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Have you ever been afraid of the dark?
When I was a young child I had night terrors that involved alien beings. Once or twice a year, I would awake in the wee hours of the early morning to find them moving about my bedroom, looking at me with their luminous, tear-shaped eyes. They were hairless and wore draped clothing that reminded me of my father’s clerical robes, minus the velvet doctoral stripes on the sleeves. They spoke in voices that were more murmurs than sound, like the static on my grandmother’s old console radio when she forgot to turn it off after the baseball game. The aliens were tall, with swollen bellies, long arms, and fingers oddly shaped like suction cups that felt like the rubber gloves my mother wore to wash the dishes. They were creepy to say the least but what was really frightening was that I was unable to speak or move in their presence. My mind would not obey me. If I tried to get up or scream nothing happened. And, I couldn’t see through their eyes into their souls like I could with real people. Instead, their eyes reflected my room back to me like the warped antique silvered mirror in the hall. It was scary, even now I get chills thinking about it. I don’t remember being hurt by them but I was terrified of my own helplessness.
I’m still am. I haven’t had alien dreams since I was twelve or thirteen but I often fear my own helplessness. It infuriates me when I find myself unable to speak or move when I most need to. (I’m working on that.) Working on freeing my voice to speak out when someone says something unthinkingly mean. (I’ve discovered that usually when people say unthinkably, untruthful mean things it’s because they’re threatened and that’s how they make themselves feel safe, and while I get that, it doesn’t make it hurt any less.)
But the worst part is, when you’re afraid of the dark, you can’t see all beautiful things that are being born in the safety of that darkness.
Like babies for instance. I can still remember the astonishment I felt with every inch of growth my son made inside my womb. I remember how, as he expanded into his 25-inch, 9-pounds, 6-ounce breech-baby self, my hips had to shift apart and my organs had to find new places to be. I was (and still am) amazed that my body could do that.
Or bulbs! Think of those! The ugly-ducklings of the flower world! Two amaryllis grace my home now, their flower heads rising taller each day from what appears to be a long-dead onion. Around Valentine’s Day they’ll burst into enormous white and red blooms and fill my home with their stately beauty.
And even now, inside of me, new things are being born. On these soft, cloudy days of winter, a book is taking shape, words are spilling onto the page, stories are surfacing, illustrating the movement I experienced as I moved from new widow to recovered woman.
If I can hold on just long enough to not be afraid of the dark, very often miracles happen. (Statistically speaking, all life is a miracle, but that’s a topic for another day.) As winter wraps herself around you like a heavy velvet cape get ready for something special because in the safety of darkness, something beautiful is being born inside you.