Redeeming Grace

It gets dark so early this time of year.

I took a second job, recently, that has me making a commute twice a week, and the end of the day finds me leaving in the dark and fighting traffic. It’s a hard way home, and I haven’t found the shortcuts yet, the best ways through the hairiest intersections. I sit at a lot of stoplights waiting for them to turn.  By the time I get home, it feels like the middle of the night.

Kick’s forgotten how to sleep. Or nap. She knew pretty early, at 3 months, how to sleep eight hours at a crack and take three hour naps, and we got spoiled. Now she’s a newborn again, up and down all night. She sings to her stuffed animals, lays in her crib and talks to herself, and sometimes falls back to sleep on her own. I don’t. I lie awake, waiting for her to wake again.

This time of year is all about waiting. Last year, waiting for her to be born, feeling her turn over and over inside me, seeking a quiet place to rest. Five years ago, waiting for my grandmother to die, knowing she was in terrible pain and longing for the end. When I was small, waiting for Santa Claus, for the magic of Christmas morning, which was supposed to bring peace on earth.

All the news at the end of this year was bad: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice. The NSA report, almost going to war with North Korea over a fucking James Franco movie, the midterm implosion, and the cable-news sponsored political death spiral into the 2016 presidential election. We are arguing over which kind of torture is okay and how hard we should interrogate rape victims for holes in their stories and we are drug-testing welfare recipients just to be mean. We’re auditing t-shirts at protests. Modern feminism seems more eager to discuss rich women working than all women eating. And we’re getting pretty close to a court ruling that declares that once again you can refuse to let certain kinds of people sit at your lunch counter, because freedom and sincere beliefs.

This whole fall has felt like a giant step backwards, out of the light, and we’re just waiting now, for it to end. The traffic signal will change, and everything will begin anew. I was profoundly relieved on December 22: The days will get longer now, if only by seconds, and maybe the swing toward light will be more than just physics. Maybe there will be less stupidity, fewer excuses, if we can just flip the calendar like flicking a light off and then on again.

I doubt it, though. Not because I’m mired in some seasonal-affective-nihilistic despair. I doubt it because waiting for an opportunity to change is the opposite of making one, and there’s no such thing as a blank slate. The waiting’s never over. The world doesn’t get better because we close the books on one year and open them on another. There’s only one perfect time to begin again and be stronger and work harder, and that time is all the time.

This next year will bring efforts to correct all the problems we’ve had and those efforts will need support in all kinds of ways. The news won’t get smarter or better without a lot of people pushing back, the candidates who need to be heard often can’t amplify their own voices enough, and we can’t afford to wait for the light. The people depending on the decisions we make can’t afford to wait for the right time, the right place, the new year, a new day.

Daylight is scarce in December. It gets dark so early this time of year.

A.