My wife is out of town this week, and I am home alone. Recently, I decided to stop doing things to distract myself: I stopped working on startups, talking on the phone, reading anything, watching TV. I stopped doing anything except sitting and being with myself after work. Since I am home alone, this is a rare chance to do it and see what develops, but something crept up on me, a sudden great fear clutching my chest.
There are many ways to avoid being alone, to avoid fear and discomfort. At the beginning of the week, I gardened late into the night, and then focused on cleaning to distract myself. The next night, I told myself I would be silent, but I called my family for hours and watched a movie. The following night, I removed the TV, but read an old favorite book. Tonight I am writing.
When I was a child, I would sometimes feel the same fear. I would go into the woods, camping alone, a few miles from home. When the fire was out, and I was alone in my tent, under the stars, I could hear the crickets chirping and the wind howling overhead, shaking the tent. At first I would sigh in relief and relax, but before long a creeping fear would overcome me. Some darkness out in the woods was watching me, waiting silently for me to relax so it could make its way toward me. My imagination ran wild – a force of nature was outside my door, silently approaching under the cover of wind and darkness, slithering closer on silent wings, standing over the tent. Inside, I would stare at the ceiling, trying not move, trying not to breathe, waiting with a beating heart to see a handprint appear on the tent, push in gently to notify me of its presence, then disappear again, daring me to act – trapped. I was certain it would happen at any moment. The shuffling of an armadillo was the slow pull of his leg, the howling of the wind his laugh, the chirping of the cricket his soft touch on my tent, the darkness of the night waiting to swallow me whole.
Now I know the fear well. It has been a long time since it has visited me. Perhaps because I have silenced my mind with a plethora of work and distraction. Now that I have awoken somewhat, there is something lurking inside, a truth I know but do not yet see. I fear to see the truth waiting in my heart – but tonight I am sitting by the fire, I will put down my laptop, and I will invite the darkness in for a chat.