I woke up at 3am this morning. I’ve been trying a new thing where I wake up stupid early to read and write and just have at least an hour to collect myself. So I knew my alarm was set for 5am and I needed to go right back to sleep. But I also knew—I just had that sense—that I wasn’t going to go back to sleep anytime soon. It often happens when something is bugging me, or worrying me. So I tried to read my 1920’s detective novel…sometimes that works to get my brain relaxed enough to sleep within a few minutes. Not this time. Then I tried the usual lie-there-and-try-to-ignore-all-the-thoughts-pressing-in-and-get-all-anxious-about-how-tired-I-will-be-the-next-day routine….Nope, that didn’t work either. So at 420am I got up and decided to just call it a morning and go downstairs to my books and journal. But first I checked on the kids to tuck them in and shut their doors so hopefully they stay asleep just that bit longer.
I went in to my 6 year olds room and saw that she wasn’t in her bed and then realized she was standing at her bookshelf. Scared the bejeebers out of me. And her. After we calmed down she said she had had a nightmare and then realized that a book was off her shelf so she was putting it back (she is obsessive about her room). We lay down and talked.
Usually when this happens, when she wakes up in the middle of the night and needs us to talk her through her dream, I’m in a dead sleep and quite reluctant to want to talk about anything. I can be grumpy. Which I am sure does nothing for her sense of well being in the middle of the night. But tonight, I was already quite alert so when she asked if we could talk, I said yes.
I asked her what she dreamed about and she said she couldn’t explain it. So then I asked how she felt about grade 1 starting next week. She was quiet for awhile and then said, “It’s really hard to explain.” I said I was awake so she could just try if she wanted to but she didn’t have to.
She said, “Well, its like sometimes my brain says, “You can do this! You can do this grade 1! “ And then sometimes it changes and says, “You can’t do this—it will be too hard and you might be getting meaner.” And then it goes back to “You can DO this! You can do this!” And then just back and forth, back and forth “
I was quiet for a minute, then said, “Well, that is exactly what every human brain does every day. Its very normal. Especially when you are about to do something new. “
She talked a bit more about how we have different parts of ourselves that sometimes say opposite things to us with her weird knack of knowing stuff about herself that is sometimes quite beyond her years. (She also has a knack for great and loud consternation about slightly dried out food and reverting to great and loud “tiger-mode” when she doesn’t get her way. So…you know….)
Then I was struck by what was transpiring that night. I couldn’t sleep myself because I was stewing over terrifying things I read on the internet. I have been getting so overwhelmed by fear lately—fear of getting sick, fear of violence, fear of kidnapping, fear of war, fear of the tremendous anger and meanness everybody seems to have, fear of what watching tv does to our brains, fear of our environment turning against us (I just watched Interstellar with its no food/dust storms/earth dying themes so this crazy smoke we’ve been having this week was striking me as particularly apocalyptic), fear of the entire internet being hacked and the whole world falling apart……seriously, my brain is not a safe place right now. I try to tell myself that there is good and love and redeeming things in the world but then my other self tells me that it is scary out there. And back and forth, back and forth.
As I was talking with my child, I was struck by how we were both up in the middle of the night, thinking about scary things and kind of stuck in the middle place between all the voices. And the words, “There is no fear in love,” and “Perfect love casts out fear,” came to into my head. I lay there and thought, “The only thing we can do, in the midst of ALL this stuff and ALL the voices, is to love each other.” To build each other up, encourage each other, to share and provide and lend ourselves to each other, to see good in each other. Getting out of my head and interacting with love, with real people. It seems a very small offering in the midst of the tidal wave of awfulness. But, God? Seriously, what else is there. The pulse that lies underneath this world, connecting it, is also the low voice that loves it. That calls us, and heals us, in often overlooked and always unsuspecting ways. And always in ways that are real, with real people.
I was about to share this quite profound insight with my kid( too bad you can’t see my sarcastic face here), not totally consciously thinking “wow, this is great—maybe she’ll get this concept and then she’ll take it with her—this could change us! Wow, cool, great!” when she said to me, “Mom, I have a joke. “
“What part of the body is in charge of the whole body? The HEAD-quarters!! Hahahahhahaha…..” I laughed. I love weird kid jokes. Then she wanted me to tell one and the only one I could think of was “Why was the 6 afraid of the 7? Because the 7 ate 9!” And she laughed and said, “ Ok I got one…..Why was the 4 afraid of the 6? Because the 6 ate the 2!!! Hahahahahaha!!!!”
She went on with that theme for awhile, I guess not entirely getting my joke 😉 But then she said, “ Oh that was great mom. I feel way better. I should always tell jokes when I’m afraid. “ And then she rolled over, gripping my arm and fell asleep.
Each of us learned something this morning.
Me-that love helps, and her, that laughing helps. When I came across this little kid in the middle of the night, got out of my head and showed a bit of love, I was lifted back into the space of normal. And she laughed and released that tension of fear that’s been gripping her in the recesses of her brain the last few days.
I was glad for this bit of grace, this weird middle of the night encounter. So normal—Grade 1, nightmares, yawns, jokes, sleeping while holding hands. But it was a big moment in a way too.
And so now I get to start the day—with that tired-eye, already-coffeed-out feeling. And maybe with a bit of apprehension about how much an idea can change me. I’m reminded of what I wrote in my last post about how ideas don’t change people but actual love might. So I guess I’ll wait for everybody else to wake up, and just be with them, see that bit of love that happens in this house from time to time, and maybe that will be enough for today.
And then I’m going to look up some knock-knock jokes.
And then I’ll take a nap.