I no longer fear the shadows on my wall
Pitch black. Total darkness. That is how I like to sleep. Rather, that is how I have traditionally appreciated drifting off into the dream world. When I was younger living in the South Bronx, there was a light post right out front my window that shone brightly. You would have thought that would provide me with some comfort considering the high crime rates. Many neighborhoods fight for light posts to shine brightly as a way of improving the overall quality of life. However, that light post would bring me fear at night when I was lying in my bed trying to find some measure of sleep.
The light would shine into my room creating nefarious-looking shadows. The shadows danced an eerie dance of danger on my walls. I would stare at the shadow movements wondering what would happen next. I often imagined the sound of drums beating to the shadow movements. I basically would freak myself out. I lived on the first floor of the apartment building and many people (who were often up to no good) would take the opportunity to climb up my fire escape and up past my window. My neighborhood was a free-for-all in terms of will. If there was a fire escape why not climb it? That was the prevailing sentiment. I knew people would be climbing that fire escape at all hours of the night. Because of that, I far preferred to sleep in total darkness. The shadow dancing on my wall was not my nighttime friend. In total pitch-black darkness I was not subjected to the oftentimes menacing shadows.
As I moved away and moved into safer neighborhoods and environments, I still slept in total darkness. I also tended to sleep fitfully. I would estimate I would wake up about 3-4 times each night. It is amazing that I didn’t get permanent circles etched into the skin under my eyes. I tend to wake up if I hear any noise. The tiniest noise or event would wake me up. My inability to sleep through the night was obviously a result of having to be vigilant at night when I was growing up. Despite a changed environment I have always remained extremely vigilant. It is second nature to my being at this point.
When I was pregnant, I slept even more fitfully. I lived near ground zero and thus there were a lot of street and flood lights around; as well as police with machine guns. I did fairly safe with those guys around despite overhearing some of their chatter. Every night of my pregnancy without fail I would wake up at around 3am and watch a weird news show that aired live on ABC network. I have not watched it since my pregnancy and thus I could not tell you the name of the telecast. However, it was truly an odd show. It was a bit like news of the weird and I was addicted to it. I just had to watch it every night. I didn’t have many odd food cravings. What I had was weird television viewing cravings. I just could not get enough of horror and science fiction shows and movies. I watched some pretty bad shows that were even worse than Sharknado. No wonder my son needs to watch science fiction shows before he sleeps. My pregnancy cravings nurtured an odd viewing fixation in my son.
Upon giving birth my sleep patterns changed. While I was up still at 3am, I was barely functional. I would oftentimes go downstairs and breastfeed my son at the wee hours of the morning while sleeping and taking in some CNN news segment. I learned to sleep through breastfeeding. It is quite a skill to have. After 16 months of that I learned to sleep through the street noises that would have kept me awake in the past. Don’t get me wrong. I wake up in a heartbeat if I hear him cry but I can now sleep past what once haunted me. We keep a small light on in his bedroom that casts a shadow onto my bedroom walls.
I look at those shadows now and listen to the house creak and I remain calm and steady. I even write poems based on the dance of the shadows on my wall. They are pretty and mesmerizing now while before they were nefarious. I can now sleep with random lights shining on through. One could argue that this new state of being is because I am just dead tired. Being a working mom that travels for business continuously is not easy on the body, soul and mind. Sleep is, consequently, a welcome state of being for a few hours. Besides being exhausted, my son has also helped me overcome many past fears. I sing him to sleep with a lullaby as the shadows dance. I can sleep through the night knowing that he is safely dreaming in his bed and that at some point in the night he will come over to me. Sure sheer exhaustion has a role but so does the foot of my son resting on my face. There is nothing like a baby foot to keep you grounded, feeling safe, and warm.
Inspired in part by the daily prompt of: Mr. Sandman