Monday, January 6, 2020

darkness


I've never liked the darkness.

I mean, I think most people don't. Or at least a solid 65%. I remember, as a kid, reading The Stone King from Dora. This stone king hid behind monuments in the darkness. He'd pop out and turn people into stone when they least expected it (which really could be anytime because who expects a zapping stone king to be waiting around a corner?).

I was convinced he lived in my basement: but only when the lights went off.

The basement lights in my childhood home were divided into two sets with separate switches. The majority of the chair-molded, white and green room was controlled by the first switch, which when hit, left only about 20% of the room--the area right before the stairs and the stairs themselves--in light. Whenever I'd hit the first batch and shroud the room in darkness, I'd run, skipping stairs two at a time to get away as fast as my small feet would carry me, convinced the stone king was at my heels, or (maybe better) the flying eyebrow man from Veggie tales who would turn me into a unibrow. Either way, my fate hung in precarious balance.

I didn't like the darkness. The darkness that opened the door to the stone king and the flying eyebrow man. Or maybe, the darkness that opened the door to the fear deep inside of me.

Fear. I really couldn't think I felt it many times until recently. I was in Florida running the Tough Mudder obstacle race with my dad, a current roommate, and a few of my dad's friends. We came to an obstacle that required us to submerge ourselves in water and slide underneath one of many gigantic black, circular tubes a mere four inches above the water. Uncertain of water and chronically claustrophobic, I tried. I made it to the third black tube before freezing up, feeling terror, and backing out.

At the climbing gym mere days later, I with a self-protorted cerebral fear of heights, felt it not come into my mind but into my heart. I was only climbing a 5.9 at the time, and I froze, three-fourths up the wall. "Katie, can I come down now?" Deep breath. Pause. Repeat with increasing intensity. "Katie, I want to come down." She'd recognized my fear and knew now was not the time to keep pushing often-quitting me. I then climbed a 5.8, enter fear, and I didn't make it to the top. A 5.7, and that was the worst yet.

I was walking back from a spontaneous tip to Opryland to see the lights with my sister, after I'd chickened out of climbing, pulling into the parking lot and pulling out because I couldn't bear to walk in alone, with all the people watching me have to face my fear and fail physically, too. I was telling my sister about the fear and the frustration. It took me back to another recent fear incident as I'd been going to meet a friend who my mind was running with if-this-was-a-step-in-the-direction-of-more-than-friend, and I walked towards the doors until I saw his car and my feet involuntarily turned around and my mouth muttered "I can't. I can't. I can't." in rapid fashion.

I told myself then that I can't also stay pacing the sidewalk forever, so I found something bright: a little yellow sidewalk patch, bubbled, light, and supposed to serve as my source of strength to walk through the doors and be a normal human. Plot twist, it didn't work. But, in my moment of darkness, in my moment of Deborah-brain-frantic-fast-fear of what is he thinking, what am I thinking, I feel dumb for no reason, I'm making this too big of a deal, I like him and want to trust him, ah I don't know how to trust I feel scared, run away go away be away I tried to find the light: light in the form of a yellow sidewalk.

I came home today. Home from church and humans I love, but home after a conversation the night before about a season of friendships not ending but morphing into a very different state. I was full of heavy, darkness-cousin
thoughts of how it felt when I was multiplied out of a very meaningful community group, of when I was leaving Minnesota and being ripped from those I love, of when it seems like God has given good things and then suddenly they shift. It felt like some of the things that had kept me sane were now fading away from me, extending beyond my grasp when I didn't ask for that. Things that were good, things that kept the black dark fear from seeping into my soul.

I got home, and I knew I was going to be alone for hours. The last time I was alone for a long period in my house, I faded into one of two most intense episodes with depression I've ever experienced--both of which had ended in humans who loved me coming to show love to broken, humbled me. And I felt a bit of that panic-gripped fear. The sun was outside, but the house felt trapping, like darkness.

I've never liked darkness, and I wanted every light on.

So I went into every room and turned on the light. The Christmas tree light, the additional tree lights, the low lights, the main light, the strange spotlight in the hallway, the recess lighting, the middle island lighting, the paneled lights, even the bathroom light and the light in my sister's room that you couldn't even see unless you rounded the corner. And it felt better. It seemed more safe.

I'd told my sister, post Opryland and auditory processing, that I'd started to feel again, something I'd been working towards. And I feel deeply. But I told her that I saw it now: I'd begun to feel what was beneath the pain and yellow-excitement and joy that people see and tell me they see when they see me. It was fear, dark-heavy-panicked, back to little three year old Deborah hiding behind her mom in the hospital office fear.

I've been working through what that fear is made of and what it means for my feet that quit and run and hide but want to be secured, certain, and held. (Sneak peak, it has to do with loss and love and control and equations and worth). But I noticed, later today, what I did, involuntarily.

I turned the lights on, all of them.

I needed something to reassuringly hush my soul and the fear of falling back into introspective depression. I needed something to bring light into the dark-fear place of losing close relationship with those I love and the hollow of aloneness that left inside. I needed a weapon against the darkness of piercing terror that I've messed up this whole thing called life, entirely, quite possibly for everyone.

So I turned on the lights.
And I think it may be as simple as that.

In order to need light you have to recognize darkness, and I'm finally doing that. There's these dark places inside of myself that are sinful or afraid. And I need the light to come and transform them. The light does not negate the reality that the darkness exists, it just strips the darkness of the power of its effect. And I need to surround myself in the light as much in my mind as in the walled-rooms we call the Kermit Casa.

In the still darkness-thick places of fearing relationship, I need the light of people who show me love.
In the yet darkness-coated places of fearing failure, I need the light of moments that show me grace.
In the evermore darkness-encrusted places of fearing loss of all things I love, I need the Savior to remind me that I am centered in His love that was hard-won and never-lost.

I need to turn on the lights, to hold onto the light, to trust that light pushes the darkness away from the bay. To take the small moments to text that friend who shows light-wrapped love. To hold onto the moments where I was shown more grace at work than I deserved. To remember the Aslan-lion who holds my tears and is the Savior I can run to when it feels like a season is closing before I had a chance to realize it was here.

So hold onto the light, my soul. Turn on all the lights when darkness feels here-already. Realize the sidewalk looks even yellow-brighter when you're running to it out of I-just-can't-fear-driven steps.

For maybe this act of obedient defiance is what starts to shift the fear of darkness to the realization that it's only because of the darkness that we grow to appreciate all shades of light.

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I definitely don't want this to be a monologue. What are your thoughts? Questions? Ideas?

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