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I've been having a hard time sleeping recently

weekly message Jul 29, 2020

I've been having a hard time sleeping recently. In part, because it's been so hot and I don't sleep well in the heat. But I also think that the stress of the ongoing pandemic, our chaotic political situation, and a growing sense of isolation from the people I care about have all been wearing on me. It is a slow gnaw that is particularly dangerous because it's hard to see it happening. Most of my days look just like the one before it and look like the one that's coming. And, for the most part, my life is okay. From a day-to-day perspective, it would be hard to pinpoint where the problem is, but I've been having a hard time sleeping. So I know something is up. 

I share this with you to let you know that you're not alone if this is something that you've been going through also. I have a number of friends who seem to be wrestling with a nameless inquietude. I suppose we could point a finger at the military actions in Portland, or perhaps the ending of federal assistance benefits, or the fact that we just haven't touched other human beings in a long time and as creatures we need to touch other people to feel healthy and happy and whole. A hug is not just a greeting it is a shared transfer of well-being. And this lack of touch, I believe, is slowly wasting us. 

In addition, I see the news and feel dread to the point where I'm struggling to identify. Intellectually, I know the fascist impulse has always existed as part of the national psyche. That white supremacy, misogyny, violence on the poor and the marginalized are as American as apple pie. But I always felt like I could find a place to belong. My people. My history. The one I chose that glorifies, not the slave owners and the confederates, but those who sought a greater experience of liberation and companionship. That was always the America I identified with. Perhaps this is because of my privilege, of which I have a lot, but the aggression, the contempt, the selfishness, the haughty narcissism feels so overwhelming and demoralizing that I feel, in a way, placeless, stateless.

The combination of the loss of touch and intimacy with the onslaught of right-wing belligerence and violence has left me feeling alone and isolated. Where are my people with whom I can share well-being? I see anger slowly taking me over. I see my world growing smaller. I think this is why I have been having trouble sleeping. Loneliness is a quiet and subtle torture. Insidious, in a way, because it seems to reinforce itself through habit. Our worlds grew small in the pandemic and then they grow even smaller still as we allow our lives to shrink to fit the space. 

I’m not sure if it was intuition that caused me to create a platform for dialogue. Somewhere I believe that all of the things I create, all the sermons I write, all of the messages I send out are, at least on some level, written for me. Words that I need to hear as much as anyone else. When I created the new class, Listening to Understand, I thought I was creating a collection of tools and practices I’ve found helpful as a minister but also as a person in relationship with other people. I thought I was handing off a set of gifts that would benefit you. And that is not false. I believe what is in that course will help you in these isolating times. 

But I am also struck by how much I need to follow my own advice. We are all in this together. And I need my people. I need to ensure that I don’t cede any more of my intimacy and companionship to this loneliness and isolation. I believe that you are my people. And that I am yours. And while I miss your hugs, your tender touch, I know this is not the end. Not even close. And if I want to sleep better I need to be with you more, which means making myself more available. Those of you who come to the morning and evening sittings, I want to say that I am so grateful for your presence and your practice. You help me a lot by showing up. I really mean that. We are all in this together. And I would welcome any suggestions you have for us to grow more intimate in these isolating times. The more beautiful world, the one that awaits us, will be made from the decisions we make today. And I would love your help in figuring out what those decisions need to be. So please, reach out and let me know what I can do to create more contact and connection for us. 

xo, Ian

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