When I was a little girl, I remember being shy. I didn’t like meeting new people and the thought of having to look an adult in the eyes to speak was downright daunting. But I don’t recall being scared of many things. I’d try anything at least once and I always loved a good dare.
It wasn’t until I was an adult, or rather a new mother, that I realized how
afraid terrified I actually am of the dark.
When my firstborn was just days old, I would find myself getting more and more unsettled as nighttime approached. No matter how idyllic our day, how organized, how calm, as the afternoon slid with the sun into evening, I became restless and anxious. What if he cries tonight? What if he spikes a fever? What if we are awake for hours? The what ifs and maybes and oh no’s consumed me. The only person I ever told was my husband. I was miserable for months. I would envision horrible things happening and it all seemed insurmountable simply because the sun wasn’t out. Morning would dawn and I’d feel fine.
Over time, as the nights thankfully did not live up to my exaggerated worries, I learned to breathe a bit deeper and rest a bit calmer. That first baby and the two that followed were healthy and happy and we managed to get through many years of nights that were a blessed mixture of vomit, fevers, and sweaty nightmares alongside snuggles, kisses and sweet dreams.
Somehow, the anxiety about night slipped away for a long, restful time. I learned to consider day and night as equals, neither one being more frightening or beautiful than the other.
And then, the firstborn became a teenager with a driver’s license and friends that beckoned, seemingly always in the evenings. In an instant, my fear of the dark returned. The first night he drove away, by himself in his 1997 Mustang, I crumbled to the floor in a heap of tears and panic. As usual, time and a healthy dose of perspective and controlled breathing helped me get through those early days of driving, late nights, and teenage life. Again, I settled into a manageable level of fear, worry, resolve and quiet peace.
Now he is away at college and it’s happening all over again.
Except this time, I realize that while I’m still afraid of the dark, it has nothing to do with the sun having set or the amount of stars in the sky.
I know now that the darkness that terrifies me is the unknown. It’s the things I cannot see, the truths I cannot know, the thoughts I am not privy to. I am petrified and held captive by the anxiety I have about the people I love coming into harm’s way or experiencing pain and anguish that I can’t help alleviate.
Darkness is the helplessness I feel when I realize that there are things about the people I love that they can’t tell me or don’t know how to share. It’s the realization that our lives continue to move forward and I can’t undo hurts and harms and fears that came about years ago and have grown into their own over time.
My darkness is all the fears I have about the uncertainty of life and the unpredictable nature of things. It’s the worry I harbor that my darkness has caused darkness. An exhausting cycle it is.
As I write this openly for the first time ever, I feel ashamed that I don’t have more peace about life. I am sad that I allow my darkness to seep into the bright, beautiful and shining parts of my heart. I am regretful that I allow my darkness to grip me with such force, squeezing the good thoughts and amazing truths out of my strong mind.
I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to worry and feel like I can’t breathe. I want my loved ones to be able to go and grow and live their own lives in their own ways. And yet, the thought of that chokes me with fear and that really just feels terrible.
Glennon Melton Doyle of Momastery says “We can do hard things.” And I know we can. I know I can. I know I can fight my darkness and win. I know that my loved ones will live the lives they’re destined and meant to live. I know that in the end, our light will prevail. It is time I looked up, into the eyes of my adult self, and worked damn hard to believe this. Day in and day out.