Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I didn't get much sleep last night.

I'm afraid of not being able to sleep, and I knew that chances of sleeping well last night were not good. So I made a point of winding down before going to bed. I watched TV and talked to my son for a while, did some gentle yoga, answered a few very short emails, cleared away some dishes, and then I went to bed with a book--a boring one.

I dozed off quickly, but then I woke up and started to worry. Dozed off again, woke up, stayed awake, read, worried some more. Thanks to the yoga, my body felt relaxed during all of this, but my mind could not let go and sleep. I was gripped by a big, tense hand that wrapped around me as I shivered under the covers. it gave me a good shake every now and then, just to be sure I was still awake and paying attention to my problems.

I prayed during the night. Prayed for quick answers, for the telephone to ring with news tomorrow. I prayed for wisdom to recognize slow, transcendent answers, prayed about my guilt about being lazy, shy, fake. I prayed for the drug of sleep to creep through my veins and turn off the recordings playing in my brain.

Then I worried and wondered about these prayers. The basic theme was "God, show up right now and help me (even though I'm not sure that I'm the kind of person who believes you're going to do that)."

What should we pray for? God's will be done. Help me accept what your will is, O God. (And by the way, could your will for me please include a happy ending for my problems?) Make me mindful of your presence. Remind me to be grateful. (And if I'm grateful enough, will you give me what I want right now?) Your kingdom come, O Lord. (With peace and justice for all, and a good seat for me.)

These are my selfish little prayers, prompted by tossing, turning and trying to warm my feet in the night. The fear of things not going so well in the days ahead puts a hard edge on prayer. No spiritual niceties, no praying for a deeper faith. Just fix this now, so I can stop feeling so uncomfortable.

I wish I could report that insight and a better attitude arrived with the dawn, or that these signs of spiritual maturity arrived at all. The day dawned, the alarm rang, just as it seemed that sleep was finally within my grasp. I dragged my body downstairs to the bathroom, on bare feet because I couldn't find my smelly, easy-to-slide-into navy blue summer slides. I considered skipping the coffee so that I could go back to bed after getting kids off to day camp and summer school.

But I never skip coffee. I stayed awake and tackled jobs that needed to be done. Unpleasant jobs, such as sorting through the medical bills, making phone calls, cleaning my desk. I tried to take a nap in the late afternoon, but as things turned out, I read, dozed off and was awakened by the telephone.

The work I did today may have sown the seeds for solutions to some of the problems I worried about last night. My sleep-deprived numbness made it easier to just keep doing what needed to be done, without my brain running off to play or exaggerate the difficulty.

An answer to prayer?

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