LAND OF THE UNKNOWN

VIEW FROM SCREENED BACK PORCH

VIEW FROM SCREENED BACK PORCH

After all the dishes are cleared and washed, I walk out onto my screened porch. I breathe in the quiet, peacefulness and exhale the frustrations of the day; listen to the hum of the wind whistling through the trees; the low music of our wind chimes; the cacophony of the toads and crickets singing and the occasional squawk of the turkeys.

And then my eyes open to the total blackness. There is no light, not even a moon beam. My neighbors are acres away in this rural part of Northern California. At times I seek solace in the glimpse of their lights shining in the windows. Tonight there is no glow.

The silence and heavenly peacefulness I cherished moments ago have been replaced with overwhelming fear and intense angst in the blink of an eye. The calm breathing quickly transitions into hyperventilation. The once peaceful heart is pounding at record speed.

Why am I afraid of the dark? The majority of children have a fear of the dark and then they grow up. As an independent adult woman, this fear remains with me to this day. Unlike Mack in “Where the Wild Things Are”, I am unable to conquer my demons. Being one of the 5% of adults who admit they are afraid of the dark, I do suffer terribly from insomnia. There is even a name for this condition: achluophopia or nyctophobia. It is “a phobia characterized by an acute fear of the darkness; it is triggered by the minds disfigured perception of what would or could happen in a dark environment” (definition from Wikipedia).

Some scientists believe this phobia is coded in our DNA. Remember the movie where the lions enter the African village and take their human prey willy-nilly? Freud believed fear of darkness is linked to separation anxiety or absence of our mothers converted to fear of darkness.

Personally as a youth, when I had nightmares, Supergirl (the brave me) would fly through the air, hair and blue cape flapping in the wind, and save the day. It was around the time of Super Man reruns on TV.

On business trips I sleep with the lights on. After I have locked the door, I place a chair under the doorknob. Never do I watch “Law and Order” or “Twilight Zone” alone.

Warm baths, glow in the dark stars, night lights, classical music and other tools to eliminate this fear and insomnia leave me restless and irritable. I’ve counted up to 1000 sheep jump that fence. My brain never stops thinking.

But I do know where this adult insomnia stems from. Nine years ago I stoically and heroically conquered breast cancer. The doctor gave me a sleep enhancer because sleeping is imperative to maintaining a healthy immune system.

Fortunately for me, there have been no side effects even when I have stopped taking them for periods of time. However, attempts to not use this medication, leave me bumping into Freddy Krueger in the middle of the night or waking up to Hannibal Lecter sleeping next to me licking his lips “Well Clarice have the lambs stopped screaming” or “How about some fava beans and a nice Chianti”.

My last thought as I leave the porch and prepare for bed is a scene in the book and movie, “The Road” by Carmac McCarthy. Charlize Theron is tearfully saying goodbye to her husband and slowly walks into the darkness. Unable to deal with this new apocalyptic world, she chooses to walk into the cold dark night, the land of no light, the land of cannibalism, and the land of the unknown.

So I take my pill and sleep like a baby. I do not want to be Charlize.

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