My days have been crowded and dimmed by bad news. Harried times and sad times have a desiccant effect, making my mood brittle, my soul dry.
Wednesday morning arrived early before the darkness had given way. I lay there, unable to sleep, unwilling to get up. My first thought was that I had a column due, and my mind is barren.
I was tempted find something — a quote, a scribbled note, anything I could start with and then force myself to crank out 400 words with some appearance of relevance and inspiration.
But I didn’t have the energy, so I just lay there wondering if the number of ideas we are given is finite. My sadness deepened when I realized that my inability to write reflected either a poverty of life or my own lack of depth.
On the edge of emptiness, the obvious choices are jump or pray. I surrendered to the latter, wordlessly, not looking for anything specific, just checking if Anyone was out there.
As I waited for an answer I did not expect, I could hear birds outside my bedroom windows. There were three or four. I didn’t recognize their dialect, but I envied their ability to start the day with song.
I thought of myself alone. We had been in Kansas City helping our son move. Then Carolyn flew to Michigan to help our daughter pack for hers. I wasn’t lonely, but I was aware of her absence and realized how much I preferred her presence.
I thought of my years of work, questioning whether I had lived up to my potential. I then realized the bigger question was whether I was living in it. Besides, I have a great family, good friends, and a growing, benevolent apathy that comes with age.
Suddenly I laughed when I thought of a story of a Texas woman losing her memory and accepting it with the humor life demands. “The other day I forgot the Alamo,” she said.
I remembered a priest who had just died. Some years ago, I was in an airport in Bolivia. I heard this “Hey, Mark!” and found him standing behind me. As we waited, he told me of his trek through the Andes. It wasn’t life-changing, but it was another welcome moment of grace.
Then Abraham Heschel got into my head. He said, “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”
That got me out of bed.