The River Lethe and Mercy

Lately, I’ve had an overwhelming and sometimes irresistible need to sleep — I’m calling it, “the Helsinki Reaction”.

Imagine my shock upon turning over in bed Sunday morning to see that it was 10:30. 10:30! And WITH A NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE on the stoop, no less. That was one thing, but then to polish off the puzzle WHILE DRINKING A CUP OF COFFEE and subsequently lie down and sleep some more?

(K. has the excuse of jet lag. I don’t).

Yesterday driving home from Salem in stop and start traffic with a hot summer sun blasting through the windshield, sleep arose as a weird and disturbing possibility. Oh, to close the eyes for just a second! Just a second. This, even with the AC going full tilt. This, even while listening to Pod Save America — a news podcast that I find addictively funny and informative. It’s not normal, this need for sleep.

Aside #1: Jon Favreau is my pod crush, what with that big, big brain of his and the charming space between his front teeth. A fellow fan warms to Tommy Vietor and though I’m less inclined toward blondes, I get it: all those clean cut good looks in a neat preppy package.

(I made it home and don’t worry I wasn’t really gonna fall asleep while driving).

I’ve ticked through the list: am I coming down with something? (no); is it the Sun traveling though my Twelfth House, triggering the Underworld corner of my Grand Cross (perhaps, but this is an annual event and one I often find energizing); could it be my thyroid? (alas, no– recently checked — which is too bad because it’d also account for a recent 15 lb weight gain); could it be the collision of the dew point and scorching temps? (well, maybe? but I’m mostly inside with AC). Wait, did you say ‘collision’? That’s getting close to the nub of it, I think.

When I turn to the Tarot, “Logic” comes up. Three times. Anyone who has a relationship with a deck knows this means: PAY ATTENTION. But Logic? Logic as answer to the question, what do I need, what can I lean on now for succor and strength?

I no longer view logic as mere sturdy upholder of truth and argument, but rather as a potent gateway to mercy and justice. I can thank former NAACP President and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, for that insight.

Aside #2: At the inception of the BLM movement, or to be more precise, at the time All Lives Matter rose up as a stupid and reactionary hashtag, Cornell Brooks made this elegant argument: If All Lives Matter, then perforce, Black Lives Matter (which is to say, if you believe that all lives matter, you should have absolutely zero problem with the assertion that black lives matter).  Conversely, if Black Lives DON’T Matter, then it cannot be true that All Lives Matter (so if you’re siding with “blue lives” at the expense of black lives, you don’t really believe that all lives matter). In the realm of illogic serving up racial animus, it also bears saying that believing in racial equity does not automatically make you anti-police. (I unfriended someone over that asinine argument).

Is this logic in service of Mercy or Justice?

Aside #3: A recent sharp edit by storyteller extraordinaire and generous beta reader, Deb Lacativa, brought this very question into focus. How are Mercy and Justice different? When are they the same?

To those who’d say, take up the arms of resistance to beat back your stupor, I say, not right this second. Did I mention: I want to go to sleep?

When I input my zip code into Swing Left’s ‘get involved’ page on Monday and New Hampshire came up, I thought, “NO! NO! Not going there again.” Getting high school students down the street registered sounds more like my speed especially because I don’t think my day of canvassing in the fall of 2016 made any difference at all, unless you count settling my conscience (which is not nothing and there’s no reason to assume that 2018 would be the same as 2016, but still… ) Post cards. I’ll write post cards. But only if someone hands me a list.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday’s Indivisible phone call, I listened to others’ laudable efforts — one networking with folks from Free Speech for People (drivers of #impeachdonaldtrumpnow on the basis of the emoluments clauses), another collaborating with Quakers on international measures protecting justice, and a third taking part in a celebration with a faith community that has housed and nurtured a family in sanctuary for a full year. This comparison is only to highlight how fucking tired I feel and not to otherwise feel bad about myself.

Okay, so could it be the dog? (Now you can tell me that I’m being ridiculous). But how restrictive a presence he is — making a trip to the beach difficult, causing a visit to my ailing father-in-law to require more planning than I have the wherewithal for right now, making even a trip to Macy’s in Framingham feel like it’s pushing it at times, for Christ’s sake. That I spend my dog-free hours on trips to Salem is just another indignity of that situation and puhleeze don’t get me going on that (yesterday was a difficult one).

Aside #4: It’s a wonder that a creature who imposes such regular restriction also offers salvation, for there I go, twice a day, out into the neighborhood, always the better for it. And later, there he is, modeling sleeping and relaxing as a Correct Way of Being. And, every time I stand at the cutting board, there are his liquid eyes, such attention affirming that we are connected, that he notices what I’m doing, and that he’s learned how to get stuff from me, all incredibly reassuring somehow, even as I’m also lambasting myself (just a little) for making a food beggar out of him.

So, it has to be the news. Of course, it’s the news. Even for this prolonged and shocking shit storm, the Helsinki Summit came as a drastic and soul-wrecking event.

Part II of this Lament: tomorrow. It’s all of a piece but this post is already too long. I promise it won’t just be about politics. Look for words about coyotes, unintended consequences, and how we construct narratives.

A screen grab from almost a year ago

PS The River Lethe is one of five rivers in Hades. Ten seconds of research produced this relevant passage:

“those who drink from it experience complete forgetfulness. Lethe is also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion.”

(picture above by Thomas Benjamin Kennington)

22 thoughts on “The River Lethe and Mercy

  1. Marti

    Sleep- well yes, heat in New Mexico leaves me tired, cranky and a wet noodle as we are in monsson season…
    Age-70 = afternoon naps even though I just started , have never been a nap person.
    News escape- a given for sanity BUT I do read news every morning early, very early as I am usually up before 4 am but see me at 4pm and I am a zombie. Can no longer watch evening news on TV- huge indigestion and disgust, dismay and rising anger is not a good gateway to getting a good nights sleep.
    Coping mechanism- daughter got me a subscription to BritBox where I watch cocy mysteries aka Miss Marple, Hetty Wainthrop, Rosemary and Thyme and dream that it could be so simple to solve our “village’s ” problems…

    1. deemallon

      Brit box! I’ve been thinking about subscribing for ages. I’d love it just to watch Vera reruns. A news fast is not an option but maybe jiggling time of day as you suggest would help. Thanks Marti. Stay cool!

      1. Mo Crow

        & re fatigue, many years ago when I was 22 & working for a landscaper we had to rebuild a retaining wall that had collapsed in one day, 10 hours into the job I collapsed utterly exhausted, my wise boss said, “Fatigue is just a state of introversion, go for a walk, find a tree and touch it.” He was right, I did just that ,got back to the job 15 minutes later and did another 3 hours work. A lesson that has stayed with me all my life.

    1. deemallon

      And don’t forget the noise. Constant roaring whining grinding humming noise! Today I hear the birds. It rained last night and the air is cooler.

  2. Michelle Skater

    Every thing, including us, has a tipping point. I’ve reached mine many times in the past seven decades, and in the last five years, all my reserves were severely taxed. So I made art,took photographs, constructed blog posts, wrote some poetry and flash fiction, traveled across town to the Hudson for Sunsets, sometimes escaped into others live, or movies or Audio books.. A billion strategies. Sleep has overtaken first place. It’s restorative and necessary and I don’t question it or worry. It’s not a medical problem. Let yourself off the hook.

    1. deemallon

      Thanks Michelle. I wish the GOP would reach a tipping point (toward truth. I have to say that given the Rosenstein impeachment crap fomenting now). I need a little more exercise. And to focus on the good stuff a little more. Like this morning: finn and I will go to the lake for fetch before it rains again.

    2. Tina Zaffiro

      Always love your posts .. pictures with commentaries .. I feel like I’ve gotten to know and love NYC through your eyes .. thank you!

      1. deemallon

        I love my “strolls” through NYC and Michelle’s mind, too! The throb and glory of the city is part of why I go to her blog.

  3. Tina Zaffiro

    That message was meant for Michelle .. as for you sleeping in late and naps WOOHOO it is a very good thing provided you’ve ruled out any medical problems. Being able to spend a part of each day with such creative artists and writers helps me remember that we are not alone with our frustration and fears .. I count my blessings. Thank you .. all of you.

    1. deemallon

      I agree that having friends here makes a world of difference. Not just week by week, but day by day. I’ve started thinking of blogging as a way to have fun with a bunch of talented and smart and compassionate pen pals.

  4. Laurie

    I’ve been confused about my overwhelming need for sleep also. Took a sick day yesterday because I was exhausted. Do I go in for a blood panel? Do I need to change my anti-depressant? Do I need to stay offline for a while? Should I make an effort to eat better and exercise? (UGH)

    1. deemallon

      I know that Rolodex of questions well. If I hadn’t had bloods done recently I’d go in for them (although I haven’t been checked for Lyme or mono). I’ll tackle exercise and sugar first, tho.


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