The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

One of my favorite blogs is Glennon Melton’s Momastery.  Her blog recently hit the big-time, and I hope she’s okay, because I love it and her, and one of the reasons is that she is so relentlessly, unstintingly honest.  And because she is honest, she said last week that “life done right is one long recovery process.”

 As a chronic worrier, catastrophist, and lifelong fearful person, this seems exactly right to me.  Almost every morning I wake up with some kind of dread bubbling inside, and every day is all about rejecting that dread and replacing it with joy; that’s a choice I make, not something that just happens to me while I wait for it.  I am a recovering fear addict.

 It looks like my Beloved and I will be going to Guatemala in March as part of the support team for 24 medical students.   My natural inclination is to find a reason not to go, and I have a selection of several good ones, starting with my family and working down to my hip.  But I’m going, not because I’m brave or anything, but because this is something I’m called to do, and the only way to stop being a fearful person is to do the things that scare me.  Plus, we already have the plane tickets.  None of this fills me with joy.

 What fills me with joy is the little, stupid things.  Friday night, my Beloved and I went on a retreat with the rest of the (huge) Guatemala team at a church camp facility north of Roanoke.  (It’s not like we’re going into the wilderness alone; we could have about 40 people as part of this endeavor.)  The group affectionately called the “old farts” had a cabin to itself, while the students divvied up two other cabins.  The Old Farts included the medical director of the trip and his wife, a non-medical couple who have been to Guatemala before, the guy who lived in Guatemala for 22 years and has three of his eight children still there, and us.  Oh, and a dog.

The dog, Copper, is a medium-large Labrador-mix-looking dog, and he is at that age where he is part dog, part furniture.  Before his mom got back to the cabin, I had him snuggled up in my bunk because I love dogs, and he was comforting.  Besides, the floor was cold, and my bunk was, and I put this mildly, a cross between a hammock and a banana.  No dog was going to make it less comfortable, but he might warm it up.

 Eventually, though, he had to go sleep on his pillow, and I was left alone in my sagging bed that twanged like a banjo in the hands of someone blessed with six thumbs, in a room with six other people who were also in various stages of discomfort.  Then the males (I think) started snoring.  From every corner of the room came a chorus of those little snorts and whistles that are to true snoring what tuning is to an orchestral performance.  Sure enough, the full complement of snorks and groans started soon thereafter, followed by the twanging of other mattresses as various wives sought solace in putting their pillows over their heads.  Obviously, sleeping in something like a “V” shape, I was not able to do this.

Then , when it seemed that the misery had reached its fullness and could not possibly get more miserable, Copper started sleep-barking.  Like the guys, he began with a few muffled woofs and growls, but soon graduated to a full-fledged “Hear me, forces of darkness!” bark, although he was clearly not awake and not barking at anything in this realm.  He quieted down for just a second, and then started sleep-howling. 

 And that’s when I had my moment of joy.  I am lying in a room with five people I barely know, my spouse, a dog, on the bed from Hell, and I am doing this so that I can go do something even worse.  I starting laughing quietly to myself, but since my bunk vibrated with every movement, it was soon adding an ee-ee ee-ee ee-ee rhythm of its own.  I wondered, “Am I nuts?  Are we all nuts?”  Probably.  But if I can spend one sleepless night recovering from fear, then I can do anything, and when I’m so old that I’m sleep-howling myself, I will have memories of more than just fear to howl about.

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