I really wish I liked coffee. Everyone talks about the magical zest for life that accompanies the first sip, but I can’t bring myself to get past the fact that it tastes like oily dirt. I drink a tall soy chai latte every morning, which definitely helps the grieving process of no longer being in bed, but my hoity-toity Starbucks drink isn’t offered on a counter in the office all day.
This morning, I thought I was going to be late for a meeting (that no one bothered to tell me was cancelled…), so I skipped Starbucks and decided to muscle my way through life until lunchtime. Big mistake. I feel like the fact that I didn’t curl up on my boss’ couch and take a nap is honest-to-God proof that I’m a good employee. Ugh, millennials.
I’m telling you all of this because I have not yet fully recovered from this morning’s caffeine depravation. My eyeballs still feel like led, and my brain still feels like it’s soaked in molasses. I want to apologize ahead of time if this post is not my best work. I’m choosing to blame it on the lack of Starbucks this morning, although some people might blame the red wine I drank last night at Girls Night…or because I woke up at 4 a.m. and was convinced that the bathrobe hanging on the back of my door was an intruder. I spent 15 minutes staring at it to see if it moved, 10 minutes telling myself it’s just a robe, and 60 minutes thinking about what I need to get at the grocery store.
My fear of the bathrobe is just a symptom of a greater issue: I am afraid of the dark. I hate when it’s dark inside while it’s dark outside (i.e. bedtime), dark inside while it’s light outside, or dark outside while it’s light inside. Whichever way you slice it, any sort of darkness elicits an impressive/alarming array of murder scenarios and escape plans in my head.
Last week in Virginia Beach, where the worst crimes are generally poorly executed boob jobs and PTA uprisings, a woman’s body was found floating in the water right next to my gym. I say “my gym” lightly because I haven’t been there since November. The woman has yet to be publicly identified, nor was the cause of death revealed, so naturally I’ve decided that she was a 27-year-old brunette who was brutally attacked by a stranger while her husband was out to sea.
Aaron and I drove past the emergency vehicles at the crime scene on our way to my dad’s house the day before Aaron deployed. We assumed that an older gentleman at the gym saw one too many colorful sports bras and keeled over, so we made a passing comment and continued onto our destination. Poor guy. At least he died happy.
Aaron left for two months the next morning, a few hours before I found out the truth behind the emergency vehicles. My dad and stepmom were returning home the next day, so I was required to return to their house that night to clean up the mess Aaron and I had made over the weekend while they were out of town. My parents have a 66” curved-screen T.V. and a hot tub. While the adults are away, the children will play. Anyway, the last thing Aaron and I cared about before parting ways for two months was restoring my father’s home, so I volunteered to do so by myself once Aaron was on the ship. That’s a very long way of saying that I ended up alone in my parents’ very large and shadowy home the night that I found out a body was found floating in the water just a mile away.
Like any reasonable grown adult would do, I kept a butcher knife next to me the entire time I was washing the dishes. True story: A friend of mine was once washing dishes when a man appeared in the window in front of her with a gun pointed at her head. Lucky for me, I have that image to harp on for the rest of my life. Especially on dark, rainy nights when I’m staring into a dark abyss that connects with the same waters from which a body was recovered.
After the most terrifying 45 minutes of my life (other than the time I thought I might be allergic to gluten), I drove home, which led to a new obstacle: Getting from my car to my apartment without being kidnapped, murdered, and dumped in the Lynnhaven River. Aaron and I park our cars in a secluded, wooded area behind our apartment so that we don’t have to hang decals in our car for the main parking lot. This is completely stupid, because we have two free decals sitting inside our apartment. It is also stupid because it left me in an absolute fit of terror the night I returned from my cleaning dad’s house. Jillian Michaels herself couldn’t make me sprint as fast as I did to my front door.
Fear of the dark is fear of bad things happening, because we all know that evil tends to avoid exposure. Since darkness does, in fact, harbor more danger and anxiety, we should absolutely value the light. The same goes for our metaphysical lives. The more we fall into darkness— gossip, slander, gluttony, jealousy, hate, impatience, etc.— the more we become generally anxious and vulnerable to misery.
Recently, I found myself extremely frustrated with a catty situation. I’m not exposed to cattiness often, given that I’ve somehow surrounded myself with piles of girlfriends who treat everyone they meet respectfully and lovingly. They even challenge me to reel it in when my venting becomes spiteful, and vice versa. When people say that women are catty and mean, I simply cannot relate from firsthand experience. Maybe I’m just lucky— or maybe cattiness turns me off, so I naturally drift away from those types of people. I don’t know. Either way, I’m not well-versed in handling Mean Girl situations. (I plan on writing a whole different blog on cattiness among women, so stay tuned for that one.)
This recent subjection to malice caught me at a time I was very weak, which meant that the darkness easily spread and became an overarching weight on my shoulders. My sadness in missing Aaron for the past 11 days left me more vulnerable to other dark emotions rearing their heads, as well. When this woman, and even her family, took not-so-subtle stabs at me on social media out of perceived (and nonexistent) competition, I let my annoyance cast shadows on my happiness. My friends let me vent for a little while before reminding me to stay kind and maintain my composure by not responding, but internally, I could not let it go. For a few days straight, I was in a cloud of anxiety. The frustration with the cattiness paved the way for bitterness towards Aaron’s job (even though I am normally so proud of him and want him to do what he’s doing), fretfulness about my professional future, and apathy about my health, fitness, and general productivity. Darkness breeds darkness.
I’ve decided (always a choice!) to turn the lights on again— praying when I feel angry, taking my friends’ advice, forgiving the person who lashed out because of her own battles with darkness that have nothing to do with me, and even participating in a Zumba class…because how can you possibly be upset when dancing like an African tribal queen? It’s amazing to see how living in the light has lifted my overall anxiety and vulnerability to life’s curveballs.
Next time you’re up in the middle of night, convinced that the creaking from your heater is actually a sociopath breaking into your home, try focusing on this metaphor of Light vs. Dark. Let that anxiety serve as a reminder of how it feels to let darkness into your heart. It’s exhausting. Coming face to face with darkness is inevitable, but overcoming fear/anxiety is mental and spiritual, so use prayer, scripture, positive people, and maybe even some new dance moves to serve as your Armor of Light.