It is easy to feel sorry for oneself in the dark hours of the night. You can feel very isolated and alone, when it seems that the whole world is sleeping around you, and you are the only one awake, suffering. This is not true, of course, but the other wakeful, suffering ones are isolated in the quiet darkness as well. And, of course, there is an entirely different world that is still alive at night – the world of hotel night auditors and gas station attendants and clerks at convenience stores, the world of police officers and fire fighters and nurses, the world of ambulance drivers and emergency room doctors and yes, even prostitutes and barflies. The landscape is different late at night, when the 9-to-5 “respectable” folk are all in bed, just as the landscape of the mind and heart are different for one of those nine-to-fivers who fights off (or perhaps, indulges in) a wallow during the wee hours.
Yesterday, I was talking casually with a coworker about the last few days. It was just matter-of-fact. Yeah, I’m having a lot of pain. Yeah, last night I got to sleep at about 2am, and woke at 6. Yeah, this morning’s been kind of rough. And she shook her head at me and said, “I don’t know how you do it!” I just shrugged, with a wry expression, and said, “Well, I just do.” Like it or not, this is my current reality. I could indulge in that wallow and refuse to get out of bed, but there would be a cost to that – I might lose my job, my house, the respect of those I love, heck the respect of myself! – and I’m not willing to pay that cost. There is too much goodness and joy and light in the world to just give up on, even when the dark of the night intrudes on that light, even when the pain makes the edges of my vision turn to black, even when I wake at 3am knowing I haven’t gotten anywhere near enough sleep and that I’m not going to get any more before my 6:00 alarm.
Last night, I tucked in my daughter twice. It’s kind of a game. We both read for a while before we turn out our lights and go to sleep. So I’ll tuck her in when we both go to bed to read. And then when she’s ready for lights-out, she comes to request her re-tuck. I sigh dramatically, and dramatically heave myself from the bed and trudge to her room. Usually I find that, with a giggle, she’s already turned out her light. You see, with her light turned out, I can’t see her, so I don’t know where to find her in her bed to kiss her good-night. But we have to go about these things methodically, so I start at the foot of the bed, and bid a fond good-night to the first body part I find. I hug her feet (hee – was about to say little feet, but they’re bigger than mine now!) and say good night to them and kiss the toes through the covers and tickle the soles. She wiggles and laughs as I say, “That’s not where you are!” So I move up to her knees to give them a fond good-night, with kisses and tickles through the covers. And then I bury my face in her belly and turn my head back and forth to make her laugh. Finally, I kiss her cheek and her forehead as she snakes her hands around my neck and with happy laughs says, “Good night, Momma!” She is my ladybug, my sweetpea, my treasure. And I am thrilled that even though she’s thirteen (and a half!), she still adores this little game.
My kitty grows disgusted with me when I turn my bedroom light back on at 2 or 3 in the morning. Usually I read for a half-hour or so, to settle jangled thoughts and emotions so that I can rest some more. But in the morning – after breakfast, of course – I get dramatic yawns and stretches, from the kitty who now requires an extra nap in her grueling schedule of naps, trips to the water dish, sleeping, stretches, and then taking a slumber. But when I go to bed at night, she follows me, and she curls up next to me so that I can pet her while I read my book, and then rest my hand on her soft fur as I pray Compline in the dark silence before sleep claims me.
So there is much to be thankful for, even in the dark of the night, when sane people are asleep. I have two amazing children and two amazing cats and a crazy, funny bird. I have an incredibly loving and supportive fiancé, and parents who take care of me but not in ways that intrude on my needs for privacy and solitude and (pseudo-) independence. I have a great job with a company that gives me the flexibility to work the way I need to, and I am in the care of wonderful doctors. My home is surrounded with green trees and shrubs, home to cardinals and brown thrashers and robins and mourning doves, playground of squirrels who delight me with their climbing and jumping and scampering, quiet abode of bunnies who come out in the evening to graze placidly on my lawn.
Life is good, even in the midst of teh suck. God is good, even though I sometimes call God terrible names. But you know what? If any being in the entire universe can handle being called a terrible name, that would be God. And I think God far prefers the most authentic, honest prayers of our hearts to any pious words that we shape with our lips and throats but do not feel in our hearts or mean with our thoughts and intentions. And in the dark of the night, in the smothering quiet, in the stillness and isolation – there is light, and there is hope, and there is gratitude.