In the movie “Aliens”, a little girl named Newt, found by a visiting crew, gives insight into the cruel, fear-inducing aliens that have decimated her community and home. “They mostly come out at night” she says, “mostly”. The aliens that haunt me during this pandemic mostly come out at night too. They wake me up from an uneasy sleep and make it hard for me to go to bed at night. They mostly come out at night, mostly.
When you bed down for the evening there is a vulnerability that sweeps over you. Your physical body is going to shut down for a time and your brain is going to dissipate into dreams. You are at the whims of the night. It is then that I begin to feel the full weight of the situation and the reality of very tough times – the aliens of angst in our midst.
What are the aliens of angst that come out at us at night, mostly?
The alien of uncertainty: We are conditioned by our Western scientific mindset to value certainty over all else. When it gets threatened, we begin to run scared in the face of its unpredictability. It is the loss of control that we fear. Yet even in the best of times, the loss of control is a certainty. It is the illusion of control that we cling to and that gives this alien its fearful presence. To look uncertainty in the eye and accept it for the fact that it is, diminishes its negating, illusory partner; control.
The alien of failure: I have lived most of my life living under the description of bipolar II disorder. It has stalled my life. The main reason is that every opportunity became an invitation to despair. A friend asked me yesterday if I ever had a dream job. I answered I might have, but I wouldn’t have known it.
To define failure, one must define success. You can’t understand one without the other. Yet our definitions vary across the spectrum. For some success is defined by material possessions. For others it is the amount of time available to pursue what’s important. This alien comes at me most profoundly because I allow the materialistic, consumeristic definition of success to rule the night. I am not a failure. I am a good father to my children and a loving husband to my wife. So, in the words of the great American philosophy Kenny Loggins, “even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you hunny, that everything will bring a change of love.”
The alien of despair: Despair is like a compression wave that radiates through everything. It is mostly a mindset that we allow ourselves to engage in and allow to have its way with us. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that depression has a tight logic. It’s easy to stay there. What’s harder is to break out of its grip. To do so requires joy. Joy is not happiness. Happiness is fleeting, like trying to chase a butterfly. Joy is enduring and finds us. It can seep into our lives in the most unlikely of situations – situations for which joy should be in short supply. It comes from something outside the realm of our reality. Joy, as C.S. Lewis says is “the serious business of heaven”