If really good sleep were a prostitute? I’d be a punch-card carrying paying customer. Open my wallet and call me John. Guilty. Can I take a nap now officer?
It’s not really the sleep that I’m after either, although that’s good too. It’s that groggy half sleep place, where everything is Zen, cozy and only quasi alert; that my friend is my golden ticket. That place where your mind wanders and all of your creative juices are concentrated on whatever thoughts float by your consciousness. Some of the best writing comes from this semi- sleepy place. Friday morning I’m floating in Zenville, feeling relaxed and meditative; like in the Lionel Ritchie song, that line “easy like Sunday morning” but two days early because I’m hedonistic by nature and don’t bother to wait the extra days.
Anyway, so I’m curled up in bed like a grumpy old 25lb (+/- 10 kilo for you Canadians) cat with a catnip addiction, coming awake slow and easy, when the house phone rings.
SWEET! No more rings. Maybe it was a wrong number.
Just as I turned over to find a more comfy position, the cell phone rings from the dining room. It’s a remote sound, barely audible except the dogs hear it too. So now the dogs are up, which also means they want breakfast and a quick trip to the backyard. Damn. No sooner than the cell phone stops, the house phone goes off again.
My partner is a trouper, she knows that all I want is sleep and gets up to answer the phone. My hero! I turn over again and pull my pillow tighter around my ears and face.
Through the partially closed door I hear fragments of the conversation.
“Has anyone reported this to the Provincial authorities?”
“I understand. Has this child been beaten or abused in any way?”
“Is the child suicidal? Has she made any serious attempts?”
“Uh huh….This is more delicate than that.”
“You can’t involve the parents yet. The parents are likely to minimize the threat, and then take it out on the child at home.”
“Call this number and they’ll connect you to the right people in your community.”
“Your child should not be burdened with this kind of information. If it feels immense to you, imagine how your child feels. You have to take on the responsibility and get help.”
All I could think was. This is not normal. My cloud of perfect solitude was blown to shit and back, and returning to sleep has become impossible. As I stumble toward the coffee maker I get the reader’s digest condensed, edited to exclude any identifying names or locations, version of the story.
Kid’s friend (who is A-B student) is forced to attend summer school to bring up grades to A+ range by parents. Pressure from immigrant parents is immense. Friend wants to kill self to escape parental pressure and disapproval. Friend tells Kid, and Kid comes home panicked and scared and tells mom. Mom makes the call.
Again, all I could think was “this is not normal.” But for my partner this is normal. The morning wake-up call is her day to day 9-5 reality. In an instant all my little worries about getting the right grades for college, or managing my personal affairs and economic reality pale in comparison. Reality checks can be a nasty shock sometimes.
A working environment that encompasses children & teens experiencing trauma and violence must feel like drinking from a fire hose. I ask myself; “after years of exposure to that environment, how could one escape feeling either completely emotionally raw, or shut down and numb?” I don’t have a definitive answer. In the past few years I’ve noticed that this work is beginning to wear at my partners soul, not raw or shut down, just worn out and tired of working in crisis mode.
More and more lately my job is to take care of the caregiver. My job is to listen with an open mind and heart when she needs to lighten the load a bit; make sure that life is “Sunday morning” as often as humanly possible, and to eat, play, laugh and love every single day.
After thought: In case you find yourself in the position of the mom, or the kid, in my story….Little Black Book- A Youth guide to resources in BC.