Birds chirping woke me up before day break. These days it’s my favorite part of the day. All the little birdies chirping in the trees, signaling that night is done and a new day dawns. I can’t remember the last time I appreciated daybreak this much. After tossing and turning for most the night, it’s a wonderful reminder that joy comes in the morning.

This old fear has surfaced since COVID_19; a fear of the dark. And I know it represents something other than night-time shadows, but I’m too lazy, or better yet … too emotionally drained, to investigate and do the self work to figure out what’s snatching my joy. Most evenings I waddle to bed exhausted; still surprised that I can’t last past 9:30. What follows is a long night of tossing and turning, jumping at every single noise and hoping that my dog doesn’t get startled.

Some of this anxiety makes sense — for a couple of reasons despite the obvious. Earlier in March a white man pierced our doorbell at 3:00 in the morning and leaned into our front door. He actually rang the doorbell, which in hindsight makes his motives questionable, but at 3AM I’m not taking any chances with a strange man on my doorstep.

Startled out of our sleep, we informed him, through Nest, we were calling the police. With reluctance, he eventually left. We did call the police, and the woman on the other end of our 911 call started with questions about our possible intruder. She followed with a barrage of questions all related to COVID_19. There was a reluctance in her voice. I was tempted to remind her that I was calling 911 because I perceived a real threat and what difference did it if I had traveled out of the country, but in the midst of a pandemic, I think her immediate concerns were divided. It felt weird.

Are we sitting ducks for someone who wants to break in? We have no weapons and our “guard” dog is a Maltipoo that weighs just under 20 pounds. Based on her questions we ended up requesting a non-contact check. I’m not even certain if officers actually came.

I’ve since shored up our gates and fencing. For the first time ever, I’ve discussed firearms with my dad, and we’re seriously considering a Rottweiler puppy addition to the family.

The experience was all so unsettling and I guess it makes sense to be a little anxious at night doesn’t it?

But I have other nagging thoughts that are stoking my fear that stem from childhood junk. The Seventh Day Adventist church taught me as a child to fear God. That the end of the world would occur between “dusk” and “dawn”. This pandemic is stocking those fears for sure. Religious fears of “living in the last days” of plague and mayhem.

I’m not turning to the Bible for solace. I abandoned religion for spirituality long ago. Even still, in the back of my mind there’s this fear that maybe I should be “looking to the hills from whence cometh my help” (Psalms 121:1).

Those of us raised on a heavy dose of “fire and brimstone” religion are wondering what all this means. Is it a sign of the times? Is the end near? Are we really going to witness the 2nd coming of the Lord?

My grandma called yesterday to sing old religious songs to us and admonish that we make things right with God so we could be “saved” along with her and see our loved ones again. She reminded us that we are definitely “living in the last days” and only those who have “made themselves right with God” will be saved.

In the same breath, she told us about the “bitch” who worked in the nursing home who refused to give her chocolate ice cream even though she knew how much she hated vanilla.

I can’t argue with my 92-year-old grandma, especially about using bitch and God in the same sentence. Still, for me this feels less like “the end” and more like a shift from an abnormal normal.

This is what my daytime mind tells me: Our current state of affairs has a lot to do with our irresponsible response to a virus that required our serious attention and immediate, adequate leadership. On a larger scale it’s the result of disparities that exist in our broken systems. And in the grand scheme of things us humans have a huge debt to pay Mother Earth. Maybe this is a part of that debt.

When I feel anxious during the day I calm my fears by reminding myself that this forced pause causes me to question what normal life looks like for me and those closest. We love each other for sure, but as a family we take each other for granted. This time reminds me how precious we are to the whole. In many ways I needed to miss our interaction and the connection that too often takes a back seat to my hustle and grind.

This is something I can rationalize during the day, when I busy myself with projects and tasks. But when shadows fall and the day turns dark so do my thoughts and my fears return.

For the past couple of nights I’ve read books that calmed my spirit in the past. Books like Conversations with God and Ishmael.

I’ve switched up my routine to control what I ingest in the evening — both physically and mentally.

I’m resurrecting a routine I nurtured early on in sobriety consisting of a nightly brain dump and thoughtful moments of prayer; prayer to a God who loves me (not one who would burn me in hells fire).

I’m turning inward to discover what I’m truly afraid of and working through it.

And vigorously reminding myself that joy comes in the morning.

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