Fair warning, this is a long post. You may learn more about me than you ever wanted to know. Enter at your own risk.
Why are you afraid of the dark? This question came to me while I was searching for something to write about. I haven’t truly been able to write anything besides updates for over a month. I was more interested in fiction but I’m not about to refuse my muse.
Am I afraid of the dark? Yes. Besides snakes, it’s the thing I most fear. First and foremost I have control issues. I don’t like not being in complete control of myself and my environment. The dark is uncontrollable, unknowable and I hate that.
Then there is the obvious issue with bad things can happen and not being able to see much and all that but it goes deeper for me. Almost every bad decision I’ve ever made in my life was made at night. In a way I fear my own tendency to make foolish or stupid choices in the dark more than the actual lack of light.
So, me being me, I made some lists. The first is a collection of the idiotic, stupid, bad and incomprehensible decisions I made at night, or more accurately, when the sun wasn’t out:
- When I was young, until I hit 14 I used to walk around my small hometown at night with my friends. It took several scares and one embarrassing (so unnamed) decision to put a stop to it. Everyone says the world was safer back then. It wasn’t, we just got lucky.
- I tried drugs for the first time, two separate occasions and substances, in the dark when I was a teenager. I hate drugs. I hated the way both made me feel and the loss of control was unacceptable. After those experiments there was never a chance of me being a pot head like half my friends at the time did.
- My one and only time to drink so much beer I got sick happened one night, on a date with another bad decision.
- Letting my friends leave to hang out with some guys when we were supposed to be at a skating rink (I was 13 or 14). I was smart enough to stay put but I wish I had tried harder to get them to do the same. My mom was furious.
- There was an incident with a weapon when I was 18. Happily no one was hurt. That’s all I’ll ever say about that.
- One time I went with my friend to some guy’s house so she could hook up with him. She was afraid to go alone but would have so I felt I had to go. I sat in the living room talking uncomfortably with his best friend, Jeff, while they disappeared for a time. Twenty minutes after getting there Jeff’s wife broke into the house through the back door and beat the hell out him in front of me while accusing him of cheating. I tried to tell her he hadn’t touched me but she was too far gone. My friend’s “date” ran out from his bedroom wielding a 9mm. He aimed right at that woman’s head, raised the gun about a foot and fired. I had never heard a sound like that. All the pictures on the walls fell off and I could barely hear anything for ten minutes. The night ended with me having to give a statement and I learned the wife got powder burns in her eyes and they found the casing outside laying a few feet from her truck, which had her sleeping child in it. Something about a steel door and ricochet. The police officer who spoke to me turned out to be one of the guys I lived next door to as a child. It was horrifying. The repercussions for the two guys were good and bad. The idiot with the gun didn’t get in trouble but he did lose his best friend because Jeff couldn’t believe the dumbass would put his wife in danger. Jeff and his wife had been separated, but her getting hurt saved their marriage when he realized he couldn’t live without her. As for me, nothing happened except a stern talk with my friend informing her if she wanted to hook up with someone then she was on her own. Plus it added to a lifelong fear of handguns.
- The above decision all started at a club we used to go to, way too often. I’ve never been much of a drinker but after a while of going every weekend and most Thursdays, I was building quite the tolerance. I say the dark and snakes are my worst fear but the most dreaded is the fear of becoming an alcoholic like my father was when he was alive. I drank at this club because that’s what you do at clubs. I didn’t really have all that much interest in getting drunk but the social pressure got to me and I drank a couple every time we went until after the above incident. I did go to the club a few more times but I had soda. I don’t know why all of that got me to think about the alcohol but it did and I’m glad. I guess that part should go on my small good decisions in the dark list.
- By far the worst decision I ever made at night was moving to Wisconsin, otherwise known as hell. No offense to anyone from there. It was more my own personal hell than a specific issue with the state. I was there for six months. I got there right before summer and thought I was going to die of the humidity and left right as winter geared up and thought I would die of the cold. The truly bad part though was going there because of a guy who didn’t deserve me. More about that on the next list.
- Saying yes to my ex. We had a horrible, emotionally draining, on and off again relationship. When I finally left for ‘good’ he freaked out and said he wanted to marry me. I should have listened to my gut and said no.
- My most recent bad choice was to not go to the hospital when I was in a massive amount of pain in New Jersey this past August. We were on the boardwalk and it felt like someone had put a clamp on part of my spine and started smashing it. I’d been dealing with back pain for a while and mistakenly assumed I’d overdone various activities all day. How wrong I was!
Even with all the bad decisions in the dark I have many more great decisions, all made in the light.
- Saying yes when Justin asked me to marry him almost 5 years ago needs to top this list! I had been married before, twice, and I swore to myself I would never do it again. But he was the right one for me. Third time is the charm.
- Agreeing to meet him in person is up high too. We met playing World of Warcraft, six months after I came back from Wisconsin. I definitely didn’t want a thing to do with me but I’m glad it all happened.
- Backtracking a second, when I came back from Wisconsin, the guy I was seeing came with me. We last six more months before an opportunity to get him out of my life presented itself. That sounds mean but I felt trapped and can’t regret using what happened to get rid of him.
- What happened that made me kick him out was his 12-year-old son made sexual reference and advances to my oldest daughter who was just a little younger than him. I lost it. I had also found out a few days before that the boy was really mean to my youngest daughter, who was in first grade. She finally admitted she hated him and didn’t like his dad either. I had come to realize that I didn’t much like his dad myself and like I said, it may sound mean but I pounced and told him he had to go. He was so desperate to stay, which was a shock to me since I barely existed for him until that, he actually told me he would send his son away. That was the clincher. The kid needed him. He’d been basically abandoned by his mother, which probably explained his behavior. And here was this asshole willing to also abandon him so he could keep me. When he realized I wouldn’t back down he packed up his car with everything he could fit, including tools he’d borrowed from my mother and left. I tell you, I felt like the worst mother on the planet for allowing my kids to be in a situation where they were so miserable but it opened a dialog between us and they learned I would always choose them over anyone else. Now they can and do tell me anything. The girls are now teenagers so I’m sure they have their secrets but should they decide they want to share, they know they can.
- So marrying my ex was on the other list. Escaping that situation belongs on this one. There were many reasons for me to get out but it all comes down to drugs. I found out he was on them and left. He quit and begged me to marry him. I stupidly said yes. We split up after a couple of years but I gave him another chance and moved back in with him. After about a month he informed me he was taking drugs, I don’t know if he meant again or he’d been on them the whole time. He also said he wasn’t going to quit and I would just have to deal with it. While he was out of town one weekend I packed my stuff and left. Let’s just say it was made clear to me it was the only way I would be able to get away and leave it at that.
- There was one really great decision made one morning that was especially hard to make, quitting the most horrible job I ever had. I was part of the management team at a clothing store. The store manager was the absolute worst boss you can imagine. I was so stressed and miserable I thought I was headed for a breakdown. That was scary because I’m not particularly emotionally fragile. If I quit I was going to put a financial burden on my family. I started looking for another job but I couldn’t find anything that paid the same or ever close. My husband sat me down and proved we could survive without my salary, bless him, and I put notice in.
- The next step after leaving that job was a long process of my amazing husband trying to talk me into writing full-time. I was writing when I could but I had been so busy I barely fit it in. For those of you who normally read this blog, it was while working that awful job that I learned how to find, fit in and make writing time. Obviously I wanted to write full time but guilt is a powerful roadblock. However, my husband is crafty. It started with him saying I should take some time before trying again to find another job. Just to cool off and get back to normal. Of course while I was at home I should write as much as I can, you know to take advantage of the time while I had it. Then he brought up the subject of not getting a job periodically. Finally he convinced me, after I got used to writing all the time, that not only could we afford it but it made sense for me to stay home. Guilt still intrudes but it didn’t stop me from writing one complete first draft and three partial (as in mostly finished) drafts. That’s four novels that over the next couple of years will be complete and ready to sell. He was so right. He’s the only man in my life to have encouraged me to write. Yes I’m a lucky woman.
- A related good decision was to take a big writing class I wanted to take. It wasn’t cheap and my old nemesis, guilt, kept me from taking the plunge. In steps super-husband. I already knew how to write. This class was more about honing and selling, something I needed to learn. He used a trick I normally use on him, logic. It worked.
- Also writing related. I did Nanowrimo for the first time a few years ago. I failed so miserably, except I didn’t. I wrote 25,000 words in thirty days. Sure it was only half the goal but I’d never written that much in such a short amount of time!
- The next year, the month before Nanowrimo started, the ML’s (basically the people who run it) of my region put together some workshops. In spite of my reluctance to meet new people I decided to go. I’m super shy when I first meet people. It only lasts about thirty seconds but has managed to prevent me from getting involved for a long time. I’m so glad I did it. This led to the next good decision made in the light.
- I found out that there were a couple of writing groups around my city. I was invited to one and I went. I met other writers and found a place I belonged. It made a huge difference in my writing. During that year’s Nanowrimo I won. I now had an almost complete first draft of the first book in a series of middle grade fantasy novels. In fact, I just need to work on one section of the story, about 15,000 words and it will be ready for its first revision.
- Last year I almost didn’t do Nanowrimo. I love it but I was concerned that I was worrying too much about quantity over quality. Then I realized that no matter how many words I wrote or how fast, the first draft was going to suck. So why not go ahead and participate? This time something strange happened. I wrote most of a story about ghosts but I kept getting sidetracked by another idea. When I got a little stuck on the first idea I decided to go ahead and switch to my distraction. Starting on November 16th I plotted and began writing an old school fairy tale, something I’d never considered. In the last fifteen days of the month I wrote a complete first draft. As in ready for a first revision complete. And, amazingly, while it needs work, it didn’t suck.
- Have you noticed a trend? Most of my really good ideas made during the day involve writing. This one included. I started a blog, this blog actually. I was terrified. I didn’t know if I would have anything to say, HA! I didn’t know if anyone would read it or care, but I did it anyway. Then I posted a very rough draft, then another, then another and so on. Shockingly there were people who liked my stories. How crazy is that? I got some great feedback, including some much-needed constructive criticism. The stories got better and I was writing them more frequently. Since the first day I started this blog, I’ve written over 75 pieces of flash fiction. No I haven’t posted them all. Some are for a collection I’m putting together. Blogging changed my life for the better. I’m a better writer now and have so much more confidence. What a great decision. I’m so thankful that I didn’t let fear talk me out of doing this!
- It’s time for some more recent good choices made in the light. Last year I finally sucked it up and went to a doctor about my back. I’d been having daily pain for a while but while at an art’s festival I started hurting after walking around for only twenty minutes. Clearly something was wrong with me. I hate going to the doctor and will put it off until/unless I feel like I have no other options. So I went. There was so much wrong with me it was almost unbelievable. The road to back surgery is a long one due to insurance concerns/restrictions so I’m glad I started the process when I did. It was almost a year before I actually had the surgery, which I clearly needed from the beginning.
- So I said I didn’t go to the doctor in New Jersey on the boardwalk that night. Well the next morning I finally wizened up and called a nurse line back home in Texas and described my symptoms. The nurse on the phone in her calmest voice told me I should go to an emergency room. Her calm cracked a little when she added “You should go now.” I called my husband, who I’d told to go down to the beach without me (I make some bad decisions in the day time too), and he came running. They removed my appendix that night.
- My most recent great decision was getting off Dilaudid, a narcotic pain reliever. To be honest I couldn’t believe I could even take it because I can’t take most of the big pain meds. I hated every second I was on it. I lived in a fog and couldn’t eat. I was also terrified of becoming addicted to it. So on my own I decided to cut out one dose, just to see if I could handle it. I was on two medications, alternating so it wasn’t like I wouldn’t have some relief. I managed just fine. After a few days I actually had a creative thought, which told me I had made the right decision. I got off a second dose then called my doctor. I asked if I could switch to over the counter stuff and start getting off the other controlled pill. He said absolutely and told me how to do it. Because of this, I’m me again and it’s awesome.
- I got a really good haircut on Monday. We’re not going to talk about cost but I’ll say you get what you pay for and I paid for great. I’ll put up a new picture soon.
- A few other daytime decisions I’m going to group together. We got a new TV in the living room so the older, smaller one went in my bedroom. Since I’ve been housebound for so long it was a lifesaver, from boredom! It also led to a re-watch of Doctor Who, which is fun. I got a good camera. I haven’t been able to use it much because of my back problems but I will soon. And I decided to pre-order The Force Awakens. I loved it and it will be here tomorrow. I can’t wait. Also I chose to see it in theaters the day it opened, in the morning. The theater was less than half full. It hurt to sit in the chairs there but it was worth it! That was the last movie I saw in a theater.
Almost twice as many good decisions made in the light as there are bad decisions made in the dark! Clearly I’m capable of making bad decision during the day and good decisions at night but my normal M.O. is the opposite. What it all boils down to is I’m not only afraid of all the things that scare most people about the dark, I’m also afraid of ME when it’s dark. It’s like my intelligence is on an automatic dimmer switch. As it gets darker it moves itself down.
Photo by Ryan McGuire