Why is it so hard to sleep? I have a busy day tomorrow. I have to be at my absolute best as I reach out across the pandemic void to try and connect and be enthusiastic and keep conversations going and not allow myself or anyone else I am (virtually) with to flag but remain focussed and interested as we consider weighty debates and important aspects of learning that will likely have a direct impact on the people in my classroom and their futures. A day full of total and absolute responsibility you would say and this is the moment at which my body refuses to slow down and let me take a break. That’s why I’m writing this post now, in the early morning, downstairs in a silent house, hoping that each time I press down on the keys on the laptop that I don’t wake anyone else. The house is quiet, resting before we all fill it again with sound and heat and feet on its stairs. I imagine that this is the time that the house looks forward to the most, when everyone has gone to bed and it can return to its still repose. As I type I can picture the house feeling itself settling for the night, longing for the few hours it gets before everything starts again and its role as the house is no more defined by its desire but by ours. I feel like I should apologise to the house for getting in the way of its rest, and reassure it that this isn’t something I have chosen to do to spite it. Far from it. I would much rather be drifting somewhere outside of my day thoughts and feelings, somewhere slower and darker and much much safer but I can’t. I am here. I am writing. I love writing. It is all I love. But I wish I wasn’t writing now. I wish I was asleep. I need to be asleep. Instead, my mind was churned and racing and things I have only just started thinking about combined with things I have always thought about and the merging of the two, along with all the other fractured thoughts that come to me when I don’t want them to and make me think just far too hard and far too long. I fret about my teeth. It feels like they are falling out and will crowd my mouth with their broken bits, choking me awake some day, one day. I think of people I used to love, really love. I mull the circumstances that have led to me no longer loving them. I replay my many times with them, the times when I thought I would simply just die of love and lust and plain and simple passion, and those other times when grief and loss puckered my mouth as my snot fell free, issuing forth and down onto my already drenched sleeve. I think about all the hurt I have ever felt in my life, some deserved, some most definitely not. I think about all the hurt I have ever caused, some, I hope, wrongly, rightly, deserved, most, for the largest part, most definitely not. I think about bright says and dark times, all the slights and fights and times when the words I wanted to shout couldn’t form and I walked away instead, not only not happy about the circumstances of the upset but also because the words I hoped would help protect me simply weren’t forthcoming. But I can think of them now and if only it were possible to travel back to each and every situation where I had needed them, I would now deliver them with all the wit and power and gusto that my (foolish) words so desperately deserved and then, with all those wrongs now right, I could put them out of my head once and for all. But I can’t so I can’t and instead of resolution these same situations now return to haunt my open eyes and simply billow back and forth in my already bulging head.
I’m beginning to think that I’m not the only one privy to the cosmic truth that tomorrow is going to look an awful to like today. Or yesterday. Next week. Or even some time soon. That’s an awful amount of heavy lifting for one truth but it is a weighty one, after all – most cosmic truths are, I suppose. Not for them the common or garden stuff, the basic, the mundane, the everydayness – not at all, cosmic truths like this one demand asteroids and night time pyrotechnics, bright lights and the fear of cataclysm or alien invasion, whichever comes first. Or perhaps they might arrive together, two parting gifts to a sceptical world who learn the ultimate truth just at the final moments of their existence. Either way, or, indeed, in all ways, depending upon which way you look at it, the cosmic nature of tomorrow’s being similar and/or identical to today, as thoughts go, is really a planet to gaze lovingly upon. Most of my day is spent thinking smaller thoughts like what should I wear and where should I wear it. Admittedly, this thought, in itself, has more than a whiff of the repetitious about it, but we’ll overlook the scale of this question for the magnitude of the other, even though both stem from the same source of discontent.
But surely if I know something today about how tomorrow will be then somehow I am privy to a further cosmic truth and might be able to somehow foretell, forecast, and predict the future and such an act of divination has to be appealing. Hasn’t this been the dream since forever ago? The one thing that humans have always craved and coveted, the availability of knowledge ahead of its determined revelation? And if this is so, and there’s no reason why its shouldn’t be, then why can I not get excited about my new-found divination? I suppose the answer is because as much as I am thrilled to be able to predict the future, the predicting of this same future simply indicates that my knowledge of what is about to happen is pretty much the same as my knowledge of what is happening now.
And what kind of knowledge is that?
Really? After all these years? All this time doing the same things and I’ve learned nothing? Nothing? You’re kidding? You’re not. So all those things I thought and felt and hoped and dreamed, all those things are fragments now? Scatterings of matterings? Only they don’t matter now. Nothing seems to. But how does that work? If nothing matters now why do I still care? Care deeply? So deeply that caring is everything? How can all this be? I just don’t understand. I do completely feel that all those things I hoped would happen have not. But then many of the things I never knew would have take place, occurring unexpectedly; not figuring in my reckoning. Most importantly, I never thought that I would be a father. I couldn’t foresee a time when I would be a parent. It always seemed so far away, distant, reserved for other people. Many of my friends had children when they were younger and so I figured that as I got older I would be a great uncle, perhaps, a nice neighbour, but I never imagined I would ever be lucky enough to feel the keen joyous burn of parenthood. Never. I just couldn’t see it. But she is here anyway. And though we may sometimes fight and snarl and circle each other as her desire to be herself and be with herself collides with my daily difficulty with this desire of hers, I always know deep down inside that I can catch her eye and smiled as she nods and when she does the swirl of the universe raises me up and reminds me that our bond is simply beyond comprehension. Far beyond and then further still. Utterly immeasurable. It as if everything I ever knew before I knew her has now been altered slightly so though things may appear to be the same as before they are not, and never will be again. And this kind of knowing that I don’t know is one that I cherish in a way that causes me to struggle to find the true words to express myself. But it is worth the effort to try and at least remind myself, and her, just how powerful this whole thing is, like swallowing the brightest star in the sky and feeling it glow beside my heart, spreading light and warmth and hope and more love with every beat.
On those dark, dank days when every dream I ever had feels long gone and lost, down the drain, stretched over the time of my life and now rendered useless, like a spring oversprung. When every wish I ever made feels mocking now, as if when I breathed the words into the candle’s flame the gentle rocking of the flame was not my breathing but actually the candle mocking me. ‘Oh really? You want this? That? Them? Really?’ Had I known this earlier in my life my birthdays would have far simpler. There would have been no hope and no excitement. Just a day like any other. Because that’s what happens when we dream, we set up certain days as important, we flag them, marking them in our head as the moment when something starts. This day will be, I say to myself, the first day in that new direction my wish has revealed to me, the new path I will take, following each day dutifully while I wait for my wish to come true. And so I trudge accordingly, not sure where I’m going but hoping that my wish will be there waiting for me when I finally arrive, no matter how long it takes. But it always takes too long. Far too long, as long as it would take to measure the circumference of the earth with the scoop of a teaspoon. Impossible. Immeasurable. Imagine trying such a Sisyphean task; it would be the stuff of legends.
There’s a lot of energy in these words. They are highly animated. They fizz and form a chain of punctuated momentum and so the question is, what do I do with this energy? As I write today I don’t know. When I write tomorrow I won’t know. But its alright not to always know these things. They are, after all, the molecules which fuse to form our future.
When questions circle and hide their intent through subterfuge and complication, as they often do, like people, lives, events, lifetimes, and consequences, how can we really tell when one question ends and another begins? Punctuation helps, it always does. It tells us when to breathe and such instructions are crucial to our survival. So punctuation is survival, then? It has to be, otherwise these sentences would run together off the bottom fo the screen and keep flowing forth and as they do they’ll draw the very life from us because the simple matter will be that we won’t know when to take a breath and normally when we don’t know about something as mechanical as drawing breath is likely to be just before we draw our last.
Breathe. In. Out. One more. And again.
And as before, we type anew and more words form and paragraphs multiply like raindrops in the puddle that is my laptop screen and sometimes when they do we know that they need taming and shaping, putting into place, and we hope that punctuation can help achieve this aim but when a raindrop hits a puddle it doesn’t sit separate and wait for permission, it simply merges, becoming part of the whole. And we all hope when we write that are words fall like raindrops and fill puddles and overflow their edges and then spread further like a tiny rivulet that swells in turns and starts to race just that little bit faster until more water forms and the tiny becomes the larger and then the larger still and the words that are our raindrops reach enough people to soak them with their wisdom and nourishment. But some raindrops don’t reach puddles to form streams and gurgle like torrents, some raindrops die trapped on greedy leaves. And that is not where you want your words to fall, drying in the sun and evaporating without trace.
I want my words to make an ocean.
They always will. They always do. People always let you down. And when they do you won’t be surprised because you’ve been let down before and you will be let down again. And again. And again. Sometimes, it will be an enormous letdown, when someone you love doesn’t love you any more. Or never did. When they reveal that everything you thought was right was actually, totally, spectacularly wrong. So wrong that the word loses all meaning in its enormity, like a planet blocking out the light. And when that happens, and it will, or already has, or will happen again, there is no shelter or shade from the blast of this searing heat, all stripped down bone-bare and beyond.
It might also be the smallest of letdowns, something minor, minuscule even, inconsequential to most, unimportant, in their eyes anymore, but the importance, minor or otherwise, becomes magnified in our minds due to the fact of our disappointment and whilst it might be something as mundane as someone running late, or not calling back when they said they would, or a million other small actualities that result in the facts of our lives being constantly more complicated than we first imagined, it becomes less mundane and much more magnified in our worried minds.
But then the letdowns accumulate. Like trains running late, each letdown has a knock-on effect, altering the timetable of our life and impacting on every rail and at every junction. Not to mention that feeling of not getting to where you want to be, to be delayed, held back, to be caught in someone else’s time, not your own. Someone else’s. Always someone else’s. And the feeling of being on someone else’s time is not a good feeling, always waiting because with waiting comes hoping and with hoping comes disappointment.
Disappointment. The crush of knowing that the thing you thought would happen is also the thing you knew would never happen, but you thought it might anyway; just once, just one time. Disappointment is a weighty reason not to look to other people, a reason that endlessly justifies the decision you made the last time someone let you down – this, this is the time that I will not let someone, anyone, let me down again. Not ever. Not now. Not again. But again is a hard word to avoid and so the next time we make such a declaration, for the same reason, with the same words, their meaning loses some sheen through being said over and over. But not again. These five letters loom large, a monument to the automatic repetition that is my default position.
Am I allowed to want something? Someone? Am I allowed to want so hard that every other thought that fills my head is warped by this want? Not warped in the sense of malice or evil but warped in the sense of bowed somewhat, moved slightly out of alignment. And how does this wanting work? How do I accommodate this wanting? Do I fight the urge, suppressing the feeling by starving it of thought and effort, like a house plant badly tended? Or do I allow the want to be part of my everydayness? Do I greet it in the morning? Let it accompany me as I go about my (currently limited) business? Set a place for it at the table as I settle down for lunch? My want is a constant companion, after all. It whispers in my ear over breakfast and screams in my head after midnight. My want would prefer it if I didn’t sleep. Why would my want want this? Then I would be able to dull its tone, even if only for a while. My want wants to be my pillow, my comforter, the only reason to close my tired eyes and then the same reason to open them up again having tortured for the whole time in between. That is my want. How could I forget? It reminds me all the time. As I type it is as if this want is beside me, guiding my hands, pressing the keys. Perhaps that’s a good excuse? It wasn’t me, it was my want. Wasn’t it? It always been up until now. Hasn’t it? Otherwise, how else can I fuel my fire? How else can I drag myself out of bed each morning and carry on trudging through the day’s relentless mire. More words to write. Another email here. Plans and preparations. The full-time-ness of my career. The part-time-ness of the ways I hope to change course. The pressure I feel from elsewhere. The pressure I feel from inside. The want is boiling now. It is glowing red-hot in the embers of my weary mind. Another tiring night beckons, as faces and dreams and wishes and desires all combine to cause my want to beckon me to where I want to be but can’t. Not tonight. Not other nights. maybe never ever one night. I do have hope but I do feel that hope is just the beginning, just enough to stop you giving up completely. And there have been times, dark times, tough times, painful times, recent times, past times, times to come, when giving up has felt so luxurious, so delightful, so pleasingly wonderful that the temptation is more than that just a plain admittance of defeat; much more, always more, more, just more – something more structured and elegant and planned and prepared but not executed.
Have you ever wondered how easy it really is to carry the biggest burden possible and let it weigh you down on a daily basis? Like really wondered? I don’t know about you but for me the weight of my burden is a constant companion; always there, by my side, loyal, dependable, guaranteed to never leave me. This companion is familiar, comforting (almost), and kind enough, from its perspective, to devote itself to me. But what happens if tomorrow morning, or right now, or whenever I decide that I don’t want this this constant companion, this neurotic nursemaid, this bothersome bedfellow any more? Can I just put this burden down? Leave it behind me? Go my separate way? I know that I want to but the question still remains, can I? How will I do this? What will it feel like? Will I feel lighter? Less troubled? More at ease?
But what if I don’t feel any of these things?
What if I feel bereft? Apart? Separated? Adrift? Devoid of gravity? Unpinned to the surface of the world? I suppose the question really is, do I want to let go? I know what both answers are. I want to let go. I don’t want to let go. I want to let go because I want to feel different to how I feel today. Right now. Last week. Always. I don’t want to let go because I don’t want to feel different to how I feel today. Right now. Last week. Always. It is all I want. It is everything I have never wanted.
I’ve reached that point again where most things, most ordinary things, those ordinary things like work and home and the day to day of our lives, all these things are piling up to pull me down once more. This is not a dramatic cry for help, rather a quieter acknowledgement that the default position I tend to occupy is one of resignation. I am resigned to the fact that today, at this time, as I write, I am at the edge of my tolerance with everything. I’ll carry on, I always do, I always have done, but that doesn’t mean that my carrying on should be seen as accepting defeat, because it isn’t and I am not. It simply means that I still need to live and to work and to go about my daily business, because my daily business is all I have to go about – it is my business after all. There have been times when I have felt determined to carry on, and that that determination has been tiring, wearying, crushing, numbing; a fight in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, obstruction, provocation, or just simple difficulty. There are other times when the need to continue is still the same need but the impulse to continue is less pronounced and more one of gentle effort. But everything is always a fight. Everything. This is especially true when I look out my window to consider the absolute darkness fo the world right now. As I see the awful view of anger and pestilence and ignorance and more anger, the terrible ache of ignorance as it gnaws at people and causes them to rage and fight and kill. When I see grinning, grotesque faces urging harm and hurt on others. Or others clutched by complacency, gripped by indifference and only fuelled by personal desire, making decisions that suit themselves first and others last, if at all. Outside my window, through the glass, out into the world, it is dark and dangerous place to be right now. I am safe right now, that’s true, and I am separate. I am loved by people and feel protected by this. I am wanted by some but, sadly, not by others. These are the basic dimensions of my existence, the current coordinates that locate me in the spaces of my world. And, in defiance of all that I have outlined previously, I won’t be pulled down today.
I simply won’t.
I’m currently full of doubt. Real doubt, the gnawing, nagging kind. The kind of doubt that causes me to not only pause but often hang, like an overworked CPU, trying to find the right code to keep working but struggling with the enormity of the processing required to achieve this. Riffing on the word itself allows me to skirt around the real issue. I could say I doubt there is much to really worry about. With everything I have I should be pleased to not live a life of doubt. I could also say that I doubt that anybody would take my doubt that seriously. What have you got to worry about? Why are you worrying about this anyway? Surely you have better things to do? I suppose I do have better things to do but that could be said about anyone and anything. At any time. We all have much better things to do than doubt ourselves but we could also say that doubting ourselves is one of the things we have to do, better or otherwise. I suppose I mean that there’s an inevitability in doubt. It will happen. It has happened before. It will happen again. It will keep happening. It will always happen. I could say I doubt it but that would just be stretching things far too far.
So how am I going to be more sure?
- I’m going to be really ok with doubt.
- I’m going to work my way through my doubt by writing about it.
- I’m going to let doubt be the real part of my life that it is.
- I am going to doubt more (as if I had a choice?)