Still afraid of the dark

Growing up I was afraid of the dark.

It was bad.

If it was my turn to feed the cats after dark, I was a nervous wreck, certain that someONE or someTHING was out there waiting to “get” me.  Even the flashlight did not ease my worries.  As I got a little older I grew to appreciate the moon and stars and enjoyed gazing, but I still didn’t venture too far from the back stoop, within an easy dash to safety.  And my Daddy, whom I was sure could take care of anything that came along.

So it was ironic that I roomed with my sister who loved the dark.  We’re talking pitch black.  If I even tried reading with a flashlight under the covers, she was not happy.  I could not relax in the dark enough to go to sleep, so I would beg her to let me leave the hall light on and crack our door.  Mama and Daddy would turn off the lights when they went to bed anyway.  She usually put her foot down, but there were nights she’d be so tired, she’d acquiesce and I could fall asleep in peace.

Oh the nights when Mama and Daddy turned in early and they turned off all the lights in the house.  Those were hard.  The darkness held an unknown factor in it, and that is what I was afraid of.  What I didn’t know.  What could be out there. What might be.  My mind would crank up, and some nights it was hard to shut it down.

I don’t remember when things changed, but now I find it hard to sleep if there are any lights on in my room.  There can be an extraneous light from the kitchen or living room that might send a ray or two into the room and I will probably  be okay.  But if there is a lamp or booklight or phone lit up, I find it difficult to sleep.  Wouldn’t Sister find that poetic justice?  I haven’t had the nerve to tell her, after the hard time I gave her all those years.

So yes, I like to sleep in a dark room.  Winter or summer, air conditioning or heat, it seems to me  if a light is on in a room, it is hot.  I find comfort sleeping in the dark.

But I am still afraid of the dark.

This occurred to me early in the wee hours of this morning.  Miss Sophie had her “female” surgery yesterday, and I stayed up with her making sure she was comfortable and could sleep.  While we cuddled, I read a few stories on the internet, and it hit me as I settled down for the night about 2:00 a.m., I am still very much afraid of the darkness.

First I read the article about the shooting in the FedEx in Atlanta yesterday morning.  And I did what I do when faced with the Darkness.  It’s automatically what I do for comfort, like my nephew who rubs a corner of his shirt or my niece who sucks her thumb.

I immediately went through a checklist in my mind–how can I be sure not to be caught in this Darkness?  How can I keep this from happening to me?  How far removed am I from what happened?

I know.  Sad, right?

I mean, my heart goes out to those affected.  And I want to cry.  But then those old anxieties at the unknown and uncertainties kick in and I’m trying to make sure somehow that I won’t be caught out in the dark.

Then later I came across this article.

“After Two Weeks, 234 Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Still Missing: A terrorist group opposed to education is thought to be behind the kidnappings”

What?!  Two weeks?  How had I missed this story?  Was it not getting coverage?  Or was I just in my own little world?

Oh the tears.  Those poor young women.  Seeking an education.  A different way of life.

And it hit me–

How is it possible that we, these young women and I, are living on the same planet?  This past Saturday while I celebrated with other women who attended our all women’s college and honored our heritage–one that began in 1836–these young women were going through unknown terrors at the hands of their enemies in a land far away.

And yet not so far away really.

It makes me think again, wondering how I wound up here and they wound up there.  There are no words, no explanations.

And through my tears, I realized that I am still very much afraid of the Dark.  The Darkness in this world that is responsible for things like this happening.

As I went to my old soothing standby to calm my anxiety–my running through my checklist of–can this happen to me?  Or, am I safe from this?–I realized it has happened to me.  All of these things of the darkness, they are happening to me. To all of us.

I’ve shared this one before, but it came to my mind and heart again this morning.

Another version of the "Many leaves, one tree" line that's been running through my mind.  So true--we're all in this together, aren't we?

And the words of Tayari A. Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and other novels, also spoke to me:

This is very important.

I am not sure what we can do to help, but you have to at least care.

234 girls, stolen from their families, all because they went to school.

She is right.  We have to care.  I may be afraid of the dark, but I cannot continue separating myself from what is happening to cope, to soothe my anxieties.  The truth is that the shooting in Atlanta, the young women kidnapped and reportedly being married off to their captors, my friends who are sleeping on the dock to stay out of the terrible storms of the past two days, the children across town who are hungry, the college student who doesn’t have a stable family to go home to over summer break–they all matter and it all affects me.  Affects all of us.  In this world so filled with darkness, even if we are unsure of what to do, we can begin by caring.

I remember a book I read years ago.  I ordered it off my Scholastic book order form.  I was allowed to spend a dollar occasionally on those book forms, so when I found a 95 cent book, I was excited.  It was Light a Single Candle by Beverly Butler.  I remember how much I loved that book.  But tonight I’m remembering a quote from the beginning of the book–the first time I ever heard these words (which have been attributed to Adlai Stevenson, Eleanor Roosevelt, W. L. Watkinson and a Chinese proverb):

It is better to light a single candle

than to sit and curse the darkness. 

Words that have stayed with me all these years and came home to roost this afternoon.

I am still afraid of the Darkness.  After all the years.  Of that someTHING or someONE who might be out there full of evil intent.

But I can no longer sit and figure out my six or twelve or twenty degrees of separation to bring me comfort.  Life is too short and the world is too small.  What is happening right now affects us all, no matter how scary it is.

And so tonight, as I tuck Miss Sophie in for a good night’s rest and I crawl into my bed on clean sheets in my home where the sidewalks seem safe and the birds sing in the trees behind my house, I will cry over a part of me that is broken.  The part that is connected to those immediately in the line of the Darkness.  The river flows and touches all of us.  Their brokenness is a part of me and always will be.  I cannot live in peace until we are all at peace.

And for tonight, that’s where I’m at.  Tearful, broken, but caring and hopeful.

A veritable paradox.

Love and caring to all.  It’s a start.

After Two Weeks, 234 Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Still Missing

A terrorist group opposed to western education is thought to be behind the kidnappings

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/two-weeks-234-abducted-nigerian-schoolgirls-are-still-missing-180951236/#0dBcu2vogr1T2shs.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

After Two Weeks, 234 Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Still Missing

A terrorist group opposed to western education is thought to be behind the kidnappings

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/two-weeks-234-abducted-nigerian-schoolgirls-are-still-missing-180951236/#0dBcu2vogr1T2shs.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

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10 thoughts on “Still afraid of the dark

  1. Amanda Harris

    Oh, Tara, what lovely words and such an important reminder. There IS so much darkness, but also so much light. I definitely need to spend more time shining what light I have into the darkness. Love to you.

    1. Mandy, thank you for reading and for your kind words. It is a scary place to be–so often I just want to close the doors and pretend I’m not home. Literally and figuratively. You shine plenty of light my friend. Keep on keeping on, as Daddy used to say. Love right back. ❤

  2. “It is better to light a single candle
    than to sit and curse the darkness.”

    It is amazing that even in the darkest of spaces, the light a simple, tiny little light can eliminate so much Darkness. Thank you for being that light.

    1. I can’t light myself. Those around me and before me *ahem* passed the light along. And so I share it. That’s it. Remind me to share a Bob Goff quote with you.
      And isn’t it amazing how far off a single little light’s glow can travel? Thanks for hanging out around here. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

    1. Thank you. I appreciate your reading and you sharing this. It is a scary place–and most of the time I’d rather just hide and pretend it’s not happening. But it is. And I have to take a stand. For me, for my children, for the future generations, and for all of us. Because if we all were to hide every time we wanted to…..it would be a very sad and dark place indeed, wouldn’t it? Thank you again.

  3. Reblogged this on My So Called Glamorous Life and commented:
    Tara Joyner Haussler, who blogs over at I Might Need a Nap wrote this beautiful post about the need for us to see further than our own fears and insecurities in order to help humanity.

    234 Nigerian school girls are missing. Gone. Reportedly taken by a terrorist group that is opposed to educating women. Taken and reportedly sold into “marriage” (slavery). Parents want their daughters back and those of us who are unaffected want to turn our heads. Please don’t turn away. These parents missing their children deserve the support of the Nigerian government and those of us around the world who know the love of a daughter. #bringbackourgirls

  4. Beautifully written, yes we are all connected, why can’t everyone see it? Thanks for the reminder. We are traveling on the Australian outback right now. Two days ago we saw a car full of Aboriginals stopped by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. We were hours from anywhere really big about 20-25 minutes from a gas station/rest stop we had just passed. When we stopped in response to their flagging us down, they told us they had been out of gas for over 2 hours and no one had stopped. It was obvious that they had car trouble to anyone on the road. We of course drove them back up the road to get gas and then back to their car. I admit I was nervous, but my humanity was stronger than my internal worry. It reminded me of my ongoing fear of the dark: it is in me, but doesn’t always really reflect my reality. I want to be fearless but I think if I wait until the fear in me goes away, I’ll be old or dead. I have to remind myself that fear stands for: False Expectations Appearing Real.

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