I rolled over at 12:30 this morning and my mind drifted back into consciousness. My back was aching, something familiar at night, and I reached down to shift the pillow between my knees while rolling over, then smoothed the sheets and blankets over me to keep them from being crumpled in the morning. My eyes blinked open briefly, sensing something heavy out there in the dark, but not out there at all, but within instead. Having heard me move, the small, fluffy dog who sleeps at the foot of our bed jumped up and laid next to me, wanting my warmth, and I nestled my fingers into his fur as he collapsed against me. Mike, the man I love, lay behind me, the movement of his breath familiar to me, comfortable, safe.
12:32. I knew automatically I wouldn’t be going back to sleep. I know my insomnia patterns well. Someone had jiggled the mouse on my brain computer and the screen saver was already off. I get like this when there is something weighing at me, something under the surface that needs to be expressed. Some worry, some fear, some anger, some sadness, something that needs to be released, that refuses to contain itself any longer.
I thought of my son. I have two, and they are both always on my mind, but this time I thought of my oldest. He’s thirteen and a half and he’s asking hard questions. He has one foot in childhood and one in adulthood and it’s almost as if he is unsure where he can step. He knows he is loved and safe at home, but I have no influence on the rest of the world. If he is struggling in math, I can hire a tutor. If he is sad, I can comfort him. But I’m not with him out there in the world day by day, hour by hour, as he forms relationships with peers, as he struggles to find his place in a culture he doesn’t understand, as he wonders where he comes from and what he is working toward. I want to protect him from all of that, but I can’t. More than that, I shouldn’t, because if I keep him too sheltered, how will he ever grow. They don’t tell you about this part of parenting, or if they do, we don’t know how to listen. Who is he going to become? Who will he be? Will he find love, and will he love himself? And will I be around to see it? I sigh deeply. Of course I’ll be around. But what if I’m not? I have worked so hard to create this life, this home, out of the shattered and confusing pieces that make up my past, and I want to be around to enjoy it, but nothing is guaranteed. Nothing can be. We are all temporary.
12:33. I adjust my hips. My back still aches. And there is a now familiar throb behind my navel. The tissue or cartilage or whatever is back there feels hard and thick. For years, I had a small hernia protruding ever so slightly behind my navel, but a few months ago, it started to get worse. I was supposed to get married to this man in my bed just two weeks ago, but a global pandemic and insane numbers of positive Covid cases made us reconsider and reschedule the wedding for later in the year. So since I had the week off of work already, I scheduled a hernia surgery. I had a consultation with the surgeon just a few weeks before, a man I had never met. He was warm and friendly and immediately put me at ease. We made small talk about his wife and three small children, and about my partner and two sons. He discussed his work as a transplant specialist, and the hard work he had put in to do this work that now literally saves lives. I commended him and told him about my work as a trauma therapist, and he commended me. He discussed his love of Utah and the outdoors. He walked me through the surgical procedure. A week later, two weeks ago from the time I write this, I showed up at the hospital and this kind and skilled man repaired my hernia. The healing process has been more intense, in ways, than I expected, and when I called to speak to this man, he gave me kind and warm advice. One week ago, I went back in for my consultation. He looked at the surgical scar healing and told me I was right on track. He remembered me. He asked about my children, my podcast. We scheduled a follow-up appointment and he shook my hand and told me to call if I needed anything. And then the next morning, he died. He went skiing with his wife, according to the news story, and he, quite literally, fell off a cliff. He died. I still have my stitches.
12:35. This shouldn’t feel new to me. It’s the way of things. Just yesterday, I saw the remnants of a terrible car accident as I drove by. I do trauma work for a living, and the stories of people I’ve helped after traumas begin flickering through my brain on a speed reel. The woman whose parachute didn’t open. The child ran over by the lawnmower. The man who took a canoe to work one day and drowned. The woman in the grocery store who was raising her grandchildren until a man walked into the store with a gun one day. The man who shot himself while driving down the freeway. How do I carry all this down in there? Where does it go? How do I store it?
12:37. Yesterday, I saw a meme. On the top, it discussed an oil spill from the news. At the bottom, a sarcastic comment reminded people to not drink from plastic straws. It was a commentary on how we can make little decisions and hope for a wider impact, but the billionaires and the corruptions and the sins of our ancestors and the corporations out there undo it all, every good decision being made, and they wipe it all out with one oil spill.
12:38. In seven separate therapy sessions this week, clients discussed an old Mormon man in the leadership of the Mormon church who, in a public video, made light of deep impactful issues related to race and gender. I watched his words. This man basically commanded those listening to stop questioning god and the Mormon church. He told them to just hold fast and find reasons to stay because leaving would be catastrophic. I wasted so many goddamn fucking years in the middle of that, denying my own happiness to hold on desperately to what now is so clear to me as brainwashing and indoctrination. But every day I see people who still wrestle with this. I get to help them, but it feels like the straw against the oil spill sometimes. My heart starts to beat at a quicker tempo and the dog stretches against me and licks my chin.
12:40. I have a stack of books on my desk downstairs, and I need to tackle them all. One is a book of art for an artist this weekend that I’m interviewing on my podcast. Another is a comic book that I need to review before the same recording. I have pages of notes on both. I’m working hard at this podcasting thing, and it’s wonderful, but I don’t know where it’s going or if it is ever going to become what I want it to be. Two more books are on the lives of David Ben-Gurion and Menachim Begin, two men who were instrumental in the formation of Israel. These two men were one writer’s templates for the characters Professor X and Magneto, the fictional characters whose competing philosophies are the framework for the entire X-Men franchise. This podcast is helping me think of this beloved franchise differently. It’s like a popular television show that has been running for two hundred seasons, and I find researching it to be challenging and nerdy and fulfilling and fun, but oh my god I have so much to do.
12:42. My best friend’s grandmother died this last week, and I know he’s hurting. I have another close friend that I haven’t spoken to in a year because his instability was bad for me. Another close friend is taking a big risk on himself and I’m so damn proud of him. Oh my god I’m so tired. The dog rolls on to his back and I scratch his tummy gently. My mom and I are working on our relationship and it’s challenging. My step-father is getting cancer treatments. I have three siblings I speak to infrequently, and two that I haven’t spoken to in years but fuck I don’t want to think about that right now. I need to sleep! My heart picks up faster. If I don’t sleep now, I’m going to be up for hours. I have to see clients in the morning. I’ll be operating at three hours sleep and will have been up all night.
12:44. I’m hungry. My stomach rumbles and I think of all the times I’ve sat down to come up with nutrition and exercise plans in the last ten years but I never quite get there. I think of the time I saw a friend at the gym a few years ago, and he asked how I was doing, and I told him I had just finished making a documentary and I was so proud of it and I worked so hard on it, and he gave me a once-over with his eyes in response and said ‘now if you could just work that hard on your body instead’ and then he laughed it off, and I thought ‘fuck you, man’. And the memory of that gives me the same thought. ‘Fuck you, man.’ My partner is so perfectly trim and fit and I want that but maybe I just don’t have what it takes to achieve that. Or maybe that’s just another excuse. Fuck you, man.
12:45. Maybe I could lay on the couch and turn on something mindless. Maybe the sound of David Attenborough’s voice could put me back to sleep. Maybe soft music could do it. Or a podcast. That could work. Maybe I should just get up. I could do the dishes the laundry clean out the fridge sweep the fucking garage. I could read. I could type. I could jump on the exercise bike. I could do my taxes. Why am I laying here, what’s wrong with me, if I can’t sleep I might as well be productive. Fuck you, man.
12:47. The dog jumps down to the floor and I know he’ll expect to go outside now. He knows I’m awake. And as soon as I stand up, my body will match my brain and there will be no more rest tonight. I’ve got too much inside me. My kids, my heart, my future, the doctor died, that racist prick at the Mormon pulpit, Menachim Begin and Magneto, another fitness plan to write and not stick to, taxes, conversations I need to have but never will, that ugly thing that guy said to me that one time.
12:48. I get up. I need to write. Maybe writing will address both the straw and the oil spill, at least for now. At least until I try skiing one morning.