Waking Up

by Jeff Oaks

I lie on the couch. I have been lying on the couch since 5:30 when I woke, when I awakened. I came downstairs to write something for today, to fulfill a promise I made myself (and others). I slid down next to the dog and picked up the iPad and opened up Facebook first, to see what was happening in the world. 

Then it was 7:20. I felt I’d woke up a second time, still lying on the couch, without a single word written of my own. I’d read a short article about Rebecca Solnit. I’d looked at some beautiful images a man I don’t know personally posted on Facebook. I’d looked at some photos of a Scottish castle I hope to visit this summer. 

The number of hours I’ve been in fugue states lately, with virtually no memory of what I’ve done in those hours, has begun to frighten me in much the same way that I was frightened when I was sixteen or seventeen and realized that much of the adult life around me was spent there. My parents lived there often. My neighbors seemed to only live there they were so dull. Lives and pairs of them going through the motions, cycling through pre-set obligations–cleaning the house, going to work, buying groceries on Thursdays, visiting parents on Sundays, mowing lawns on Saturdays. 

Everyone on autopilot, although I didn’t know that term then. I wanted something else: memory, spontaneity, excitement, a feeling of aliveness.

Children were the only disrupters in that town, the only agents of change, and they were both adored and punished for their disruptions to the daily grind of responsibilities. They were the sudden flashes of color in an otherwise beige system. If, that is, they weren’t beaten down early by parents who found cycles more comforting than the occasional chaos children represented. 

The closest adults got to being like children was when they got really drunk.

It is now 7:35 and I have at least written these words. In fifteen minutes, I have at least written these words as a way to remind myself of myself while I begin to be aware of the responsibilities of the day–the last student conferences I need to get ready for, the administrative loose ends I need to tie up at the office, to pick up the dog from camp later, meet my friend Geeta for coffee and our weekly writer’s check-in. 

How much time will be spent in autopilot mode? How much of my time will I spend being aware of the possibilities for change, excitement? Will I act today in those moments, and bring about something new? At least writing these words has been something, a waking up within a waking up. It is 7:45. I get up from the couch and send this out.