I Will Follow You Into the Dark

In the last week, both of my daughters decided they’re ready to sleep in the dark. Sara, though younger, was first. She has a bedside lamp with a nightlight bulb in it, so it was pretty dim in her room already, but she started complaining that the light was keeping her up. I explained to her that the body wants it to be dark during sleep; it makes for better rest. She loves to sleep, so that was enough for her — off went the lamp. Kate has insisted on having a light on in her room all night for as long as I can remember. But as quickly as you can switch one off, a few nights after Sara she realized that when the room is dark, it’s not totally dark — light comes in from around the window shades and through the door left slightly ajar.

It’s a simple but major milestone: They’re grown up enough to face the dark on their own.

This brought to mind the song “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie. It’s a gorgeous song. (The video is pretty great, too.) It’s ostensibly about death, and following a loved one into that dark. But we also talk about going into the light when we die. Light and dark are symbiotic. One doesn’t really exist without the other.

I went to yoga yesterday morning, and as it often happens, it aligned nicely with my thoughts. My teacher, Phil, talked about balance. Not necessarily balancing on one leg or on your hands, he said, but the balance between hard and soft, cold and warmth, dark and light, contraction and expansion. Anusara yoga has five principles, and two of them are muscular energy — pulling in — and organic energy — expanding out. You need to pull in, to contract, before you can expand and shine out. You need to sit with the dark before you soar into the light.

My girls found being immersed in the dark difficult. It’s scary. You can’t get your bearings, and who knows what lurks out there? Darkness is uncomfortable and unsettling no matter how old you are. It seems counterintuitive to embrace it — instead we avoid it, because we’re afraid it’s going to hurt us.

I like to think I’m comfortable with my emotions, but when all the big, dark feelings threatened to overwhelm me, I did everything I could to escape a confrontation with them. Of course, that required a ton of energy, which was exhausting and made me feel even worse. Looking them full in the face, as I eventually figured out, is actually a relief. And working through them allows the light to shine onto and into you — and then out of you.

So I hope you’ll follow me into the dark. Or at least follow along — maybe it’ll inspire you to examine your own dark places.

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