“These are dark days”, several have remarked regarding the Covid pandemic. “Everything fun has disappeared”, sighed a friend explaining her plight. “All that’s left, are masked trips and distancing destroying any hope of visiting with friends. Weeding, though permitted is a boring alone-job. I’m cooking but not for friends. Exercise classes are still not back to normal so I’m missing that circle. It’s like Covid has snuffed out my fire and left me with just the coals—memories, cold wind, power is out. Everything has changed.”
Another gal also calling these dark days complained, “Can’t visit my best friend in the hospital and my children and grandchildren live quite a distance away. I’ve just got to have people around”. These women represent Sensing Extroverts whose worlds pivot on people and hands-on routine. It is true that the sixteen temperaments manage changes differently, but before we address a solution for ES’s, I can’t help but discuss what the word “darkness” brings to my 86-year-old mind as we go from the known to the unknown.
I’m sure you have experienced the unsettling feeling when the power goes off without warning, leaving the family in the dark. Everything stops. The oven doesn’t work, the heat or AC goes off. We grope around, stubbing toes and bumping into furniture wondering aloud “Now, where is our flash light? Where are the candles? And the matches. You look outside to see if neighbors have light. Have to decide if this is just your house having problems or is widespread. Don’t open the freezer or fridge. Unanswered concerns about how long will this last. To stay ahead of this problem, Jim placed flash lights on every dresser, every bedstead, magnetic one on the fridge, above the breaker box in the garage (which I’ve had to use one night since Jim’s been gone) in cupboards, in every automobile and several on his work bench and in the shed.
Today, an uncanny darkness of silent fear faces seniors who are at risk when school begins and socializing increases. Teachers are apprehensive about their safety. Newspapers are full of reminders about washing hands and avoiding crowds. What can we do? How can we survive? To be sure, adjusting to the darkness of changes requires patience and innovation. Classes, meetings and appointments have moved to the electronic virtual and zoom world. Face-coverings forces a crash-course in eye-communication and positive body language in order to express appreciation and love in place of hugs, kisses and hand squeezes.
None of us does very well when we lose control of our lives even temporarily because of power outage, flooding, blizzards, accidents, deaths and illnesses. Being deprived of people demands a brand-new life-management class in which everyone is automatically enrolled.
Musing about darkness brought two particularly vivid memories to mind that reveal opposite sides regarding darkness. The first is during World War II in the throes of rationing of food, clothing and supplies with limits on gasoline, tires and travel and constraints on electricity. Our family of six kids and parents living in a large farm house were making the best of things. Our parents did not complain about the changes and deprivations. So, neither did we. We were enough for teams to play ball, board games or hide and seek.
I recall one night, especially, when our family rather than the usual board game played what we called “light’s out”. All lights extinguished—pitch black. No flash lights. Everyone hid somewhere in the living room. The “it” person had to search until they tapped everyone. From a ten-year-old, who was still hidden, hearing screams as one by one people were found was nothing but delight. And having Dad and Mom playing with us increased our fun. On reflection, that was an excellent way for our parents to teach us not to be afraid of the dark. But those were extremely dark days for parents.
The next account focusing on the perils of darkness happened 4 years later about a month after we had moved with mother to the little house. Dad was gone. On this Saturday Uncle Freddie drove John, Mac, David and me to Columbus to attend sister, Shirley and Ralph’s wedding. Mom had spent the night with Ralph’s mother at her home. After all the festivities had ended, the bride and groom gone and many had left, Mom said, “Ruthie, I need to go get my things in the house.” I followed her in. The house was dark. She didn’t know where the light switches were but she said, my bag of things is just inside this room. She opened the door and I heard thump, thump, thump. I called “Mom, what happened?” She calmly said “Oh, Ruthie, I fell down the stairs.” I found the basement light switch and hightailed it outside to find Uncle Freddie. He got mom into the car and on the way home stopped at the nearest hospital which was Catholic. Mom was small, agile and a young 43-year-old. No broken bones. It was after midnight before mom was treated, but as the nurse-nun treated Mom’s face she asked “Now, what happened to you, dearie?”, assuming she’d been part of patients from ER from an earlier nightclub brawl. Mom wore a very purply, swollen, bruised face for several weeks. Mom never complained; she didn’t scold herself for not turning the light on, but I learned a lesson that still affects me to this day. Whenever I enter any room, I switch the light on. If I can’t find a switch, I don’t go in. That’s my current practice and I give my mother credit for my learned lesson on safety. When I enter the restroom at church and switch the light on, a person already in the other stall says, “Hi Ruth”.
Early in our marriage, conservative Jim questioned my lavish use of lights because I’d leave them on until my reason for going in is finished. He’d come in from meetings and find nearly every light on in the house. One night I realized that while I was gone, he had replaced all the 100-watt bulbs with 60 watts. We finally compromised and he approved of several in my area of reading or study. Which reminds me of another story while we were still newlyweds, I served a meal with a wedding tablecloth and candles. I was so excited about this romantic meal. He looked at it, kind of shook his head and said.” This won’t do. When I eat, I like to see what I’m eating.” That settled that. I learned that he wasn’t impressed with dim candlelight.
Now, to the unknown. How can we put a positive spin on the darkness of the pandemic changes today? I think the most doable and inexpensive ways to dilute darkness is to venture outdoors and enjoy nature. Intentionally look up in the sky, watch the clouds move around, enjoy the sunrise or sunset, notice the flowers in bloom, listen to the birds, enjoy the butterflies and watch the scampering of squirrels in chase. if you live close to farm animals, check out the pigs snorting around, observe the cows grazing and the beauty of horses as they trot. Rabbits are fun to feed and watch. Chickens, geese and ducks are amazing entertainment. If you have a puppy, take him/her for an extra walk. Play with your cat. Take a different walk in wooded area or around a lake. Some cannot comfortably walk or bike so you may need to sit in a lawn chair. Make it a priority. Take a drive or catch a ride for a trip through God’s glorious country-side to see a creek, lake, mountains, growing crops or visit a park. Look up at the stars and moon. I promise you will be refreshed by this assignment.
Another hint for dispelling the pandemic darkness is to replace nonexistent class-time with something you like to do whether it’s crafts, painting, refinishing furniture, rearranging a room, cooking a new dish, making candy, baking cookies, or learning to make bread. Some people are using the extra time on their hands to perfect their computer knowledge. One friend even broke down and purchased her first computer.
Two more suggestions: call a shut-in or one having to be isolated and while you cheer them, they’ll cheer you as well. Now, go to work and be thankful for your responsibilities, privileges and friendships. The last one is to pull out an old book and enjoy rereading it. Think about pleasant things. Be reminded that how we think becomes who we are. This old adage helps me, “it’s not the situation you’re in but the attitude you take”. Do the best you can to survive.
I found comparing darkness and light so fascinating that I couldn’t go to sleep right away one night. I cannot write about light without sharing how Jim installed outdoor lights for volley ball, and over the ping-pong table, in his work area in the garage, he has lights all over the place depending on what job he was engaged in. Now that Jim’s gone, I appreciate even more his sensitivity to providing for my need to have lamps in every room along with flashlights galore. But he also put many receptacles in all over the house so no matter what I need to plug in, there’s an outlet. Jim focused on taking care of everyone’s needs. Every child and grandchild has their own flash light from Jim. Light and flashlights are pleasant and evident reminders of Jim who was the epitome of light. He preached from John 8 many times encouraging us to make good decisions.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (NIV)
A hymn from my childhood. The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin, The Light of the world is Jesus; Like sunshine at noon-day His glory shone in, the Light of the world is Jesus. No darkness have we who in Jesus abide, The Light of the world is Jesus. We walk in the Light when we follow our Guide, The Light of the world is Jesus. Chorus: Come to the light, ‘tis shining for thee; Sweetly the Light has dawned upon me. Once I was blind, but now I can see; The Light of the world is Jesus. (P.P Bliss)
Thank you, dear Lord for being the Light of the World and for the beauty of nature and all the awesome splendor of your creation which quietly transforms our despair into confidence and trust.