I ran my boats out of fuel one night on a long interdiction operation in East Africa. We’d gotten bad gas from one of the local stations and I had a bad plan that didn’t account for it. Ten hours into the mission, the engines on each of the two boats that carried my team died as we streaked down the warm West Indian Ocean swells in the darkness. Another ten hours later, after my team stripped the tanks to get one engine up and I had to make a blind surf passage through the reef on a zodiac to find a truck and siphon some gas, we pulled back to our dock.
In the morning, just before the sun came up, I climbed into my bed with my gear on and drifted off into a deep dreamless sleep. Flickers of home flashed into my head as the mission drained out of me and I slowly slipped from consciousness. I was at peace. There was no energy left for anything else. I felt clean.
Many who live and work in the sort of kinetic environments that push physical boundaries experience the same fatigue. Doctors in ERs. Nurses. Fireman fighting wildfires. At some point the human body goes into dept. Adrenaline takes over. And when it’s over, it’s over. Sometimes I felt light afterward. Physically, like when I took my gear off I would float away.
It sounds crazy to me now to put the words down like that so many years later. But chances are, if you’ve lived that life, you know what I mean. But even more these days if you haven’t, you might too.
America is tired. We’ve been in a fight for a long time. We’ve been fighting a virus that won’t let up. We’ve been balancing work and homeschooling kids and waiting in lines outside stores for food and toilet paper. We’ve been fighting for justice because for the first time in a long time we don’t trust that anyone is going to fight for it for us. We’ve been fighting each other because the cracks in our fragile unity have been blown apart by political leaders who don’t recognize the norms of limits on that which should be politicized. And every step along the way, the sinking notion that this thing of ours might not make it. And that on the other side what comes won’t be the good guys. Because we don’t believe in good any more. And the anxiety that causes won’t let us rest.
We’re ready to crawl into our racks with our gear on to drift off and find some peace.
But we can’t.
The debates are over. The news cycle will push on. And we’re probably in for a bombshell or two over the next 10 days. But the fight isn’t over. We’ve got more ground to cover before we get out from underneath the impacts of the pandemic and the economic and societal stress it’s caused. But we’re tired. And we don’t have much left. And we don’t have any more margin to fight optional fights. And we don’t have any more energy to spend on politics.
I’m a logical person. Sometimes obtusely so. I try not to suffer rhetoric or tolerate self-deception or delusion. But right now, all I want is for someone I can convince myself to believe to stand up, in an honest voice and tell me the lie that I need to hear. That we are all in this together. And that they know the way home. And that we’re going to get there. I know it might not be the truth right now. But it will be eventually. And if it isn’t, nothing really matters anyway. So someone needs to tell me that lie. And then do the things they need to do in order to make it true. Quietly. Confidently. And with room for everyone. We all win in this one. Or we all lose.