There was a moment in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke prepared to go inside a dark place. He asks what’s in there, and Yoda tells him it’s whatever you bring. I am 49, and I have discovered this truth over and over again. Whatever we walk into, we’re already carrying with us. Scoff at me for taking a life lesson from some fictional muppet, but it’s been helpful to me over the years. The dark is only awful if I take awful in there with me.
My apartment is small and furnished only with what I need. There isn’t a corner of my life that makes me feel afraid. I can sleep naked and walk to my sink for a sip of water in the dark because I know I’ll not trip over anything. I can open all my windows and scroll back all my shades because I don’t care who goes by. You will be anonymous players in the poems I write, the stories I build. This is my home, a shell on a hermits back, where I am free and happy. I sleep alone in an apartment that is so silent all I can hear is the raining down bells of tinnitus and very little more.
Last night in the house I made, I could not sleep because I felt something else was here with me. I made a wonderful dinner for myself, then tucked into bed at an appropriate time. I read a few pages of an old fantasy novel, then turned out the little light. I slept on my side because when I sleep otherwise the heartburn dragon sets off the fire alarm. I watched a planet rise in my windowpane. I counted the leaves growing on my sill. I slept eventually, but then a loud noise. I awoke, heart pounding, adrenaline. My mind worked overtime to identify the sound. At first I thought it was someone throwing a rock at my window, but I knew that was silly. Then I thought about the back brush I bought and hung from a hook, and what the brush might sound like if it slipped from the holder, dropping into the tub. Yes. All right. Adrenaline dissipated and I went back to sleep only to be stalked by a nightmare: It wanted me to get out of bed and walk into the bathroom but I was terrified, I was unable to move, I couldn’t call for help, I was paralyzed, just turning over and tucking under the covers was a threat to the thing that held me captive, I felt like I weighed a million pounds. After the adrenaline left me, I reminded myself that I am in charge of this life, this room, this darkness, and I stared out the window trying to breathe peace. Then I slept. But then a crow called, a really loud sound of a crow cawing, right here in my bedroom, and I know it happened, how could it not have, because it woke me. I woke to the sound of a crow cawing in my bedroom. And my heart worked out again swimming in adrenaline. I was frustrated and annoyed that something was in my room that wanted me to not sleep, so I got up and went to the kitchen for water, and no ill fell upon me. I piled the covers back on me and felt my body build up its heat, a heat that’s only begun recently, I assume menopausal. I asked the world to please let the light come so I could sleep in the light instead of fear.
I spent the night tossing and turning, back hurting, heartburning, wondering if the crow would come back and caw in my room, wondering at the shapes on the ceiling, the bathrobe on my bathroom door that’s been there for a hundred years but scares me now. The phone that went off at four in the morning. Everything an adrenaline rush of fear, and not knowing. I know a crow was in my bedroom and cawed. I know the brush fell off its stem and hit the bathtub and scared me. I know that my fear is what I bring with me. So today, I hope to regroup. To reclaim my space here. That there is no reason to fear the rooms where I walk. I slept eventually. I examine my insomniac fears. The sun has risen and the day has given me new challenges.