When I was a kid, my bedroom was in the basement of this very clever house that my dad had designed for us. The logic of the basement bedrooms was all about Colorado. You see, a basement in a Colorado house will stay warm in the winter and cold in the summer. My dad, an exceedingly practical and green-ahead-of-his-time architect, reasoned that the bedrooms were the most important rooms to have "climate control" over. My mother tried to make the basement cheerful by putting this hideous red and orange shag carpeting down there. Little did they know the effect of those decisions on a 7-year old girl.
Since I had no religious training, I had only the vaguest notions of heaven and hell. For me, hell was down there...in the basement...alone. My parents were social creatures and I often had babysitters, so I had lots of opportunities to be in hell...in the basement...alone. I couldn't even turn on the light to dispel my fears before I arrived until I'd arrived. I clearly remember standing on the stairs of that brand new house, bracing myself for the step into the dark. That moment before I could reach the light switch was the most heart-pounding moment that ever existed for me.
I feel a bit like I've been standing on the stairs of my life for a long time now. I do have the feeling more and more that once I step off the stairs and flip on the light that everything will turn out all right. It always did in the basement. I'm still alive. Neither Alferd Packer nor Baby Doe Tabor (the ghostly spooks that grabbed my childhood heart) have eaten me alive. I have since befriended many, many spiders.
It's that moment in the dark, standing on the maniacal red shag carpeting, wondering what I would find when the light went on that hangs around my shoulders. It was literally a nano second of time in my childhood day. What if...the light bulb is burned out? How do I face this darkness that hangs in front of me at the bottom of the stairs?
In my life, in my field, a dark night has been hanging in front of me. One might even say that I've been in it, in the dark moment, for years, unable to reach the light switch for some reason, paralysed by fear. Well, as it repeated itself daily in my childhood, it has been cyclical in my adult life. I was on the last stair for years about ending my abusive marriage. It seems a little insane from the other side. When I finally stepped into the darkness, and even when my worst fears were trumped by real life suffering, I survived it all, and found myself in a warm snuggly bed.
What did I depend on nightly to get off that last stair and touch the freaky carpeting with my bare feet? Determination. I became angry at fear itself for keeping me from my warm bed and inviting the ridicule of my parents. Remembering peace. I imagined how the basement would be with my dad watching TV in his bedroom, and all the lights on. Faith. I came to believe that there was nothing really there to harm me even if I felt afraid. The more faith I had the less fear I felt on the last stair. Relief. As I grew, the fear disappeared so completely that I could laugh at the unreasonableness of it with a sense of relief that has never left me.