Are We There Yet?

Sarah Cavanaugh

Sarah Cavanaugh
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA
August 01
My poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Nimrod, and Southern Poetry Review. Currently, I am trying to reclaim my life after being blacklisted. Don't mess with the Federal Government or defense contractors. Wish me luck.


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APRIL 27, 2012 1:45PM

A Cold And Lonely Place

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    I fall asleep every night thinking happy thoughts. I have family and friends, after all, and most of my needs are met.

    But always, right around four o'clock in the morning, I awake with a troubled mind. The darkest hour is right before the dawn, they say. This certainly seems to be true for me.

    I begin to ponder the great mysteries. Are we alone in the universe? Is there eternal life? Then I begin to evaluate my own life. Have I ever kicked my dog, hit my child, borne false witness, taken what wasn't mine? 

    I feel as though worms of doubt are crawling through my gray matter. Perhaps it is just a vestige of my Catholic upbringing, but I begin to wonder if I need to make amends, somehow.

    These questions build and build in my troubled mind until I reach the point of what I would describe as night terrors. Is it devils with pitchforks that I fear? Is it simply the darkness? I find myself on the brink of the thumb-sucking stage. It was the same when I had a husband sleeping beside me. I reach out to pet my cat for comfort and solace.

    I suspect it is the isolation of the human condition that troubles me. I think of the immortal Stanley Kunitz poem, The Science of the Night. Even at the moment of climax, two lovers feel their isolation. I think of John Lennon's great song, Imagine. What if there really is "only sky above?"

    I toss and turn until dawn streaks the sky in hues of peach and violet. I can finally reassure myself that the night has passed. I promise myself that I will be kind to others today and help however I can.

    It's morning now, so I tell myself, so what if the universe is a cold and lonely place? There is still the warmth of human flesh, of a beating heart.We are alone in a vast and empty space only if we allow ourselves to be.

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four am is a great time to write or paint if you can get mind engaged and then you can see the dawn. It is a great time to be in the forest too- the Eastern stars grow weak and then begin to fade and on some days you sit for a moment between dawn and night- the turkeys giving tree calls, the deer heading up. Maybe its just not a good time to be in bed?
Oh, I so understand this! I get this feeling if I wake up in the night, especially anywhere from 3-5 am. Just terrible. I think it must be some brain thing, like how our brains dream to recharge and process things that have happened over the previous day? Maybe that's the moment when they're going through all the negative crap? Whatever the case, I hope you'll sleep the whole night through tonight, and all the nights to come.
Sarah, much to ponder. We are all, ultimately, alone, but friends and loved ones and kind strangers can lighten the load.
I do sometimes think about how hard it would be to be alone, I guess specifically without my dear Steve. The alone part would be different, but I'd adjust. But thinking of no Steve is awful. Alone is like you is what you make it..I would be closer to Olivia, my cat, certainly. lol(We are already close.) Believing as you know I do helps me to forsee the future to a certain degree. Then again I am not a church goer, so there is always room for improvement. I am thinking of going back, I am just not a joiner, social bunny person. I always get alot out of Mass, so I am hurting myself by not going. I do believe what you carry in your heart towards humanity counts,, and I do believe those who seek God, have already found him.
The last few years I wake up at three or so, I get on OS, I read and sometimes I watch the sunrise with coffee wrapped in a blanket. Once in awhile I write a poem. This is a really nice piece of writing Sarah. Four am did you well.
That's why our ancestors from the Savannah slept all together in a big pile.
kenneth, I have enjoyed the experience of sleeping out in the open as a Girl Scout and thrilled at the site of shooting stars.
Thanks, Alysa. Sometimes I get up and drink a hot toddy. It helps.
Erica, It seems to bother me only in the wee hours of the morning.
cindy, I share your beliefs, but doubts creep in.
rita, Thanks much. I don't get up but I do think about what to write about next.
jmac, That sounds like exactly what I need--a big pile of warm bodies to sleep with.
Do you recall how love feels? Love for a child, a parent, a partner?
The swelling warmth, the sense of well being?
That is an existential reality...
It is built in...
The world is big, very very big.
Then again, it is small, very very small...
you have ten trillion cells, made of atoms...
you have like, uh, 10 to the 26th atoms in your body...
which is how many stars there are...

between the incredibly small and the unutterably big


and by the way, they have located the center of the universe...
you guessed it..everywhere & nowhere...
meaning you. and that person you love.
The ghosts of past and future visit you, just like Dickens described, making you a better person when you awaken.
“Beware thoughts that come in the night. They aren't turned properly; they come in askew, free of sense and restriction, deriving from the most remote of sources.”
― William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways

I always think of that quote when I awake with worry. We are not fully awake and are missing the mental regulators that keep worrisome thoughts from growing beyond reason.

Often in the morning, with my brain fully functional, I think back and wonder why I was so worried.

There is a theory that dreams serve to simulate real events and allow us to practice our response. Sort of like a flight simulator for life.

Have you ever seen a sleeping dog running his legs after a dream rabbit or a cat growling at a dream rival?

But, I believe there's more -- I've had some remarkable premonition dreams that have come true leaving me to suppose that there is something more.

Take heart -- this universe is more wondrous than we know.
Four o'clock was my waking time for so many months. I felt crushed under the anxiety at that hour of the night. It's gone, for now.
I hope yours will leave you soon, too. ~r
James, I still say "yikes"is right. How did we ever get here?
Indigo, I agree with you. Profound quote, by the way. But in the wee hours of the morning, a chill hand closes over my heart.
Jonathan, Mozel Tov right back at you. I think my Plain sect relatives were once Jewish in Europe. They look very Semitic in the old photos, but so did my mother.
Matt, Trouble is, I'm afraid of ghosts. They don't stay where they're supposed to.
Joan, It's been with me for a long time, but there is always hope.
Very well written and obviously you are not alone in this.

I find it reassuring to know others can relate. I have dreadful dark thoughts in the night and every time I wake. It makes coming round each day very difficult.

Maybe it's partly the darkness, the quiet, the aloneness or maybe it's something beyond our understanding. I suspect sensitive and creative souls are the ones who suffer this way.

I often say I wish sleep had never been invented, but hope you'll find a way to sleep peacefully.
I wake at 4 to get ready for work BUT on the weekends if I wake at 4 it feels like a totally different time. I do understand what you mean...
I rather like that dark time. All is still. Much can be accomplished. The best to you when it comes again.
You might regret kicking the dog or bearing false witness but you will never regret being kind. There's a plan here we can only glimpse when distractions are few, but it always starts and ends with being kind. Swell post - R.
4 am and a heavy heart - may your burdens be lighter...
Lovely post. Like Rita said, this can be a great 3am place. Not every night, but often enough there are other awake souls to huddle around. Lots of whistling in the graveyard.
Sarah,a heart ρick your work..You have just described my nights,my silent fears,my voiceless thoughts.May we all wish that night is gone....Me too,like you...Imagine and...

"I can finally reassure myself that the night has passed. I promise myself that I will be kind to others today and help however I can."
Rated and rated and rated!!
I am feeling this quite well dear.
Very well written.
Many work at that time on some great pieces. Early morning is the best time for me,
I want to try and think about the bigger questions, but I really value my sleep and I usually go to sleep around 4m, so I'm really more concerned about your comfort right now. Deep, restful sleep can never be overrated, and I hope you do whatever needs to be done to get it. I hear the US is fairly liberal with its medical marijuana policy...
For me it’s between 3 and 4, so I’ve made that my time.
I put the coffee on; go for a walk with the dogs see the sun come up just watching that dispels all worries.
After that the day is mine to as I wish.