Darkness Part I: Discomfort

 

During the transition between living abroad and living small, I was lucky enough to spend an extended amount of time at home. My parents may have considered themselves unlucky to have their once empty nest once again occupied by one of their own (one who can be messy and sleeps late and sheds all over the place), but it was a very special time for me and I think they may have enjoyed it at least a little bit too. It was the longest period of time I had spent with my parents since leaving home for college and this time, I got to know my parents in many wonderfully unexpected ways. I experienced them as individuals in addition to the parental unit that they had always been for me and when the initial novelty of my being home wore off, I became a part of their regular daily lives. As simple as it sounds, it made me feel closer to them than ever before.

There are a myriad of reasons why I will always cherish that extended stay at home, but I’ll save them for another time. My reason for mentioning it here is because it was in their home that I first experienced blackout curtains. My parents had recently moved into a new house, one with beautiful stone walls and oversized wood beams that made it feel like a lodge. The previous owners had moved out in a hurry and as they did, they left many items behind - an abundance of Christmas lights, miscellaneous tools and random boxes in the attic. They also left blackout curtains in most of the bedrooms, something my parents are still trying to figure out. The summer sun in Texas is indeed intense and perhaps the curtains serve a noble purpose during that season, but in the winter when the days are short, sunlight becomes a precious commodity.

When I first arrived home, my circadian rhythm was completely disrupted. I had been in India for two weeks, returned to Japan for a short 48 hours and then turned around to take the long way home to Texas. Needless to say, my body was confused and tired which made the notion of endless sleep unusually appealing. Blackout curtains were the perfect remedy. The absolute darkness in my room meant that I slept until my body couldn’t sleep anymore and I woke up having no idea what time of day it was. I would emerge from my darkened cocoon with tightly squinted eyes and it took a long time for my body to adjust to being awake. This went on for a week or more and I assumed this was just a case of lingering jet lag, a known side effect of playing hop scotch through time zones. But once my body had adjusted, I still found it very difficult to wake up. My eyes would almost hurt when I resurfaced after a somewhat comatose sleep and I felt groggy for the better part of the day thereafter.

One night I neglected to secure the blackout curtains when I went to sleep. It was the night after bringing our tiny house on wheels out of storage and into my parents’ driveway, which happened to be just outside my bedroom window. Being that I was positively smitten with her, I kept the curtains open so I could look upon Silver Heels as I fell asleep. The following morning, I sensed the light shifting in my room while my eyelids still rested closed. It was still fairly dark, but when I gently opened my eyes, I could make out the shadows and shapes around me. I heard the quiet stirring of my parents in the kitchen and enjoyed several moments of listening from the comfort of my bed. Then, faithfully and without a sound, as it does with each new day, the sun grew progressively brighter as it climbed away from the horizon. And just like that, it was morning.

I woke up feeling refreshed and when I left my room, my wide-opened eyes had already adjusted to the morning light. Understandably, that was my last night of sleeping with the blackout curtains. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but my body intuitively knew there was something deeply unsettling in the artificial darkness.