It was 3:57 AM. As I bounced back and forth, back and forth, listening to the combination of my “sh sh sshhh” and the creaking of the floor boards beneath my unslippered toes, I stared at the canvas on the wall across from our bed that says, “Be still and know.”
I’d been up since 2:00 AM, feeding and trying to coax to sleep an infant whose circadian rhythm was still kerbobbled from being all nested and cozy in my womb. As my weary eyes glanced down, I saw his eyes were wide as ever, watching the shadows from my too-bright flashlight bounce off the ceiling.
I thought, as I read the canvas over and over, “As if. I JUST need sleep.”
As if being still was the answer to this postpartum phase and sleep deprivation. As if being still was going to get my baby to sleep through the night or help me to get a little rest. The idea was absurd to me. I didn’t see how it was supposed to help when my world felt far from still.
But now I realize that absurdity is what will get me through these coming weeks. This postpartum story reminds me that the things that feel absurd may actually be the things that give us moments of peace, of joy, and healing–even if for a few minutes, or seconds, for that matter. I’ve been listening to Kate Bowler’s podcasts and have really wrestled with her idea of leaning into absurdity as a mantra for this year.
The truth is, everything about the past year has been absurd. It’s absurd that our world shut down. It’s absurd that for several weeks there was no toilet paper in sight. It’s absurd that human beings are oppressed and treated violently because of the color of their skin. It’s absurd that, as many people breathed their last breath connected to a ventilator, our health care providers had to be the ones to hold their hands because their families couldn’t.
The world is not short on absurd realities.
But as I review that sleepy moment at 3:57 AM, I am reminded of the hope for the redemption of the absurd in my own life, that absurdity itself may be what saves me. I am reminded that the absurdity in the canvas on my wall was possibly not that there was no stillness to be had in that moment, but that through all the loss of sleep those first few weeks, I was still standing and functioning. And that while the reminder to “Be still and know” may have felt absurd, now, chanting it over and over while rocking my baby has helped my body and soul remember, maybe even before my brain does. And that gives me something I need in those early morning moments.
Tyson’s and my life looks a thousand times different from the way it looked one year ago. For me, baby is life. I can’t imagine what life was like before. So that means that when I get moments that make life with an infant a bit less stressful, or I get to be drawn out of baby brain for a little while, I find healing and joy. That may mean leaning into things that once felt absurd, because they offer a sacred, holy moment of escape. We could all use something like this.
Sometimes those moments need to be cultivated. So for Kate Bowler, it’s building megachurches out of gingerbread. For me, it’s diving deep into watching The Bachelor with Tyson. It’s putting other things on hold and watching those women in their fancy red dresses and shiny gold shoes march up to Matt the Bachelor and try to get him to fall in love with them, because that feels like a practice in absurdity. It’s also doing absurd things like acting like a complete lunatic to try to get my child to crack a gummy smile and give a tiny little chuckle. It’s putting way too many marshmallows in my hot cocoa and wearing a shiny red Santa hat just to make Tyson laugh. It’s the things that help me breathe, that help me smile, and that remind me that there can be joy and redemption in the absurd.