Why We Shouldn't Be Afraid of The Dark

I’ve always been afraid of the dark. Something about staring at what at first feels like an endless void makes me really uncomfortable. Sure, your eyes eventually adjust, and you become able to discern certain shapes, but more often than not, we tend to leave the “dark place” before that happens. I have a specific order in which I can turn on and turn off lights as I walk through my house at night that keeps me from waking everyone, all while helping me avoid darkness. I know this is my home, and the chances of some unknown “something” coming at me in the dark are slim to none, but that’s where my brain goes.

I attended a learning a while back about beginnings, transitions, and endings. Endings, to me, feel like a little dark room. Everyone at some point has experience some form of painful ending; it can be big like a breakup, losing a job, or worse, a loved one; or it can be something like finishing college, or a trip or learning experience coming to an end. When things end, it’s almost like entering into that dark room that I mentioned above; that feeling of standing in front of a dark void, not knowing, even for a split second, where you are going and where the next lights switch is.

I can think of a few of these instances when I myself chose to avoid the darkness, which, in retrospective, only made the darkness last longer than it probably should have. There are three specific instances that come to mind. First one, I was about thirteen. My sister had her bat mitzvah party in our backyard, which for over a week had been filled with people installing a giant tent, bringing in tables and chairs, people coming with giant lighting and music equipment. In addition to that, the build-up of finalizing our outfits and all of the excitement that comes with an event of such magnitude. The day came, and it was glorious. The house was filled first in the morning with family and adult friends as we ate and danced, and at night, the tent was changed into a party where the room was only filled with bright colored lights that grazed through the dark room, as if we had our very own club. As the night went on though, and people started to leave, I could feel this big weight starting to settle on my chest (anxiety, an old friend). The next day, a Sunday, I just stayed in bed; all of that excitement from the previous day had been completely drained out of my system, and my brain was exhausted, while my body felt paralyzed. Then Monday came, and I still felt sick, which resulted in me missing school, and staying at home staring at all those people who had come a week back to build something amazing, take only half the time to tear it down and pack it up, bringing our backyard into its old, boring state. It took me an embarrassingly long time to come to terms with all of this, and I never discussed it with anyone; it just sat on my chest like some weight that to many would have seemed like a little bird, but to me felt like a giant elephant (that’s what my mom has always called anxiety, a giant elephant stepping on your chest).

The next one is our wedding. Same concept; big buildup, bigger crash down. This time, Stephen sent a friend and I on a weekend trip to Boston in an attempt to reset my system back to “normal” functioning. Then came the birth of our son, which I already told you guys the story about I spectacularly crashed and burned into a pit of postpartum depression. In both of these instances though, the processing in my brain was a little more complex: here I am, at the door of what should be a brand-new beginning to a new stage of my life, feeling like I am mourning a death. What is so incredibly wrong with me that I am so incapable of relishing a new beginning and choose to sulk in the ending instead?

Sitting here, looking at the three examples I just gave you, I realize something important. The darkness doesn’t come at the ending, it comes afterwards, in the transition towards new beginnings. We have all heard the saying “every ending is some other beginning’s end”, or, a personal favorite of mine, “some things fall apart so others can fall into place. What we truly fear is not that something has ended, but how will we navigate that transition, and what awaits us on the other side. When we sit in that darkness, we become nervous at the idea that our eyes may take forever to adjust so we can see what is in front of us, not what is behind us.
When my sister’s bat mitzvah was over, I wasn’t sad that the party was over, I was anxious about going back to normal, boring life. When I got married, not only was I going back to normal life after a whole year of planning a party that lasted all but four hours, but I was anxious about this brand-new life I was starting. And, when I had my son, I had this unbridled fear of how was I supposed to reconcile my own, independent life, all while trying to enjoy this brand new one.

We have all had instances where the pain of something ending has been so strong, we have sat in this dark place, clawing our way out as fast as we can; sometimes with healthy coping skills like working out or meditating, or the common going out and drinking to “drink our sorrows away”. The fact is, we do whatever we possibly can to avoid this transition period between an ending and a beginning because its uncomfortable. Not necessarily painful, just really uncomfortable. Someone reminded me a week or so ago about the Hebrew sentence kol ha’atchalot kashot, “all beginnings are difficult”. Maybe that’s where the solution to our fear is, and why we should embrace our fear of the dark. If we take the time to let our eyes adjust, if we don’t force ourselves out of the darkness, we give ourselves the grace to understand and embrace this new beginning it whatever necessary time our heart needs. The darkness allows us to sit with our thoughts and be mindful of them, understand them, embrace them, work with them. We need to take a minute to prepare ourselves for our next “difficult beginning”; grow from our last ending during this transition, rather than fear and escape this precious opportunity.


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