I remember the first time it happened. I had lived in my new apartment for a couple of weeks and went in to take a shower at the end of a typical busy day. I like to shower in the evenings; I can take my time, and it affords me the mental and physical luxury of washing off the day. I got in, wet my hair, and began lathering shampoo, feeling myself winding down, thinking about the evening ahead. I would do some yoga, check my email, and then watch a movie with Nigel. Suddenly, without flickering, the bathroom light went out. It was completely dark in the windowless room. I panicked, thought of both Psycho and Silence of the Lambs, and gathered my courage to step out and turn on the heat lamp that I had not yet used but figured would be bright enough for me to finish showering with. Naked, dripping everywhere, I fumbled my way around the still-new bathroom, found the switch for the heat lamp, turned it on, and got back in the shower to rinse my hair.
Later, I would discover that the bulb in the regular light had not burned out. I had decided to change it the next day, and that night while reading in bed, it suddenly illuminated the bathroom of its own volition. Glad that I didn’t have to change the bulb, I chalked it up to faulty wiring (since, upon inspection, I could jiggle the wall switch to turn it back on) and went about my life with a temperamental bathroom light.
No activity was exempt from its sudden desire to go out. I would discover this while sitting on the toilet and find myself yet again in total darkness, having to get up and hobble over to turn on the heat lamp. I would be washing my face, with soap in my eyes and water running down my arms. Shaving my legs. Dying my hair. It got to the point where if I were going to be doing something that made it difficult to stop and turn the light back on, I would just turn the heat lamp on at the beginning instead of the regular bathroom light.
This worked fine until summer. I absolutely could not take a shower with the heat lamp on. So of course as soon as I lathered up my hair, the light went out. I stood there in the dark, water pelting me, shampoo beginning to drip down my forehead. I stood there and thought maybe this is what it’s like taking a shower when you’re blind. I have no idea; I certainly don’t want to be ignorant in conjecturing about something I have no experience with. But I wanted to try it. So I finished lathering and rinsing my hair in total darkness. I applied what seemed to be an appropriate amount of conditioner. And as I stood there, feeling my temporary deprivation of sight, feeling the water spray my body, listening to the sound of it, smelling it, trying to get in touch with my other senses, I realized something.
It was not profound. But for some reason I had not thought of it before, and I think that relaxing and learning what there was to learn from that experience is what caused me to try reaching my arm out of the shower to turn the light back on. Instead of panicking and leaping out of the shower to turn on the heat lamp, I enjoyed being in the dark for a minute, reached my arm out to the side of the shower curtain and around the wall. And I easily reached the light switch for the regular bathroom light. I turned it back on and started shaving (wasn’t brave enough to do that “blind”).
Of course, as I am wont to do, I tried to apply this experience to life metaphorically. I guess it’s just a reminder not to panic when something unexpected happens. Don’t freak out when you don’t know what to do. Relax, and clarity will come to you. I learned this with Nigel’s seizures. After he’d been having them a while, I realized that I needed to force myself to remain calm. I somehow thought that it wasn’t doing him any good if I freaked out, that he was picking up on my energy. And when I kept calm, I became clear. I wondered if I talked soothingly to him if that would help him. I told him, as he violently convulsed, that I was there with him, that he was okay. Even though he was not conscious, I gently told him to relax, relax. And immediately he began unclenching his feet and his hands, even as he still convulsed. Then his convulsions subsided, much sooner than usual. To my knowledge, it was his shortest and least violent seizure ever. And his recovery time was 10-15 minutes, instead of the hour or two that it used to be.
A year and a half later, my bathroom light still goes out on a regular basis. I’m still spending time every week in complete darkness. But also in total clarity.
image courtesy of Wikipedia