Little Nightmares

Dearest Rachel –

So, last night’s study had us wrapping up the book of Philippians; you know the passage, the one about not being anxious, but rejoicing in every situation. I’ve always had difficulty with that, simply because I can’t keep from thinking of joy as an emotion, as opposed to an action (yes, I suppose in that way, it is kind of like love). Is Paul’s admonition a case of ‘fake it ’til you make it,’ or what?

Of course, Joel went on at length to talk more about the anxiety side of the equation, as opposed to displaying (or, I guess if you want to focus on the translation of the passage, the state of being filled by) joy. They say ‘write what you know,’ after all, and he’s faced his share of anxieties. It’s the sort of thing that makes him such an empathic leader for others that are dealing with their own – and that theoretically includes every one of us, from time to time.

Although… last night, I was thinking to myself about how little that part of Paul’s exhortation applied to me. I don’t consider myself a particularly anxious person. I live life a day at a time; and while there’s not much I can do about most things in life, I don’t worry about them all that much. It probably makes me seem cold and callous to the outside observer (in stark contrast to your warm and inviting nature – indeed, Joel mentioned to me and Daniel about how the passage reminded him so much of you and your ‘superpower’ of spotting the outsider in a crowd, and making a beeline to them in order to make them feel welcome. From what I could gather, it seems that there is no one he’s met since that has been given that talent, and taken up your mantle, which is sad); certainly, Mohinder would describe me as ‘superficial’ for not appearing to flinch at things that he seemed to think should upset me. Of course, if I were upset at all the things that upset him, I should have been an absolute basket case.

Similarly, if I sound smug about my apparent lack of anxieties (or at least, my lack of concern about the things that should be giving me them), last night put paid to that. My dreams last night were plotless and scattered, but they were the stuff of nightmares. And not the sort that makes a ripping yarn or a blockbuster movie; the true horrors of life aren’t the eldritch abominations that threaten to swallow you and the entire world with you, or the monsters in humanoid form that loom over you in the gloom, terrorizing you with harm or death if you catch their attention.

Like in this game with the same title; you remember watching this while we were in lockdown. You missed out on the sequel, though

No, the scenes in my mind were those of the little things that, when unaddressed (and some of them literally can’t be, at least, not by me) build up over time and threaten to overwhelm you. Indeed, I wonder if one of the images in particular – that of sinks full of pots and pans, both of which were crawling with ants and the like, because they had sat there undone for so long – might well have haunted you back in the day. Even though I’ve managed to get help and get this under control, to the point where the house is practically spartan, this had me worrying about how I would get this taken care of it. It literally didn’t cross my mind that this wasn’t my real life, and I didn’t have to deal with anything like this anymore (or at least, for the time being). This was a responsibility I ‘knew’ I had to deal with, and immediately upon getting up – yes, somehow I knew I had to get up to deal with it – or it would continue to fester and worsen.

Separately, there were scenes of Daniel, and his relationships with others in what might be the near future? Let’s just say they were situations we would not have approved of, and leave it at that. He’s had the wisdom (or maybe just the good fortune) to be able to extricate himself from a few bad – or at least, unproductive – relationships in the past, so I like to think he could take care of himself in some respects, but as a parent, you still worry. There’s so much about life I have yet to teach him before I go, so that he can make his own way in life. And I found myself wondering if, even were I to get those lessons in, whether they would even take. Solomon wrote three books of scripture, for crying out loud, and he still wound up with Rehoboam, after all (although even he expressed some oblique concern that his son would be a fool in his work; at least he was wise enough to see it coming, if not quite enough to prevent it), and I’m considerably less wise than Solomon.

And yet, upon waking, I realize these concerns, while realistic and all too close to home, aren’t so much of a concern. The kitchen is virtually spotless, even after Jan and I filled the cabinets (and there’s plenty of room for more; I barely have enough pots and pans anymore to even fill the sink these days, let alone the other new one in the laundry room). Daniel isn’t one of those kinds of relationship, and isn’t concerned about finding one…

…and between bits of both of those issues, the real waking nightmare shows itself. For the first time in weeks, the bed no longer holds half of my closet while the team works in the laundry room, so that’s another bit of neatness. But it exposes the fact that your side remains empty, with no hope in sight of that situation being changed. I really don’t want to go through the rest of my life without someone by my side, honey – or it I have to, I hope it doesn’t go on for too long. I can’t see another twenty or thirty years of living like this.

Joel talked about how anxiety exists in two forms; the things you can control, and the things you can’t. With the ones you can do something about, you do what you can, and try to honor God in your efforts. But with those you can’t – and I hardly need to tell you, those are the more numerous if you let them be – we’re to tell Him about them, and let Him take care of them. Like with so much of the Christian life, it’s a fairly simple solution, but it’s not easy in the slightest.

I know I talk to you in these letters, honey, but I’d like to think He’s aware of what I’m writing down. Either He’s leaning over my shoulder as I’m typing this, or over your shoulder as you’re reading this. Probably both. In which case, Lord, here You go. I don’t know why you sent those nightmares to me, to bother me about concerns that aren’t even my own, but if it gets me to tell You about the ones that really get under my skin (not that You didn’t already know about them), then I get they did the job You appointed for them. Now, could you help me out with this? Thanks.

And honey, if you could keep an eye out for me, and wish me luck, too, I’d appreciate it. Talk to you later.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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