It is 2:37AM and I cannot sleep. Now it is 2:38AM and by the time I read the sentence through, it is 2:39AM. The clock ticks, ticks on and I feel sad. My mind races. It has been racing for hours. I wish I was a better person. I wish I was not centered on me and all the things that have slipped away. I wish so many things. I wish it was not so easy for me to step aside. I wish my dad did not abandon me all those years ago. I wish someone had fought harder for me. I wish my husband was interested in me more of the time. I wish he could talk to me without looking at his phone. I wish I could talk to him without uttering the phrase, “are you listening?” I am sure it is annoying. I wish Eli was not so abrupt tonight. It hurt my feelings. I wish Kyle could talk to me like he used to. I miss him. I wish his girlfriend liked me. I do not think she does. I wish my mom’s hearing was better. I wish she and I could see eye to eye on faith and religion. I wish my mother-in-law were not “marinating” (Dave’s word) in Fox News and right wing conspiracy theories. I wish we could find a way to bridge. As the years move forward, the river only seems wider. I wish I saw my family more. I wish when I saw my family that we actually knew how to talk to one another. I wish Dave’s family reached out to him more. I wish it mattered.
My problem: I am insecure. Even when people just want me to go away, I am intensely determined to make it right. It is annoying. I am annoying. I do not know my father. His cruel rejection haunts my every cell. I am sure his severe neglect lies at the core of my need to NOT let you down. I hate it. I hate being canceled. It hurts. That is why I hate hurting you, and then I do. I hurt you. Just the other day Eli said,
“You know it is not just you. It is not all your fault. We also have to do our part to make things right.”
He is not wrong.
I love Dave deeply. He is a wonderful husband and father. He is my best friend. I love Kyle and Eli fiercely. They are kind. They think so big. They are invested and interested in the world around them. I love that both boys are dating women they really care about. I want to have great relationships with the women my boys love. Of course these women are important to me, no matter what their future holds. I like them. I hope they like me. I love my family. I love my mom. I love that she always is trying to be better and work through issues, even when they are uncomfortable. I love my brothers and sisters. I love that my sister vents to me. I love that my other sister appreciates my lengthy words and what she calls, “my big heart.” I love that my brother sends me pictures of his long Covid hair. My family is trying. I know our relationship is clunky. I have definitely complained about it being clunky. I want it better. I love Dave’s family. I love that Dave’s sister laughs at my jokes. I love how his mom fantasizes then makes her imaginings a reality, like her cruises and her home on the coast. I love that she raised such a beautiful son.
Instead of worrying about being judged for the color of my skin, I get to spend this sleepless night indulging my hopes, sorrows and fears.
I am white. I’m at a high socio-economic status. I am privileged.
I wonder about these past months. I wonder if the disruption of a global virus outbreak has destabilized us enough to wake up. Am I awake? I pause. I am stopped in my tracks. I see it as clear as the new day coming. Am I having a sleepless night because I am worried about my sons making it home safely, or getting hassled because of the color of their skin? No. I breathe it in. If I had been having insomnia last month, I do not believe the thought about systemic racism or privilege would have entered my mind. I would just be irritated at the sleeplessness. I am certain I would have been wondering if I had washed my hands sufficiently or when I would get to see my friends again.
Tonight feels different. I am completely wound up as I begin my fifth day of oral steroids. I have bad asthma and yes, I had to take a Covid test to receive treatment. The Covid test was negative. So steroid-spun-out me gets to sit at my desk in my safe upscale neighborhood and indulge these thoughts. Then I get to go back to bed. At this moment, I am only worried about the things I cannot control, but can totally indulge.
You know what? It is uncomfortable; the pain, that is. I sense my thoughts shift. I am a little embarrassed by all of this indulging. I want to move past me. I want to move past the things I cannot control and the things I need to let be. What I can do is be honest. I can speak what is true:
“I do not know what it is like to be a person of color. I never will.”
As I vomit out and embrace my own pain, I am able to make space for the pain beyond me. I recognize that it is only a starting point. I feel selfish, self absorbed and neglectful. It is oddly refreshing. This pain stings. Feeling this discomfort slaps me into the present. I think about this week. I think about our world. I think about Minneapolis, my home. I think about George Floyd. I cannot erase the sight of seeing a police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. I am haunted. I think about Minneapolis’s Sanford Middle School and the bags of food people gathered during the riots. I feel community. I feel peace. I feel love. Does that make sense? Or make me seem more selfish?
Wether I make sense or not, hold me to my words. Hold me to my hopes. Use me.
I am sorry I have been so wrapped up in my own pain, rejection and sorrow that I neglected the pain around me. I am grateful for those who are saying, “no more.” I am grateful for those who are asking me to listen. I am in awe with the protests. Really? The protests move me. Did you see the protest in Los Angeles? All those people marching. It blew my mind. Each day people show up to say, “enough.” It is working. I am grateful for the people who so easily forgive. I am grateful for those who listen. I am grateful for those who give me the courage to speak up and then promise me I will probably get it wrong. They tell me to keep trying. And I promise it will probably be uncomfortable. I can stop worrying about being liked and accepted. I can speak up. I can hold your hand. I can listen. I can push back. I can try to make the world a better place. I can make eye contact. I will say hello. I will not look away. I will stand with you and stand up for you. You are not alone. I want to get it right.
I don’t want my thoughts to slip away into the emptiness of the night. I hope they don’t.
It is now 3:44AM. Covid is back on the rise and people are working through the next moment.