Darkness Be My Friend

Certain events stamp themselves in our memories, so that we never forget where we were when we heard the news. The day JFK was assassinated, the Challenger explosion, 9/11 . . . collective experiences shape the perspective from which the world will view events from that point forward. This is also true for personal experiences.
On a Wednesday afternoon in 1996, I went to the mall with a friend to buy a Christmas gift. I was twenty-two, college finals were finished, and I was looking forward to the holidays. The sun was warm for December, bright with a soft winter light. I noted how pretty it was, but I had no idea that it was the last “normal” light I would ever see.

There was nothing unusual about the day, nothing to indicate that my life was about to be altered beyond recognition, only Christmas music and the ringing of the Salvation Army bell, a mall smelling of perfume and Christmas candy, and that warm gentle sun.
The next day, there was more Christmas shopping, this time with my mother and grandmother. It was an overcast day, so it was only when I was inside the store that I noticed the light was blurry. Throughout the afternoon, the light got dimmer, until I was in total darkness. I didn’t panic, because detached retinas could be repaired with surgery. It was a simple outpatient procedure, one I had undergone twice in my lifetime.
Even so, the darkness oppressed me. I felt like an alien amid the holiday celebrations, cloaked in darkness in a season that celebrated light. Initial ophthalmologist visits were inconclusive, and it was a case of “hurry up and wait.” My Christmas season passed in a blur, literally and figuratively, but I had no idea the vision loss was permanent.
After a month, no answers were forthcoming,, a new semester was beginning, and sleep was becoming an issue. I couldn’t go to sleep at a normal time, and I was sleeping later in the day to make up for it. I worried about my vision, and the sense of “not knowing” affected my ability to concentrate in class. I did my best to appear normal, but inside, I was in turmoil.
What was going on?
Did I have a brain tumor pressing on my optic nerve?
Some degenerative disease?
Nobody could tell me anything, and my wrier’s imagination ran wild through that murky field of possibility!
After three months and countless trips to eye doctors, I got an answer. My light perception was gone permanently. By now, it was a relief to know something, one way or the other.
That early spring night, I sat in my room, looking up at a light I could no longer see, and I realized that I was at a fork in my life’s road. I could be bitter and ask why, why I had lost “everything”, visually speaking, when I had so little to begin with, or I could give thanks to the Lord for what I had, realizing others were not so fortunate. I could live a life steeped in self-pity, or I could live a life steeped in gratitude. The light was gone, and I had no choice about that, but I had every choice about my attitude.
When I was a little girl, I’d go to my Uncle Jimmy’s lake house for July Fourth, and the most beautiful visual memory I have is of the light on that day. It seemed that there was a special sun, reserved for only July Fourth. Shimmering dancing beams of soft light on the lake at midmorning, snowballing to a height of brilliance at noon, staying all day to blanket the water with its jeweled glistening til I almost believed I could see the color blue for its sparkle, then mellowing gradually, soft warm golden twilight gliding away from the water in a haze of charcoaled burgers and smoked brisket, homemade ice cream, green grass, tightly bonded family, and good will. I carry the memory of that light in my heart. I cherish it, because I have so few visual memories compared to sighted people, but what I was given was the best.
That image appeared in my mind as I sat there in my dark room with the light on. There was no choice.
How could I ever be bitter or self-pitying, when I held that beautiful visual memory inside me? It would be scary, to go forward in that darkness, but I knew then that darkness would be my friend.

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Author: Jena

Hi there. Thanks for stopping by. I am a small-town Southern writer, book hoarder, technology enthusiast, unashamed cat lady, and huge fan of the Outlander series. I have a degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Tyler. I love nothing more than to paint pictures with words, and to make people happy, and if I can do both at the same time, all the better. Gratitude, simple joys, and optimism are the cornerstones of my life philosophy. I am totally blind, and I have non 24 sleep disorder, and temporal lobe epilepsy. These health issues make for some interesting times, but adversity has taught me wisdom I never would have learned otherwise. I hope you will enjoy my writing, and I thank you for taking the time to read it.

2 thoughts on “Darkness Be My Friend”

  1. I still have some vision although it is such that it is easier for me to tell people that I can’t see anything. By my use of the word still you can tell that things have not always been this way. I remember when what vision I did have (I never had any in my right eye because it never formed and only partial vision in my left) started to fade when I was in Junior High back around 1993-94. Pretty much I have had the same attitude as you and count myself fortunate that when someone tells me about something that is blue that it means something to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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