Why Are We Here
Pondering Life’s Biggest Question at 2:45am
There’s something about 2:45 in the morning that really makes you think.
Like, “Why am I awake? What was that noise? Why are we here?”
And, “But I only had one cup of coffee today and that was at o’early o’clock. Maybe it was the chili sauce at dinner. Or that really creepy doll on the episode of The X Files we just watched. Or because I can’t figure out why we’re here.”
And then the dog wanders out from your bedroom to find you on the couch and she just blinks, stares at you like, “You’re doing this wrong.” And you want to cry, “I know, dog. I know! I want to sleep in my own bed. I want to sleep anywhere. Why are we here?” And she curls up next to the couch for all of fifteen minutes before looking at you again and then meandering back the hallway to sleep in her spot at the foot of the bed; she’s no idiot. She knows how to sleep. She’s a dog; she knows why she’s here.
As the clock rounds past three, the memories start to pop up. Ones from college that you forgot to remember or really, considering all things, remembered to forget and you’re just paralyzed there on the couch, watching these stories play out on the ceiling, interrupted by the fan blade whirring by on high, giving the picture a flicker as if you’re watching black and white films from before your time. But this is your time, or was your time, and what time is it?
Why are we here?
Then the yawning starts. One, two, three. Okay, this could be it! Wander back to bed, snuggle deep down into the cool sheets, and wait. And wait. And wait. And get jealous of your sleeping husband, his deep breathing full of sleep and dreams, full of the smell of him and everything you love and drift just a little to the left.
And then jerk back awake because falling asleep feels like falling off a cliff when you forget how to fall asleep.
Awake, awake, awake.
Read the news, read Facebook, stare at a screen. All incredibly bad choices, because why is she posting that and why did that man do that and oh, those children, and look a puppy, and maybe I should buy that or this or no, no, no, and oh, here we are falling down the depths of a humanity hole. Let’s cry over the sadness in the world and how, even though we want to and try to and wish pray hope, we can’t make everyone safe all of the time. Too much sadness, too much heartbreak, too much injustice. And back to, WHY ARE WE HERE?
Now—oh yes—now comes the good stuff. Let’s walk through the horrible, awful, no good, very bad things that could happen to those we love, those that make our world go round, those for whom we wake up for or not sleep for, as it were, those we cannot go a single day without feeling overwhelmed with love and thankfulness, those who stir in us some fear or memory of fear, and even those who we can’t quite figure out why we love, but oh, do we love. Let us imagine them falling down stairs. Crashing in planes. Drowning in pools and oceans and lakes and bathtubs and puddles of tears falling from the sky. Let’s watch it over and over and over until it’s clear that there’s absolutely no reason for you to really be here, because you can’t even save your child from drowning in one inch of water. You don’t deserve to be here.
And so you make plans for the new day, the one you’ve already pondered through for hours. You start bargaining with the sunrise. “If I’m still awake when the first light comes, I’ll just get out of bed, start a load of laundry, and go for a run. Or maybe I’ll bake something. Yeah, I have all that zucchini to make eleven loaves of bread and yummy muffins and, oh hey, I’m hungry.” The stomach churns at this hour, full of exhaustion and questions and desperation and stomach acid; you can’t decide if you’re hungry or about to vomit.
And here’s the alarm. You open your eyes, trying to remember the last time you saw on the clock. 4:40? 4:14? Were there even any fours? Did you sleep soundly for two and a half hours or do you simply not remember being awake, tossing and turning and flipping and flopping and giving up?
Hazy head and leaden feet, you pad down the hall. You take the dog outside into the crisp morning; she’s still eyeing you suspiciously like you slept with another dog when you were really just staring at the ceiling on the couch. You make coffee and gag a little at the smell. You turn around and there’s your son and you’re filled with everything as the sun shines off his still golden summer shoulders.
“Good morning, Mommy. Did you sleep well?”
This is why I’m here.