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  • johnwwilsonpsyd

Trying To See in the Dark

Growing up on a farm provided many life lessons for me: don’t pee on an electric fence; don’t throw your tennis shoe at a wasp nest; and don’t eat Ma’s chocolate - turns out it was Ex-Lax. But one lesson in particular comes to mind these days.

We lived about 150 yards from Ma’s house. She was my grandmother and guardian angel. We had no indoor plumbing so one of my chores was to haul buckets of water from her back porch spigot. (Jack and Jill fetched pales of water – I fetched buckets.) Between our houses was a little dirt trail that ran along a small cow pasture on one side and a wood pile and corn crib on the other. I often saw snakes along that trail and I was scared spit-less of them.

When hauling water after dark, as I frequently did during the winter months, I carried a flashlight. I’d shine that light as far ahead of me as it would reach. I wanted to see through the darkness to know whether there was danger on the path ahead. I always had a knot in my stomach after dark.

Sometimes I still worry about what may lie across my path. If I can just know what’s ahead, I can brace for it, or avoid it; I can keep myself and my loved ones safe. So I worry as a way of trying to see in the dark, to shine a brighter, longer light.

But rather than seeing in the dark, worry just fills in the darkness with imagined worst case scenarios, and then the mind and body react as if these dreadful events are actually happening.

I guess peeing on an electric fence again might snap me out of it. Or I can recall that one night while nervously walking along the trail to Ma’s house. I was shining my light so far ahead that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was stepping. Splat! It's a farm - you get the idea. Then it occurred to me - I actually only need enough light to take the next step anyway. And that step is the most important one.

My advice? Stop trying to see in the dark. Walk in the light you have. If it’s not much, slow down. When you can’t see as far ahead as you wish, when you can’t know for sure how things will work out and you’re worried you won’t know what to do or how you’ll cope, remember you only need enough light to take the next step. Take it, and then trust your future self with the ones after that.


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