it’s a no-win. the classic rock-and-a-hard-place. a lose-lose. a pickle. a crunch. a conundrum. a double-bind. a dilemma.
yup. there is no truly right response here for that man.
i have learned to preface things i talk about – for instance, “i just want to tell you this. i want to go on and on. i want to _________ (choose: rant/think/ponder/ruminate) aloud. please do not try to solve this. please just listen.”
but sometimes, yes, indeedy, sometimes i just talk. with no preface. and then, in the way of conversation, especially in the middle of the night pillow-talking, he talks after i talk. and – whammo! – that’s where he makes his mistake.
in the middle of the night – as i lie awake – i can hear the trains. not just the haunting whistles of freight chugging by or a late passenger railcar, but a train or two in the yard, idling. the sound hits me at just the wrong frequency – i am hyper aware of its rise and fall, the pulsing of it. once i hear it, i cannot un-hear it. it stays present and i stay awake.
nevertheless, the tracks hold sweet mystery and, each time i see a train, i wonder its destination, i wonder its journey, i wonder its freight or its passengers. i had not ever stood in the middle of a rural track, bent down – almost kneeling, photographing, until recent years. the track – a classic portrayal of perspective, narrowing further away.
i stood in the middle and looked both ways. south and then north. the south curved into the woods, the north was a straightaway. i turned back south.
in the right-now there seems no straight path, no tight focus, no horizon point that is clear. the tracks curve into the woods, beyond my sight, beyond my imagining. i meander. it makes me wonder.
we seek next and idle in our thoughts in the night, not-knowing. it’s liminal space, a diesel engine that needs to be kept warm for the next day, a time to be present on the tracks, bent down, looking for classic perspective. we are attendants.
i hear the haunting whistle in the wee hours and consider this journey.
we’re running out of room. the nightstands to the side of our bed are overly-laden.
if you take away the lamp, the clock, a few pictures and a jelly jar of pens and pencils, it barely leaves room for the water bottle, tissue box, readers, cellphone, flashlight, itty-bitty-booklight, backscratcher, pad-for-the-stuff-you-want-to-remember-but-know-you-will-forget-by-morning, ankle socks and – when we plan ahead – the midnight bananas. if we determine anything else is of absolute necessity inthemiddleofthenight we will have to purchase a new night-table. bigger.
i wonder if aarp has grown-up night-tables on discount.
it’s a recurring theme. and variations. sleep. no sleep. partial sleep. disturbed sleep. sleep with snoring. sleep sans snoring.
i don’t remember having this problem earlier in my life. it’s not like i wasn’t worrying about things then, so i don’t know what the difference is. other than menopause. and hormones. and…ummm…aging. a fun trilogy.
we try to have good conversation in the wee hours. we generally have a banana (somewhere we read that bananas are sleep-inducing plus they are easy snacks in the middle of the night.) if we are still starving, we have been known to get up and make pancakes. having mid-night pancakes always sounds better than actually making pancakes in the middle of the night – tired and a little ornery from not sleeping. but once they are made, it’s pretty dreamy to indulge in a few maple-syrup laden pancakes at 3am.
david doesn’t really have trouble sleeping. his troubles come from my trouble. he is a generous sleep-giver-upper on those nights, for which i am grateful. he mustn’t have the trilogy, the whole trilogy and nothing but the trilogy. plus, somehow or other, he places all angsting to the side when he lays his head down. he just goes to sleep.
marty was the first man i knew who was a breast cancer survivor. we also learned he was deathly allergic to shrimp – while we were all at joe’s crab shack devouring seafood. yiiikes. it feels like a zillion years ago, but it was a great community of folks – all who were dedicated to their craft and showing at large wholesale shows, lining up accounts with small and large shops across the country. it was before streaming was really The Thing and i was moving boxes and boxes and boxes – thousands – of cds with displays, all to be sold by real people in real places. the days were long – yamaha delivered in a piano and it was hours upon hours of playing, talking, writing purchase orders, selling cash and carry. in the evening we would all sometimes gather together somewhere, to share stories, to unwind. that one night, joe’s crab shack made us a little bit nervous. we traded seats around so marty wasn’t near any shrimp and wondered why we didn’t go to a steakhouse.
community makes a difference. in this latest lean time of community that is now particularly pronounced.
i watched as my dear big sister shared her breast cancer story on facebook. she is now, thankfully, on the other side, mostly healed from surgery and radiation, slogging slowly through a period of difficulty adjusting to a long-term hormone blocker. i know, without a doubt, that the people who sent her their love – even online – helped her. a community that rallies around is the village we all need, especially in desperate times.
heidi and i spent so very much time together. our mutual work was in the oncological field – performing at large and small cancer survivor and breast cancer awareness events. there are many posts in this blog about places we have been and i consider them to be moments i was honored to be a part of the supportive oncology community and a part of the story.
my grandmother-who-i-never-knew, my dad’s mom, died of metastatic breast cancer. my sweet momma had a double mastectomy at 93. my dad was a lung cancer survivor and my brother died because of lung cancer. this year my sister’s breast cancer diagnosis scared us.
in the middle of the night, when things are raw, i decided that a “sisu” bracelet was in order so i found an artist who designed and crafted it out of silver so that my sister could wear it and know i was with her, a part of her community, holding her close. i ordered one for me as well. because the middle of the night can be a scary time when you are thinking too much.
marty didn’t mention the whole shrimp-thing until we were already at joe’s. i guess he had decided to just go-with-it, to just live. he had already been through so much.
though i really wouldn’t change it – as i love my “sisu” bracelet – i wonder if it should just say “alive”.
this was last night. this was sunday night. this was monday night. this happens allthetime.
how is it that you can be yawning-up-a-storm, tired-tired-tired, yet, you go to bed, sink under those yummy covers and are wide awake? or…you wake up after the first sleep cycle and nothing – absolutely nothing – will let your mind rest.
random pieces of life pass by in ruminating-world: memories, questions, ponderings, worries, conversations. bits and snatches of life from waaay back, from yesterday, angsting about tomorrow or the next day.
i had a dear group of girlfriends who tried to meet up once a year (or as close to that as possible). we had lots of shared history and shared lots of the ups-and-downs of life from our little corners of the world – each of us with different paths and challenges. we all had nicknames. mine was “fretta”. i don’t have the opportunity to see them anymore but i’d say the nickname is generally still fitting. i do fret.
now, david, on the other hand, sleeps.
i’m not foolish enough to think he never frets, but when he lays his head on the pillow and pulls up the blankets? he is gone. i don’t know where all that ruminating stuff goes at night. i am guessing to where the wild things are.
me? i carry my wild things with me. we fret together.
and we had a conversation most of the night – the waning moon and i.
right outside my pillow window it invited me as it moved from one glass panel to the next to the next. it wasn’t full wolf anymore; its pull was less intense. but it was present and bright and we were both awake, the moon and i.
we talked about time and life and breakfast. we talked about children and moving and empty nests and career. we talked about friendships and family and my parents and loss. we talked about being 19 and being almost-63 and meaning. we talked about legacy and dust and snack-time and happy lights. we talked about winter and the fireplace and the bathroom faucet. we talked about this town and decades and northport harbor and beaches. we talked about dogdog and sleep-running and we talked about babycat and empty space on the quilt. we talked about the pandemic and quiet and distancing and confusing questions. we talked about filling in the moments between spending time with others. we talked about horses and donkeys and lakes and cantering-land. we talked about mountains and porches and houses-we-know-well and courage and change. we talked about pianos and blogs and cartoons and value. we talked about grey hairs and jowls and pounds and wrinkles. we talked about gluten and dairy and glasses of wine and achy mornings. we talked about hiking and dreams and the pacific crest trail. we talked about decisions and successes and regrets and things-that-won’t-ever-make-sense. we talked about people and betrayal and forgiveness and remorse and sadness. we talked about plans and intentions and indecision. we talked about how laughter feels. we talked about gratitude and random texts and the littlest things.
and, again, we talked about time and life and breakfast.
and then we both slipped off into sleep…me – into my pillow, and the moon – sliding past the last windowpane.
we can see the shadows getting longer. earlier in the day, the sun is lower in the sky and fall is on the rise. the wistful-autumn-thing is starting. picking apples and going to the pumpkin farm are on our list-of-things-to-do and i’m pulling out soup recipes, planning ahead. i’m hoping the cherry tomato plants will sustain longer. and the valentino basil has rejuvenated; dinner last night was red pesto pasta – thanks to this very plant. we need to order some wood and i’m keeping my eye out for the perfect mums. and socks made a cameo appearance the other day. blue jeans and boots, the stuff of happiness, are itching their way back into our world, having been buried under summer and no-airconditioning wear. i love fall. and nothing stops the melancholy.
we didn’t sleep again. i’m writing this on wednesday, so last night – tuesday night – was a long wakefulness with a smidge of dozing around 6am. i was aware that i was feeling anxious, worried. no amount of tossing and turning helped. once you are traveling down that road, there are no u-turns. i watched the shadows change in the room, listened to the rain, rearranged my pillows a time or a hundred times. insomnia is a resolute challenger. and, in the middle of the night, every question you have ever perseverated over, ever pondered, that has ever even remotely teased you for an answer is present and accounted for, lined up, waiting for answers or action plans. meanwhile, any even breathing of your spouse, and even the dog, wreak havoc with your impulse control.
the coffee this morning tasted especially good. the day is grey, though the sun is supposed to appear this afternoon. i wrote in my calendar, as i do each day, and was, once again, flabbergasted that it’s just shy of the end of september. equinox as i write and tomorrow we fall deeper into fall. equal parts of darkness and light on this day. that might explain my lack of sleep – equal parts of dark and light – the chiaroscuro of the wee hours – when we would rather languish in light, literally and metaphorically.
a year ago today my daughter facetimed me from the top of a 14’er. it was a scramble to the top, rocky and treacherous. and then, there she was. 14,000 feet up, in the sun, sunlight bathing her radiant face. she panned the camera around so i could see the vastness of it all. mountains and canyon and brilliant uninterrupted light and deep shadow. an equinox perhaps by calendar, but overtaken in any soul-sense by the gleaming luminescence of arriving at the summit.
we each have our own personal night-shadows, building blocks of angst and anxiety, dark caverns filled with life events and life decisions and being wronged and wronging. morning usually helps. it’s when what is real-now shows itself in three-dimension and that which is shadow fades just a bit. the existential questions of the night shrink ever-so-slightly. we look at our to-do lists and pencil in time to take a walk, to hike, to feel the sun on our faces.
we know – despite the neverending pondering of the night – that the questions matter less than the moments. we have learned it time and again – watching the cycle of life, sand running through our fingers, holding mica in our hands. we will, undoubtedly, learn it again.
we know we can make it to the top of each mountain. the equal or unequal division of darkness and light will not stop us. and neither will the shadows. each step counts. we put our faces to the sun and get on with it.
normally i would shudder at this sort of sentiment. the “above ground” part is so … grim. yet, as we were walking down by the marina, on the 20th anniversary of the horror of september 11, it got my attention and i went back to photograph the back of the pickup truck.
like many of you, we immersed in shows and conversation about 9/11 this weekend. interviews and video and photographs, all visceral remembrances of a day when everything stopped.
so walking along the lake on saturday we were well aware of the anniversary, revisiting where we were at each moment of impact that day, each moment of devastation. we felt inordinately fortunate to be taking a leisurely walk on a warm and sunny afternoon, twenty years older than we had been.
cnn offered a special on saturday evening and spoke to “tuesday children” – adults who, as children, had lost family members that day twenty years ago. “shine a light” also featured two men – david paine and jay winuk who began 911day.org, a non-profit whose “ongoing mission is to transform the annual remembrance of 9/11 into a worldwide day of unity and doing good, and to encourage millions of people to remember and pay tribute each 9/11 through good deeds that help others and rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.”
goodness in real life. instead of that day continuing to be about evil, they set out to redefine the day into acts of doing good deeds in the entire spectrum of good-deed-doing. it has since become the largest day of service in the united states with over thirty million people participating annually.
i couldn’t sleep last night. something woke me up and then my brain does that thing it does in the middle of the night, jumping around, topic to topic, no apparent thread of connection, just one concern after another. my restlessness woke david and we sat talking in the middle of night.
we had both been moved -yet again – by the footage of this tragic day in the history of our country and we had both been moved – yet again – by being reminded of the acts of kindness and heroism that were so much a part of this day and the days after.
yet last night, as i lay there, the breeze coming in the window, we spoke about how our country – so united in those days – has regressed, no – has twisted – in more recent days. why have we not all come together in the same heroic spirit of 2001? why have we not all embraced whatever it takes to save each other’s lives? why, when 2,996 people were too many people, aren’t over 660,000 too many?
we are lucky to be above ground. yes. everyday above ground is a blessing. yes.
do we need – in our above-ground-state- to be reminded to push back against evil – global terrorism, global tyrannical leadership, a deadly raging global pandemic – to practice goodness?
“he who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. he who accepts evil without protecting against it is really cooperating with it.” (martin luther king, jr.)
“apathy and evil. the two work hand in hand. they are the same, really…. evil wills it. apathy allows it. evil hates the innocent and the defenseless most of all. apathy doesn’t care as long as it’s not personally inconvenienced.” (jake thoene)
hannah arendt’s words, “evil thrives on apathy and cannot survive without it.”
apathy (noun): lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
“the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” (elie wiesel)
and what is beyond indifference, what are the intentional misdeeds committed by people who are living in community with each other?
how much light might be shined by simply wearing a mask or being vaccinated?
might it be possible to “rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy”? to love one another?
we are each other’s best rant-stoppers. sometimes we can stop it at the gate and sometimes we can just sort of sway the after-effects at the other end of the crescendo. either way, we have found that we are pretty well equipped – specifically balancing for each other – to offer consolation or lighthearted redirection or nudges of positivity or reminders to not get stuck in a maelstrom of yuck. if none of that works, then a midnight bowl of cereal might do the trick.
in the moment it may not be so funny, but, sometimes, looking back on a venting-rant and, always, promises to never-rant-again are pretty doggone hilarious.