no limits and let us get where the book needs to go when it needs to go, and we need to do the same with life, allow everything to develop as it needs to develop. Great point, and sorry to hear your husband is not understanding of this very tiring involved process. Good luck to you!

  3. tahliaN says:

    We need to remember that we are the sky; clear, limitless and filled with the warmth of the sun. Our thoughts and emotions are merely the clouds that pass through. On a cloudy day, when we look up from the ground, we see only clouds and we can think we are the clouds, but if we go above the clouds, the sky is still blue and the sun is still shining.

  4. Tammy McLeod says:

    I really like tahliaN’s comments and I always think of that when on an airplane. Great job Ollin.

  5. Dana says:

    I especially like the quote from Pema Chodron and where you let it lead you. It is true about the fog of forgetfulness. It’s good to fight back with inspiration from people like Chodron and other spiritual thinkers who help us remember our goodness.

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