seeing in the dark

“Maybe I’m just unlovable,” was an actual thought in my head today. And then quickly I added, “Nah, that’s just not it.” I’ve hit my existential crisis. Forget, mid-life, it’s more about mid-twenties. And I know it’s typical, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

“You’re like a hurricane victim to some extent,” I told my friend. And then I went on to explain that when Hurricane Isabelle rushed through Richmond and knocked power out for a week I was alone in a brand new city with no family, no friends, and no electricity and for a few days, no water. I was forced into being a recluse – but really, I didn’t mind it so much. I got down books from my bookshelf that I’d been meaning to read. One was Girl Meets God. I’d had it for over a year and like so many of my books, I put it away for later. Darkness and quiet seemed like the perfect time. I also opened up my journal and began chronicling some painful past histories, the first time I’d written them down. I spent a lot of time thinking, a lot of time writing, and a lot of time reading. And when I came out of Hurricane Isabelle’s wrath, when the power came back on, I knew myself a lot better than I had before. Isabelle stopped the rat race that my life had been running. She made me look at everything more deeply. She made become quiet and calm. She helped me see in the dark.

For eight straight days and nights there was no power in my house. I live on noise and things that need power. Forget AC and lights, I needed my TV, radio, Internet, and cell phone, but Isabelle cut me off. She said, “No, go to your room and think about it.” So, I did. The anxiety of not knowing when the power would be restored built up more and more each day. But I knew it was futile so I quelled it by reading, writing, and just being quiet. I knew that if I gave in to the anxiety, that it would overcome me because ultimately, the power coming back on was utterly and completely out of my control. I had to learn to accept and live and even see in the dark. I had to become comfortable with it. And I did.

“What is it like, Anna, to wake up on a Sunday whenever you want to, eat breakfast whenever you want to, and watch hours of TV if you feel like it?” asked my sister-in-law while 2 of her 3 children were fighting or screaming for something.

“I have to say, it’s great,” and even though I sounded convincing, I knew I wasn’t because somewhere in my mind, I crave her chaos, her family. It’s a “grass is always greener” scenario, except in this one, I don’t get to love unconditionally and have family rituals and worry about my children’s safety and progress and well-being. In this scenario I get to be selfish and alone. The grass, in my opinion, while green, is full of dandelions.

But, Hurricane Isabelle helped me see in the dark AND appreciate the dandelions. Because even though I knew that the power would come back on, each day I had to accept that on THIS day it may not. And so, that’s how I have to live my life, seeing in the dark, that on THIS day the lights will not come on and there is a great chance that tomorrow and the next day and every future day the lights may never come back on. And I have to accept this and be thankful at least that even within the darkness, I can still see and manage.

Maybe we are all hurricane victims to some extent, ravaged and set adrift, askew from our paths. Even when we think we’re settled and nestled in, maybe even then we are not sure if this is the right direction. Because what if we’re driving in the wrong lane, parallel to the life we should be leading? What then? Maybe one day I will actually find the analogy that unlocks all the doors and makes an open hallway of all the things I feel blocked from. Maybe one day, existentialism will become extinct. “Nah, that’s just not it,” I think.

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