Awake in the Night

December 21, 2020

Once again, as more times lately than I like to remember, I am awake in the small hours of the morning. Tired, yet awake. The first blush of sleep wore itself out and seems unwilling to return. I once was a champion sleeper:  fell out in seconds, and slept through to the alarm. Three fire engines could come to the neighborhood and I would sleep through it. When I had my baby, I feared I wouldn’t wake up to take care of him, but soon discovered that if he squeaked, I woke instantly to nurse and comfort him. The craziness that is the year 2020 has invaded my dreams. Last night, I dreamt that we went out to eat and had to take off our masks. Even in the dream-state, I knew this was deviant, something we should not be doing, even though the Al Pacino’s were just leaving and our drug money was contaminated. Enough anxiety? No, there’s still room for more. The economy is stalled, unemployment is high (including one of my sons), the pandemic is out of control, and the current occupant of the Oval Office is focused on threatening the foundations of democracy. What, me worry?

We are not “food insecure.” We do not face eviction. I own more clothes than I can wear, and the heat is on. I’m working from home, even though I am retired, filling the days with Zoom meetings for social justice actions and four exercise routines. The hospitals are filling with the sick and dying, and there’s a 9/11 toll of loss of human life every day. A young black man was shot and killed by a veteran U.S. Marshall looking for someone else, this crushing violence repeating and repeating. If it is always the darkest before dawn, I hope dawn comes soon. It looks like I might see another sunrise in a couple of hours. Maybe I can meditate or do some spiritual practice. Maybe I can find a way to hold up the world with my prayers. I’m older now than I have ever been. My beloved elders are departing this life, or preparing to; my mother just celebrated her 95th birthday in a locked-down nursing facility. “It’s a good life,” she said to me on a recent Facetime visit. I was glad she could say that, considering the circumstances. She knows there is a virus that keeps us apart, but not that it has invaded her building. I pray that the vaccine will reach her before the sickness does. When the time comes, I want to be there to hold her hand and witness her crossing to the great mystery beyond, as I have pledged to do in more stable times.

When we emerge from this nightmare, which those wiser than I assure us we will, somehow, everything will be different. The survivors will have known something not seen for 100 years: a vicious and raging worldwide disease that rocked the foundations of our assumptions of safety and predictability. We find a way to summon hope, hope that we can clean the oceans of floating plastic debris, that the forests can return, that we can hold each other as precious, that life will prevail on this fragile Earth. We must find ways to confront the greed and brutality that threatens to consume our future right before our very eyes, to gather together to sing songs of peace in the face of fear, and to uphold the cause of righteousness.  Even though I wish I could be sleeping, this night is a chance to dig deeper into my soul and find the truth of the mission that sent me to this life, to love better, to grow more, and to achieve the purpose kindled before time began. I pray for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.