Caught in the Grip

October 29, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Sometimes, I don’t feel like sleeping. Do you ever have those nights? Nights when you feel you should be a witness to the dawn and what preludes it? There are nights that demand a rite of passage – do we face our pillow biters? Do we confess our sins….

I suspect the sleep lost is therapeutic. Better to stay afloat and face your demons rather than abuse your pillows and sheets – a sweaty and troublesome number of hours for you and them.

Who is it that, among us: poor, middle – rich, really rich – bestial – saint – who sleeps well every night, never has to struggle with the past nor fuss about the future?

It is not even about that, really. It is about just not wanting to sleep. As though that time to live is a stolen time.

Personally, I learned about this the year my parents died in a car accident. An only child, they left me to figure things out for myself – not the practical – not even the emotional, the social – any of it – just the inner workings: the value of not always sleeping every night: some nights should just be a break from the catharsis – the opt-out – the relief.

I mean, what about the dreams? A person close to me wakes up too often with a dream that sets her day in ruins. There is no way to forecast them but no sleeping can waylay them…I used to dream, more than I do now: dreams of longing it wasn’t true – don’t we all suffer that after too much has happened?

What about what surprises us? Unsought harm, unthought-of harm – unsuspected damage inflicted on others without understanding.

We are much more sensitive than we were five years ago. I’m saying that’s a good thing and about time: I tried recently to explain it to a dear friend of many years: how anyone used to be able say anything and not have to pay for it: use terrible old colonial words and phrases – assume things about people in general that were simply not the case. Now, as unadmitted abusers, we must pay the price of being constantly corrected – and quite right too! The sins of our fathers and their fathers back hundreds of generations visited upon our heads, our psyches, scrambling to catch up and be one of the people of today.

Rewriting the chapters of our past, wishing we had been more of what we thought we were at the time.

We are knocked down, then, struggle like old movie heroes, the ones who could get to their feet, regardless of the punches – yet it is not the villain that lands the blows; it is the rise of the oppressed – they knew but worse, our forefathers knew and didn’t care and pressed on anyway, leaving the children that followed to grow up ignorant and careless.

That is most of us.

The grey hairs in government protect the sin. They govern by a language that should have died long since. They are the masters of lip service, the champions of rhetoric and sleight of hand. All around the periphery are the bright young sparks, pointing to the new world; a land that gets it- I mean really gets it.

Gone is: where are you from; gone: a debate about marriage; finished – the whole thing about abortion; forget it – how you symbolize who you pray to. Really done: any old damage doesn’t actually harm the planet.

We have relinquished your superiority as a white person, a straight person, a person who has worked all your life to get where you are.

Sleeping every night of your life is overrated. It is okay once in a while to spend a night up – I don’t know – drinking with others. Reading a dozen books that you love, for no particular reason. Dwelling on the past as far back as researchers understand it or claim to understand. Dwelling on your own past. Planning – wishing! For your own future. (we are crazy people who spend our little money on the lottery- but, what the hell? People win it – why not me – you – Charlie?)

The dog is at bliss on her mat. She has no cares about any of it – sins, futures, omissions. The cat is worse on her bed. All that matters is that the humans in her life understand and attend to her needs of food, attention, freedom.

The operative word: freedom, which we crave and rarely achieve because the sins of our history burden us and we resist release from the burden because we deny the reasons. We are reluctant to take the tests demanded from us all by those whose history is of the oppressed, the children of the colonized, now claiming their right to recognition as equals.

And it is long since time we relinquished that right.

Then, we can sleep – except for the occasional night.

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