Do you remember being a little kid, scared of the dark? I was thinking about times as a child when I would be suddenly afraid of the dark.
As we’re right around the corner from Halloween, I thought it fitting to begin this post with “It was a dark and stormy night” ooOOoOOooo how classically spooky of me, right? So here are some of the memories that have been dancing around in this head of mine.
It was a dark and stormy night… I was around six years old. I sat cross-legged on the floor with my younger brother. The storm outside raged, rain pelting against the windows relentlessly.
A particularly beastly clap of thunder rattled our entire house. Its effects ripped through the air, destroying the neighborhood power lines. The friendly lights in our home instantly died.
Is there anything more terrifying to a child? One second I was playing contentedly with my brother, and the next second I was in fear. Although deep down I knew that I was safe at home, I recall feeling a sudden rush of panic, and being almost certain that a something scary was about to clamp its hand on my shoulder.
Darkness can be frightening because it makes us feel disengaged, disoriented, and perhaps worst of all, calls attention to our unawareness of what may be right in front of us. It’s like the scene in the movies when an isolated – and eerily backlit – character is stumbling around in darkness only to discover (usually with the help of strategic flashes of lightening) that whatever they are afraid of is inches from their face.
But you know what? As I got a little older, I was pleased to discover that darkness had a non-scary and actually USEFUL side. Not as exciting as the spooky stuff, but I still found it super interesting!
One of the more fascinating roles that darkness plays is in our health and general well-being. Regular intervals of darkness (ie: natural night and day) fosters a healthy balance of hormones like melatonin which improve sleep quality… and it is mostly during sleep that the body repairs and restores itself. Exposure to too much darkness during the day or too little of it at night can disrupt the body’s normal melatonin levels and sleep cycle, which in turn disrupts our health and sense of well-being.
However, darkness can be frustrating, especially when it comes unexpectedly. In Kenya, where I grew up, we often had electricity blackouts. This can be irritating and is certainly not ideal. But as it happened quite often, we grew accustomed to it. My siblings and I even managed to have fun during these blackouts.
Although our family owned a generator for such times as these, generator fuel is expensive and we tried to conserve it for emergencies. Thus, to pass the time in darkness, my brothers and sisters would sometimes play games by candlelight.
The blackouts became opportunities for childhood creativity.
My sister and I created whole fashion shows, starring us (of course) as the runway models. Our runway was the corridor in our home. We sometimes had an audience (our other siblings haha).
Once, during a power outage, a couple of us choreographed an entire dance to the Spice Girls’s song “Wannabe” complete with lip-syncing, costumes, and props. It was pretty awesome.
Another time, during a different power outage, my brother, inspired by Gambit, recruited the rest of us to play a new game which involved the art of throwing playing cards with great accuracy at opponents. It got pretty intense.
Yet of all these times in the dark, there was only ONE time that I was immersed in a special kind of darkness… it was so inky that I could not see past my own eyelids.
Have you ever experienced a darkness so dark that you feel like it is a physical mass enveloping you?
I remember that it took a while for my eyes to grow accustomed to it. And even then, I could barely make out objects.
Friends, I encountered this impermeable darkness on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. The landscape, though vast, was cloaked in a thick coat of darkness (see more on my summit here). I remember that after peering about for some time, I started to truly realize the absolute magnitude of the night sky. This is something I would never have been aware of, had I myself not been dipped in darkness.
Up on the mountain, the combination of altitude, lack of artificial light, the impossibility of clouds far below us, and all the upturned eyes brought about the realization of the ridiculous smallness of my world.
I was suddenly aware that here I was… just a tiny, insignificant person… standing on this slightly less tiny (but still quite insignificant) mountain… daring to look into the unbelievable enormity of the UNIVERSE.
I have never experienced the beauty of the stars so profoundly as on that night.
It caused me to realize that despite the unsettled feeling that darkness sometimes leaves us, there is no doubt in my mind that darkness can have a true purpose and meaning.
After all, darkness has clear roles in the promotion of health, as well as in the provision of opportunities for creativity.
Thus I have now what I did not have as a child, sitting cross-legged on the floor, terrified by thunder on that dark and stormy night.
I have an appreciation for the dark.
And with that, I bid you all a very Happy Halloween! I hope you have an incredibly fun and safe time!
Check out my other posts!
- What if every trace of you got wiped… no more bank account? No social security?
- That time I ran a marathon while injured — yes, I really did that…
- My favorite place to get my sweat on, it’s at the top of my faves list!
Have you ever been afraid of the dark? What are your plans for Halloween? Dressing up as anything?