By Flashlight

Have you ever tried to find something by flashlight?  Something small, easily mistakable, in a crowded, unfamiliar room?

Joni Mitchell says you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, a sentiment that applies perfectly to electric lighting in many lives.  One moment your life is normal, you aren’t even thinking about the light you’re using to see, and the next moment, you are plunged into darkness.  It takes a bit of mental adjustment before you even know why everything has suddenly disappeared– of course, the lights.  The lights must have gone out.  The power must be out.

A few weeks ago, the whole city lost power during an ice storm.  The outage lasted less than three minutes, but across the city people were momentarily taken by surprise and forced to face their privilege.  Grocery store employees were stuck on stepladders, children scrambled to find their flashlights,  families made noises of outrage at the interruption in board games and TV shows, drivers scrambled to adjust to the lack of streetlights and traffic control lights, and I froze stupidly in the middle of mixing cookie dough, my fingers sticky with butter and molasses, the floor under me awash with a detritus of playthings waiting to stub my blind and stumbling toes.

Númenor and Ithilien, hoopy froods that they are, found their flashlights quickly and were happily using them in less than 30 seconds, the crazed, ricocheting islands of light adding to the choas in my path as I tried to feel my way to the bathroom cupboard to retrieve the candles and LED taplights.  Ithilien, normally afraid of the dark, was reveling in the novelty of its presence here, in his waking hours, unintended and uninvited.  Númenor was full of questions: Are the lights broken? Would we need to replace the lightbulbs?  Does the house need new batteries?  Why did the numbers on the stove timer disappear?

Power was restored just as I approached the bathroom door, which was a relief because I didn’t have to muck anything up with my doughy hands waste any cookie dough.  I took a moment to silently thank the people in charge of managing this utility I take so much for granted, and to reflect on the merits of the fish-killing, native-heritage-site-destroying Bonneville Dam in the wake of an extremely visceral reminder of what it does for me.

Lately I’ve been struggling with finding enough perfection within the lawlessness and tumult of real life to sustain me, or at least the parts of myself that are fed by kairos moments and the illusion of control.  I’ve been stumbling in the dark, stepping on a clearly unreasonable number of plastic lizards, using a little circle of light I claim illuminates my task when all it seems to do is make the darkness thicker and fill it with menacing shadows.

My friend Beth wrote recently about being a little underwater in her own head and life, and I wrote back to tell her that I’m there, too.  Waiting for dawn, knowing (but at the same time having trouble believing) that it is coming.

I always tell people that the hardest part of pregnancy and birth is humbling your conscious mind and surrendering the illusion of control over your life and your body.  It’s a frightening thing to contemplate, that regardless of how we may treat them, our bodies are more than just a physical extension of our conscious minds.  It’s terrifying to know that sometimes the body won’t or can’t, and infuriating to find that sometimes the body trusts its own counsel over yours.

All this is an exceedingly roundabout way of saying:  I’m still here, and I’m still pregnant.  Much more pregnant than I ever thought I would be, in fact.

And I’m rummaging though what, for lack of a better term, we will have to refer to as my soul, looking for faith by flashlight, and not having much success finding it.

The flashlight casts shadows that have the illusion of movement and catch my peripheral vision, dragging me off-task.  It will show me everything in this space, but not without my searching every shelf and every drawer deliberately and thoroughly.  I can’t quickly glance over everything, as I could with overhead lighting, and focus my search on the likely vicinity.  I have to comb over the whole space, taking care to look behind and under, and stubbing my toes in the meantime.

And faith is a small, slippery, translucent thing, with no strong color or definite shape.

In short, it’s a bitch to find and to hang onto.

But I’m looking nonetheless, because I need it and nothing else will do.

With just a tiny amount of faith in my body, I will be content to wait until the time is right.

With just a tiny amount of faith in myself and my skills, I will be my own ultimate birth attendant.

With just a tiny amount of faith in this baby, I will be able to focus on what I can assess and control directly to help everything come out right.

With just a tiny amount of faith in my family, I will be able to ask for and receive help when I need it.

And I know that my faith is in here somewhere.  I believe that I will find it.

And for now, as I stumble around in the dark with my flashlight, faith that I will have faith is enough.

One thought on “By Flashlight

  1. Hope your birthing was/will be wonderful and that you found that little bit of faith you were seeking to get you through. Appreciated the link to the bit about being overwhelmed as explained by Beth – seems to fit much of what I’ve been experiencing too! Glad to hear you were careful not to “waste the cookie dough” when electricity died and of your smalls reactions – sweet are the simple perceptions of the young. Likely you are under the water of newborn needs coupled with the demands of life ongoing – will be waiting to hear how it has all gone and what poetic reflections are yet coming in this new year. Be very gentle and good to yourself.

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