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.

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