It was Sunday night, dark had fallen early, and we were biding time until I could reasonably send the kids to bed.
What did I feel?
A mixture of malaise and panic, anxiety-riddled idleness.
No reason, really. It had been a whirlwind week and a half of travel and work and play and kids and no kids and kids again. We went places. We stayed home. We endured precious quiet. We survived the chaos of noise and frenetic pace.
And then it was Sunday.
You know the feeling of a Sunday when you were a kid? As if all things were ending, and you stared into a bottomless pit of nothing, waiting to be able to walk past and forget it existed. Hoping it didn’t suck you in.
It never did, of course. It was all an illusion, this sense of aloneness and worry, of staring at an empty can all washed out and ready for recycling.
And then Monday came and you went back to school and had busy-ness to focus on – homework and tennis and dance and a boy calling on the pale pink phone you got for your sixth-grade birthday.
The week spun endlessly unto itself. You had nothing to do but follow its pace, keep up with it, and do all that was expected of you, until you poured ecstatically into the weekend and loved every minute of freedom.
And then Sunday. The day of standing still. Of waiting. Of listening…for what?
When I was a kid, stores were not open on Sundays. You couldn’t buy wine on a Sunday, you couldn’t do much of anything. It was church day and we were Jews, and that meant an empty day of finding things to fill it with (Plans with a friend? Extra homework? Write that novel I’d always dreamed of?)
This particular Sunday, I made a big pot of soup, baked a quiche with homemade crust that my daughter thumbed together using the last of the unsalted butter and flour and cold water. I roasted peppers and shallots and garlic in olive oil in the oven for the filling, whipped eggs, milk and goat cheese, with herbs de provence.
It was 7 o’clock on Sunday night, then 7:30. My eldest was still not home from skiing. My step-daughter had gone back to her mother. I had accomplished a lot but I felt like I was groping in darkness for purpose and happiness and satisfaction.
No reason, as I said. No reason at all.
The darkness is relative and it’s a metaphor and it only exists within my head. Each day is a day unto itself. It exists for its own purpose. One is no more important than the next or the one before it. It’s the idea of idleness and lack of importance and being alone that suddenly hit me like a punch to the gut.
We are always alone. And yet, we never are.
In those hours, I wonder about this life. I wonder about my role here on this planet, and what is expected of me, and whether anyone would notice if I disappeared.
Do I matter? Do any of us?
And why these questions?
Why isn’t it enough to wake up and stretch into the sunrise, wash sleep from under our eyes, express gratitude for the gift of another day, another breath, and proceed to do our little part to change the world in a big way?
On every other day, that is more than enough. It’s a beautiful dictate.
On Sunday, though, on the end of a school break, after a vacation ends, when there is grocery shopping to do and children snarking and the grayness of winter clouds on a not-quite-winter warmish day, something becomes stagnant and insecure.
Or maybe it’s just me.
It was like the clock moved so slowly that I couldn’t see the end of it. When would the next hour come, and my daughter stop telling me I make things up and my rules are “INSANE”?
Even the peppers in the oven seemed to roast slower than usual. So much done and yet such an empty day. What to make of it?
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “I love to go to the zoo. But not on Sunday. I don’t like to see the people making fun of the animals, when it should be the other way around.”
I have always loved Ernest Hemingway but learned rather recently that he was an anti-Semite. All the best dreams burst in time.
George Burns once said, “I spent a year in that town, one Sunday,” and I guess that’s what I felt this past Sunday. It was a longer day than usual, and I looked into its abyss and wondered what lay at the bottom.
And at some point I realized that there is no bottom and nothing lurking there, just a huge creation of my own doing, a story like all the stories we live by, and I clung to it like a life raft, bobbing in and out of the ocean waves, wondering when land would come, when land was there all along.