Friday, December 7, 2012

Afraid of the dark

 A year ago, I wrote a post about how as a kid I was convinced that I was possessed by the devil. I talked about the very first moment that I became afraid.

One of my earliest memories is of playing hide-and-seek at Grandma and Grandpa’s trailer. I was lying in the dark under the bed with my face pressed down into the red shag carpet. Waiting. There were dusty shoe boxes and plastic-wrapped blankets stacked all around me. I felt like they were waiting too, for the sunlight, for someone to open them again. Like most children, I was patient only when it came to hiding games, and I was willing to lie there all night, if need be, for someone to find me. I put my hands over my eyes and pushed down on my eye balls. When I lifted the pressure, the space in front of me exploded with imaginary fireworks. I pressed down harder, and harder, until suddenly I thought that maybe I could see a set of eyes. They were big and round and silver and stared right back at me unblinking, like an owl. Completely forgetting the game, I wriggled out from under the bed and went charging down the hall into the kitchen.

“Gramma! When I hide under the bed, I can see an owl’s eyes looking at me!”
Grandma looked up from the dishes with concern on her face. Grandpa, who was sitting at the kitchen table while Grandma cleaned, ordered me to come and stand before him.

 “What did you see?”

“Owl Eyes!” I laughed. “Big round silver ones! Under the bed when I close my eyes!”
I don’t remember what he said next, but I remember my excitement went suddenly cold. Grandpa was not happy. He asked me lots of questions, and before long, Grandma dried off her hands and came to sit with us at the table. They laid their hands on my head and prayed. Grandpa rebuked Satan in the name of Jesus and Grandma whispered “yes Lord” under her breath again and again.

I used to look back on that day as the moment when Satan entered my body.
I am sometimes afraid that if I ever become a parent I wont know how to address situations like this. When someone talks about seeing things in the dark, my automatic thought is that it MUST be demons. (Which is ridiculous since I don’t believe in demons.)  But I get uncomfortable and nervous none the less. I was wondering what I would do if my hypothetical child came to me about seeing things in the dark. As I browsed the comments, I came across one from Shadowspring that brought a huge smile to my face.

Horrifying. You poor princess. I just want to pick up that little girl that saw owl eyes and go rewrite that whole story.

Would I be smart enough to figure out exactly what you had experienced? Probably not, but we could've put treats out for the owl, gone to library for owl books (including Winnie the Pooh), made up a series of owl adventures and/or even had a field trip to the raptor center. That's the kind of grandma I want to be.

I bet your grandparents would cry if they knew that religious freak-out was the beginning of so much pain for you. At least, I hope they would.

Hugs, SS”
 As an agnostic, I no longer believe in dark, powerful demons that can harm and hurt you at will. I have no reason to be afraid for myself or my hypothetical children. Thanks, SS for the sweet comment. I know someday I'll think of you when my children come to me afraid of the dark. I know i will honestly be able to say "there is nothing to fear."


  1. I've also found that a spray bottle filled with water and labeled "Monster Spray" is effective for the more doubting child :)

  2. Firstborn and I had a whole plan - which was, admittedly, kind of based on him watching me play video games. The plan was that if he found a monster in his room, he was going to ask it if it was a nice monster, or a mean monster. If it was a nice monster, it got to come have pizza with us. If it was a mean monster, he got to bonk it.

    Later on, we got into specific monsters and whether or not they really exist. We've discussed the fact that skeletons exist - they're the bones that hold up your body! - but they don't move around, and they can't hurt you. Same with mummies: they exist, but they can't move and they can't hurt you. Zombies don't exist, ghosts don't exist, and giant floating-baby-looking evil demigods don't exist. (He caught me playing Halflife on the PS2.)

    He still wants someone to snuggle with him while he's going to sleep sometimes, though. Things can still be scary, even if you know they aren't real.

  3. Oh my goodness, Shadowspring's comment to you made me cry..
    See, that is love and that is knowing that imagination is so powerful.
    Beautiful response... Sarah you will know what to do because you are living from your heart and it has all the answers you need. Sometimes my kids ask me questions and I just don't know the I say, " Wow.. that is such a great question.. let's go research it and find out together."
    Who says as a parent you have to have all the answers?? lol...

  4. I too have such a different perspective about demons, evil spirit and satan.
    There is so much mystery in this life and universe... and it's such a gorgeous freedom to just be able to see it as mystery... and not define it as anything.. not even demonic. I watched a really interesting debate asking that question.. " is satan real?" Deepak Chopra, Carolton Pearson, Mark Driscoll and this other lady that heads up a Christian ministry were on the panel.It was a really insightful debate. Mark Driscoll spouted off everything I had ever heard about the devil...but I loved Deepak and Carlton's responses. I think the number one thing that comes to mind now about that whole topic is how devastating it is to the psyche. It truly does cause mental health problems because for us that whole area is so out of our control. Not being able to see or feel these demonic presences that are causing all this harm in the world... praying and hoping Jesus will stop them, but really not sure if the praying really works. Even before I started to let go of all my religious stuff, I saw a pattern that if I just waited, everything kind of just worked itself out after awhile.

    Loves to you... xo

  5. To me the craziest thing about that story is that this is a well understood and easy to explain phenomena. Think how different it would have been if your grandparents had just explained that you were putting pressure on the nerves in your eyes which made them work funny and made you see things things that aren't real.

    It seems like the whole religion thing really makes the world a much scarier and more confusing place to live in. I really don't understand why people say it's so comforting.

  6. My 3-year-old told me he thought there was "a creature" under his bed a few weeks ago.
    Luckily, when I looked under it to check, I found his blankie that had been missing for the past few days. That nice surprise made him completely forget about monsters/creatures for the time being.

    It's so strange that your grandparents would automatically take something a child said so seriously. I'm sorry you had to go through that!

  7. Stress alone can make kids hallucinate. Add the fear of evil surrounding them being touted all over the place, you're just setting them up. I'm sure you wouldn't be anything like the terrible parent you envision yourself. That said, it's not like you're obligated to procreate if you choose not to! Having children is very challenging. Some people choose other challenges. I don't believe God has any problem with that whatsoever.

  8. Hi! I am really interested in one thing, of course if that's not too much to ask could you please tell us where you grew up?