woman standing on the sea looking at the burning city, digital art style, illustration painting

Advice For Living In A World That’s On Fire: Close Your Eyes

It’s 8 am and my daughter is still asleep.  I go upstairs to wake her, but she looks so peaceful lying there, her long hair streaming over her head like rays of sunshine, her lips curled into a sweet crescent moon.  I stand in the doorway for a while, just listening to her breathe.

I’ve never been good at waking children up.

Instead, I turn on a soft light and raise up the shades, letting the morning light kiss her eyelids awake gently.

Come down when you’re ready, I whisper as I slip out the door.

It takes her another twenty minutes to plod down the stairs.  The bus is long gone by now, her breakfast eggs cold, yellow clumps of rubber that I stuff in the trash.

She pours herself a bowl of chocolately puffs that I know I shouldn’t let her eat. But she smiles as she crunches and I feel only joy, no guilt.

We arrive at school one minute after the doors are locked and I shuffle sheepishly into the office, my long pajama pants catching on the door trim.

I kiss her goodbye, taking in one last breath of her hair that always smells like peaches even if it’s been one too many nights since it’s been washed.

It’s always one too many nights since it’s been washed.

And then I go home, to my work, to my writing, to the buzz of my phone.

Murder. Fires. Shootings. Climate Change. Corruption. Fascism. Racism. Rape. Abuse.

I try to block out the noises of the world and turn inwards, find that quiet place to write from.

You should be doing so much more with your life.  Think of all the experiences you’re missing. Remember all those stupid choices you made.  You should have been braver, bolder, fiercer, more adventurous.  You will never have the things you want.

I shut my computer and leave the house.  Wander around a thrift store, buy myself a fancy drink, compliment a stranger on their brilliant smile. For a little while, I feel good. Peaceful.

The morning is quickly turning into afternoon and I rush home to finish my work.  For a few hours, I am still, focused. Then I check my phone again.

Murder. Fires. Shootings. Climate Change. Corruption. Fascism. Racism. Rape. Abuse.

It feels like the world is on fire, like we are standing on the precipice of Hell about to be pushed, like there is no hope, no point, no reason to keep making eggs that will only get thrown out, to write pieces that will never get read, to have children with no future.

I shut off my phone and turn inward, and, instead of the persistent longing, there is only this pit of sadness that feels like acceptance, but the kind of acceptance that feels more like giving up than any productive stage of grief. And I wonder why why why do we do it?  Why do we keep getting up and making breakfast and sending our kids off to school? Why do we smile and make small talk and go to book clubs and buy sensible shoes when the sea levels are rising and the earth is heating up and fascism is casting its dark shadow across half the globe? Why are we plodding along with our heads face down, snapping and posting and tweeting when the sky is falling? Why do we claim to be “woke” when every one of us is fast asleep?

Somewhere a bell rings and I look at my watch and see that it’s 3:30 and there’s my daughter skipping up the the driveway with dancing feet and wide open mouth and eyes shut tight while she belts out tunes from The Sound Of Music.  The world is on fire, but she’s in a dream and I won’t dare be the one to rouse her.

I’ve never been good at waking children up.