Monday, October 28, 2013

To Sleep or Not to Sleep?

The stars are twinkling - reminding me of the cavernous room in which I once bathed in a Turkish bath.  Myriad stars were cut in the domed ceiling and I felt catapulted - by the steam, by the apply-scent, by the days of a foreign illness - into an empyreal realm. Some of the fellow travelers in the room began singing, which - instead of bouncing awkwardly off the bare walls - somehow projected into an almost holy chant. I imagined the centuries of bathers that came to this room and felt as if I was soaking up a bit of that history. It was surprisingly soothing.

And so, too, the stars and the wrap of night. But, I still cannot sleep. With the verge of ten weeks until baby's arrival, I'm finding myself more and more awake when the crickets crone and an occasional dog barks, when the cold creeps in and blackness presses on the windows. Usually my insomnia is self-inflicted. In college, I would just fall into bed around 3 or 3:30 a.m, having spent hours in the ceramics workshop savoring the glistening spin of the wheel or the smooth slice of tools as I carved a clay creation. At a summer archaeological field school, I would dance wildly across the grassy expanse near the excavation - listening to music through a headset and imagining the life lived in a Woodland or Mississippian Native American settlement, where waddle and daub abounded - all in careful cover of night.

It was only 5 years ago, really, that the problem of sleeping became an issue. It was self-inflicted, but not really. My newborn's sustenance demanded it. Every mother that has pumped breastmilk knows the best time to gather milk is after a good sleep - so, 2 a.m. and 3 a.m, every night for 12 months, I dutifully dragged myself out of bed to harvest milk. It was hellacious. But, it plumped up my poor-nurser and made him thrive. I still remember waking up in 2009 from a full night's rest in a friend's New York apartment and crying because I had slept through the night. Tears of joy; tears of pain.

Ezra was a gourmand. I still had to awaken at night to feed him, but only for a while. He enjoyed night-time sleeping as much as he enjoyed the creamiest part of milk, so that discombobulating haze that often accompanies periods without sleep only lasted a few months - not a year. Now, my body prepares itself for next year's encroaching transition.

Do you ever experience that question, friend: "To sleep or not to sleep?" Perhaps pressing issues tap at your mental synapses or an anxiety or illness draws you from a fitful slumber? Perhaps someone for whom you are caring requires nightly checks or a beloved pet necessitates a nightly parade? Perhaps creativity bemuses and ensnares you?

You're not alone. Consider the Liturgy of the Hours. Consider the Earth's slow sip of sun each day. Somewhere in the world, the wave of prayer is covering us. So, take a moment and help that wave to sparkle, even if it's in starlight. You may find yourself wrapped in a soothing sleep sooner than you know - one cast by a loving God.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Good Idea

My three-year-old jabbers constantly. He has so many questions, I can hardly keep up with them all. For a mommy who relishes in quiescence, this can often be a bit discombobulating. So, this past week, when the domino-effect hit our house in terms of a gastrointestinal bug, I felt something missing with a calm and quiet Ezra.

Poor Joey began the array of ickiness on Monday, late. Two days later, I was ready for the routine: holding a bowl while Ezra was vomiting into its silvery depths, even when mostly dry-heaves humped his back; delicately wiping the drips of diarrhea from his reddening, round bottom; smoothing golden hair from his face while he, utterly exhausted from exertion, slowly slipped into sleep. 

I was not surprised when merely a few hours later, I awoke in the middle of the night with the same illness. And it was horrid! I was thankful for a husband who could care for the boys while I tended to my own illness. As I knelt over the toilet, I remembered a mommy that once comforted me as I had comforted my boys just days and hours before. When I was a child, my mother's tender caresses, soothing songs, and confident care were the best and most reassuring part of the healing process.

As Ezra's health returns, his questions do, as well. During lunch recently, he asked - among the myriad influx of random questions - "Are you a good idea, Mommy?"

His comment made me pause. On the one hand, I thought, Am I a good idea? From my perspective there are more things I have done wrong in this life than right. My failures pile up around me and I feel incapable of pushing them back, of mending areas long-ago broken, of finding the path I am supposed to be taking. Do you feel the same, friend? Do you feel buried by the weight of doing things better?

In a capitalistic society, it's not always easy to do good while also trying to just survive. Our own family has so many challenges, it makes me shudder. So, am I a good idea? Am I doing what God would want me to do? I definitely don't have the answer. I try to use what God gave me to help others - but, I'm not always sure I do it well or enough.

These are questions we have to ask ourselves - as shocking as they might be to hear. Are you a good idea, friend? Are you balancing the areas of your life? Our time on Earth is short. How can you make more of a difference in a world that values your marketable worth over a more intrinsic value?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Twining Tendrils

senk 2013
During transitional Autumn, I marvel at the tendrils that roving gourd plants shoot out into the garden. Among dry and yellowed corn stalks, the leafy profusion of yams, and caged tomatoes still trying to yield tasty fruits, those green spirals invade. In the case of a wigwam my sons and I wove into the dying corn, those tendrils conquer, as half the little house has collapsed from the pressure and pull of it all. In the case of our walking paths, those tendrils coerce, as we now find little swaths of ground to use as stepping stones throughout the garden. Even in our yard, where those vines ripen into butternuts or birdhouses or pumpkins, the lawnmower tracks a trail around the encumbrance.

I find people treat relationships the same way - do you, friend? We avoid, we overlook, we ignore what we don't understand, don't want to know, or cannot change. Often our words and body language are used to conquer another, coerce a variant opinion, or shun someone until we know what to say (which often never comes). We malign. We belittle. We deride.

What if we were more empathetic? In our culture, we're taught to suppress emotion and pain, to "suck it up" or "let it roll off your back." But, when we do this, we ignore an essential part of what it means to be human. We have emotion and pain for a reason, and when we use them to communicate in ways that heal, uplift, and encourage - we reveal the beauty of communication, of reaching out to the other sojourners we meet in life.

There are so many broken situations in our lives. We see them everyday and do nothing about them. We pass them on the street; we avoid them in our homes; and we even overlook them in our own hearts. Take a moment to really consider your motives, your actions, and especially your words. Among the jumble, God's there twining in a very different way: not to invade or overcome, but to guide and to love.