Thursday, August 22, 2013
What's Your Light?
Leave A Light On is far from original. There are song titles (not worth linking to) and self-help programs (I have no interest in researching) with the same name. I also learned from a friend this afternoon that it's a slogan for Motel 6, which is pretty classy, if I do say so myself.
In this instance, Leave A Light On originated from my parents. I grew up in a small, wooded town in Connecticut (which I have since returned to, for better or worse). There are three traffic lights, and until fairly recently, when they added a real grocery store and a Starbucks (HALLELUJAH!), there were a few basic mom and pop shops but much to be desired in the entertainment department. We made our own fun, which involved long days outside, making mud pies, catching fish, riding bikes and throwing rocks into the huge lake across the street. Everyone knew everyone, and there were tons of neighborhood kids to get into trouble with.
People knew that the Champion household was the one with the huge porch light in the front. Like, disproportionately huge compared to the rest of the homes/cabins in the neighborhood. It had a tall, thick, wooden post with a glass dome that looked like a cross between an alien space ship and the glass elevator from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And while most people would turn on their lights at dusk, that sucker was lit up a half an hour before, when the sun was low but still shining.
It went on so cars could see at night when they drove down our street. It went on for my father's return from work, but also while he was away on business trips. It went on when we went out for the evening and was set to a timer during vacations so people THOUGHT we were home. For friends, relatives, animals. Okay, maybe not animals, but you never know with my parents. It shined all night, and sometimes it was forgotten in the morning, so it served as a tacky glowing space orb competing with the sun (sorry greenies--it was the eighties, and we didn't conserve energy back then).
I didn't appreciate the light until I went away to college. It was my first time living away from home. I had Lyme and was sick but wouldn't get a diagnosis until years later. Regardless, I was young and had a bit of a rebellious personality (my mother would tell you that's an understatement). I studied hard, but I partied just as much, if not more, and ignored my deteriorating health. On weekends I would come home to visit hungover, sleep deprived, and riddled with odd physical symptoms. The light was always on for me; a big, ugly beacon showing the way to comfort, a full fridge and soft blankets. Each time, my father would say, "Welcome home," as if I'd been gone for years. It was understood in our family that, no matter what, I would always have a place to come back to.
My first wedding was held in that neighborhood. The marriage was short and disastrous, but to this day, I hold the ceremony in my top five happiest experiences of all time. The party was over, and we were headed off to honeymoon in Paris and then make our big move to Miami (a dream come true for a small town girl). My parents wished us well. It was a joyous moment without any tears shed. As we pulled out of the driveway and honked the horn, my father flipped on that damn switch. I cried silently and bittersweetly at a friggin' porch lamp, of all things, and watched it fade in the mirror until we turned the corner.
Luckily, it was still on when I returned, a hot mess, to live there eight months later (hey ladies, sometimes that hero is really a zero). It was on a few years later when the big Lyme crash happened and I could no longer climb the stairs to my apartment. On when I went through three rounds of intense IV treatment. When my second husband and I found out we were having another (surprise!) child and couldn't afford our condo, my meds, AND two babies at once. It's on now that I am sick again, as a single mom (with a very supportive ex I proudly call my friend) and unable to work.
I realize that I'm blessed and that not everyone has a loving, compassionate family. I've encountered my fair share of assholes along the way, too; I just lucked out in the kin department.
But you DO have a "light" of some sort, and it's the key to healing, both physically and mentally. It's something that makes you feel safe and comfortable and is constant, even when you're not aware of it. Maybe it's your spouse or your kids. A great career, artistic expression, a support system, friends. Nature, a God, or something small and less obvious: a love of travel and new experiences, a memory of a good time in your life that gives you strength to fight for your health so that you can make more good memories (it's inevitable--as much as you struggle, there WILL be some good in between). Maybe helping others is your light? Or perhaps you're just naturally tough and persistent, and your own life goals keep you going.
If all else fails, you can be your own light. I used to roll my eyes at all of the "feel-good," love yourself, self-help jargon, but I'm finding now that it's true. At our cores, we ARE light. Whether you want to call it a soul, a rule of Quantum Physics involving cells, molecules, and atoms producing energy, consciousness, a basic, innate survival instinct, whatever... As humans, we have the unique gift of a SOMETHING that is a constant, forward moving, drive to survive, succeed, heal, love and be loved. It's there whether we're aware of it, and even when we're sick, in terrible pain, and hopeless. Let's face it, if we didn't have lights, most of us wouldn't have survived as long as we have with this illness. We can cultivate our lights, lean on them, and use them as a focal point to help us heal.
I wish you faith and reassurance on your healing journey.
I wish you a light to focus on when you need help or direction.
For what it's worth, my Alien Willy Wonka Orb from Mars is on for anyone who needs a boost.