Crazy for things

The fog burned off late morning, and I finally pulled myself together after one of those fitful nights when you doze just long enough for the clock to advance to 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m.  Marking the hours of the night does not make for a restful sleep.

At three I moved to the living room couch and read for awhile, the cats tumbling on and off me, unused to the nocturnal activity.  At four, I turned out the light and pushed the gray cat to the other end of the couch near my feet.  Very slowly, she edged her way up toward my head until she could insinuate herself under my arm, one paw outstretched which she ever-so-slightly rhythmically flexed, digging her claws into my neck with each effort.  Blind rage took hold. I threw her back down toward my feet…and the sequence began again.  At five, I moved back to the bed, waking up my husband and stimulating the cats, who began scratching the furniture and knocking things off the dresser.  Mumbling curses, my husband got up, chased them out, and closed the door. All was quiet until six, when the orange cat began scratching on the door demanding breakfast.

I finally snatched a couple of hours sleep, enough that I could manage a lunch date with a friend I’d promised to meet downtown at an upscale shopping mall where she wanted to do some errands.  I hadn’t been there in a couple of years–haven’t been anywhere in recent weeks–and was appalled. Glossy, gleaming, glittering junk. I doubt it is even possible to buy anything there completely necessary for life.  It screams MONEY, and don’t come here if you don’t have it.  Outside this cathedral to consumer elegance, people are begging, sleeping in doorways; untreated addicts,  psychotics, schizophrenics roam the streets.  There is real need–hunger, homelessness, disease.  What is wrong with us that we can walk on by?

We don’t all, of course. People reach in their pockets, give a little spare change here and there, support charities. Some do a great deal. But how has it happened that only a few decades ago, this was not a normal part of the U.S. urban landscape, and now it is?

…do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world–

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

–from “The Sun,” in Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1


It’s later. Sorry for the self-righteous post–not that those aren’t real issues I feel strongly about, but not the best way to talk about them. I came home in pain and worried about my friend and lashed out at the world. Better than drinking over them, but not where I want to be.

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6 Responses to Crazy for things

  1. Mary LA says:

    Not self-righteous at all. And I know all about animals and sleeplessness!

    • sswl says:

      Thanks for the reassurance, Mary. And yes, with your menagerie, I’m sure animals and sleeplessness is a familiar topic! (Hope the Great Dane puppy is back to his usual level of boisterousness.)

  2. Dawn says:

    No, self-righteous did not come to my mind either. I wish I were successfull with meditation so that when life is tossing me real pain and struggle I might have better luck with sleep. Rather, I take my heavy concerns , and those of our world that have especially hit me that day, and toss and turn noting each passing hour, as you have shared here.

    The Serenity Prayer is now SO applicable and I love the words and their rich meaning, but on a human level, I fail, almost daily, to abide by the message.

    • sswl says:

      Well, I guess you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t “fail, almost daily” like the rest of us! But as I see it, part of the message of the serenity prayer is figuring out what we really are capable of changing and then screwing together the courage to try doing it–and we get points for trying.

      If I remember right from reading your blog, you’re pretty directly impacted by those “heavy concerns” in your job. It must be hard not to take it home at night.

  3. byebyebeer says:

    Oh, cats. I love them but they really try us sometimes. I get the impression these must be younger cats to have so much energy/curiosity.

    As for the other scene, I do feel guilty because I hardly ever give handouts. 1) I rarely have cash on me but 2) it’s an uncomfortable feeling to be faced with such need. I also hate those malls that cater to…who? No one I know. I can’t believe they still exist. Times are hard.

    You have such a beautiful way with words…really enjoying your posts.

    • sswl says:

      Actually, they’re 11, but I guess they occasionally get energized from sleeping all day and most–but certainly not all–of the night. You’d think we could reverse that pattern, but so far they’ve outlasted us.

      The mall I wrote about is in San Francisco, where almost 10% of the population has assets of more than $1 million. It makes the dire poverty of some all the more disgraceful, but I guess the retailers’ expectation of a market for high-priced nonessentials isn’t off-base. I know what you mean about discomfort when confronted with the poverty, though. I feel the same way. But (in the words of Joan Baez), “there but for fortune go you or I,” so I try, not always very successfully, to overcome it.

      Thanks for such a nice compliment!

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