“Mommy, leave the door open, I’m afraid of the dark.” “Dad, if it makes you feel better, it’s okay to leave the night light on.”
Whether, as a kid, you said them, or as a parent and grandparent, heard your kids and grandkids say them, fear of the dark is a common phobia experienced by people of all ages from toddlers to adult. Adults? According to clinical psychologist, John Mayer, Ph.D., author of Family Fit Your Balance in Life, fear of the dark, is “very common” among adults. “It is estimated that 11% of the U.S. population is afraid of the dark.” Personally, I think spiders are scarier but that’s just me.
So what is it about the dark that scares us so much? As it turns out it’s not the darkness itself that’s frightening, it’s the fear of what the darkness is hiding. Is there a monster under the bed? What’s that shadow in the corner? Is someone there? What’s that squeak! The dark leaves us vulnerable and exposed, unable to spot any threats that may be lurking nearby.
But darkness, for most of us, is temporary. The sun rises and chases the monsters away, lights are turned on and shadows disappear and even a great flashlight can make scary sounds go away.
But what if the darkness is permanent?
I received a call the other day from a very good friend who lives in California. Carolyn and I met at a business conference more years ago than I’d like to admit. We connected immediately. She was receiving an award for being one of the top international winners having broken all sales records in Japan, South America and the United States, all locations in which she had offices for her successful training & consulting company. To say she is smart is an understatement and her intelligence is only the tip of her iceberg. She’s a gifted artist, an interior designer, a singer, an author, a former model, a wife, mother, grandmother and a role model and mentor to many. She has always been one of the most independent, confident and strong women I’ve ever known.
Now she’s blind.
When she called with the news, I could feel her fear, her anxiety and, yes, her desperation. I wanted to say “You’ll be okay”, “You’re strong, you’ll work through this”, “This won’t defeat you”. While all of this is true, at that moment, they were just hollow and empty words…so I kept quiet and cried with my friend.
No one knows what her future holds, what direction she’ll take or how her life will change. Those of us who love her know, that in time, she’ll get through this because that’s what she has done throughout her life when met with seemingly unsurmountable challenges. She will come to accept the darkness that surrounds her and acknowledge that the ‘light’ within her still shines as bright as ever and she will continue lighting the way for others as she has always done.
If I were a betting person, my money is on Carolyn. Blindness doesn’t have a chance.