Sunday, September 23, 2012

Illuminate Week 2 -- Light

Lilly died in the middle of the night, in the middle of the bathroom floor. I became terrified of the night, of the dark, of the bathroom. I tried desperately to immerse myself in as much sunshine as I could. I wanted sun, bright lights, open skies. Anything but darkness. I never wanted to see the night again. And even more than that, I never wanted to go into the bathroom again.

I went home for a visit when I was on medical leave. I took flowers to my cousin and childhood best friend, F, at the local cemetery. I had dreamed of her, holding my Lilly. F is buried under a huge oak tree, which I found very fitting for her, though I'd much rather she not be in the cemetery in the first place. Oak trees are known for their strength and endurance, and they look so noble and beautiful standing tall in the sunshine. I told myself I wanted to be strong like that oak tree. I wanted to stand tall and soak up as much sunlight as I could....and I never wanted to see darkness again.

After Lilly died, I was transferred to a new duty station on the other side of the country. Within a few months of settling in, we found out we were expecting again. I was still terrified of the dark, and especially of the bathroom. Five months later, Brake died, in the dark, in the bathroom. I was spiraling downward, quickly, and I tried so hard to hold tight to the image of that huge oak tree. I wanted to hold on to that sunlight and soak it all in, but I was failing miserably and my fears of the dark were escalating.

When I returned to work, I had a hard time adjusting. I wasn't sleeping well. I couldn't concentrate. I wasn't getting along with people very well. So I was moved to a midnight shift. I left for work around 10 PM and I usually got home around 8 AM. There's something about the flight line at 2 AM. It's cold. It's almost always raining. And it's so very dark. I was stuck in what I hated the most, and it was pulling me in. Many nights the darkness felt so thick and heavy that I might suffocate just from walking into it. Even when the skies were filled with stars, there still wasn't enough light to save me.

The deeper it pulled me in, the darker everything else became. I became like a robot, a machine. Go home and sleep all day. Get up and go to work all night. Go through all the motions but never really feel anything. I never saw the sun anymore. I don't think I noticed it even when it was there. I started having nightmares during the day. I started having flashbacks at night. It drove me to the point of a nervous breakdown in the middle of the flight line....on more than one occasion. I didn't realize it, but I was slowly and painfully shutting down.

One day I decided that I wanted to start painting again. After high school, I had a scholarship for art school, so I thought maybe picking up with the creative stuff again would help work out some of the emotions. I bought an easel, some canvas, and some paints. But they just sat there, waiting.

I was late coming home from work one morning, so I was awake to see the sunrise for the first time in a long time. (Or perhaps it was just the first time I was coherent enough to notice it.) I took a picture of the sun's reflection in my side mirror, still framed with ice from the night before. I posted it to Facebook, and a friend commented how we have the most amazing sunrises up here. I sat on the front porch the entire morning, staring at the sky, at the colors and the light.

I finally found the little boost I needed to pick up the paints. I sat out on the porch every morning, regardless of the weather. A canvas, a paint brush, my Bible, and a big cup of hot tea. Sometimes I would set it all up, but I wouldn't even paint. It just felt so good to be sitting out there, to be seeing the sun again, even though it was just for an hour or so before I had to go bed for work.

This year I was pregnant again, but I was on bed rest for most of it so I couldn't paint. I slept on the couch most nights because it was more comfortable. The sunrise would wake me up as it filled our giant windows with its golden rays. I would sit up in the corner of the couch and watch the warming light melt the fog off the harbor. Tiny little chickadees filled the feeder outside the window, and bunnies grazed quietly in the yard, both hungry and ready to welcome the new day. I always woke up just in time to catch that perfect moment in the sunrise, where the light and dark meet, just long enough to be beautiful, just long enough to paint a new day, a new beginning.

I'm definitely not a morning person, but being up for the sunrise does so much for my heart. Lately though, I haven't been seeing the beauty in the meeting of the light and dark. I feel like I'm wandering through a thick fog, with neither light nor dark to pull me in either direction. I'm not sure if it's the stress of adjusting to a new baby in the house or if it's this nasty bout of post partum depression. Maybe it's just a mix of everything, both new and old.

I go back to work in a couple weeks, and I'll be driving in during sunrise every morning. I'm hoping there will be enough sunshine to pull me through again.


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