Sleep

When I was a little girl, I hated going to sleep.  On summer nights I would lie in my bed and listen to the slap of PF Flyers hit the pavement while the older kids in the neighborhood played hide and seek in the shadows of the elm trees on Green Street.  I thought being sent to bed was insulting, and going to sleep a waste of time.  Most of all, I was afraid I’d miss something fun and exciting.

In the morning, I wakened early, the smell of toast and coffee tickling my nose, and crept silently down the stairs so I could surprise my mother and father by bursting into the kitchen with a loud “Boo!”  For years, Boo was a pet name only used by my parents, not shared by my siblings or friends. 

But things have changed.  Nobody calls me Boo anymore.   Although I still follow the scent of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, there are no stairs to creep down, and no parents buttering toast in the kitchen.  And even though I still find life fun and exciting, I cherish my sleep.

As babies, my children would fight sleep, pumping their arms and legs, and struggling to keep their drooping eyes open until at last, they relented.  I loved to hold my sleeping infants in my arms, their relaxed little bodies like rag dolls, their breathing light and even.    I would watch them sleep, their rosebud lips and the blush of their cheeks so delicate, so tender that I would barely stand to put them down.

Each had a unique way to slip into restful peace.  Abby would lay her head across my shoulder and thumb in her mouth, stroke my earlobe as she drifted off to sleep.  Gabe loved to nap in a pack on my back. He would gather the hair at the nape of my neck in his tight fists and rub his face in my hair until the rocking of my steps swung him to the Land of Nod.  Elizabeth could slumber anywhere, as long as she had her green patchwork quilt.  At church, she would snuggle under her beloved “nigh-night” and be in deep repose before we got to opening song’s second verse. 

We rarely think about sleep unless it eludes us.  Usually, I drift off within moments of lying down, but lately, worries have occupied my mind and night after night I lay in quiet darkness for hours, eyes open, unable to drift off.  I revisit the problem in my head, playing out different solutions, different responses, different paths, over and over, with no resolution.  Finally, I fall into a restless sleep, waking every couple of hours to change position, flip my pillow and try again to slip into a state of unconsciousness.  I wake feeling worse than when I went to bed, head aching, stomach churning, knowing that it will be seventeen hours before I can again crawl between the cool sheets and sink into my awaiting pillow.  I think of my precious Elizabeth and how many times she dragged her tattered quilt with her on hospital visits. She would wrap the quilt around the hospital pillow, replacing its antiseptic smell with the quilt’s familiarity.  If only I could wrap that quilt around my pillow and hide in its scent.

Friends offered their favorite remedies for insomnia- a cup of warm milk, a glass of wine, a shot of bourbon.  I have tried reading, watching television, praying, and playing Solitaire on the computer until my eyes blur.  Still, once I nestle down under my comforter, it begins again- the same nagging concern, the same unsolved problem, and again I watch the LED display of my alarm clock click from ten to eleven to twelve. 

Last night my thoughts turned again to the memories of my sleeping infants.  What was it that made them relent, to allow sleep to overtake them and carry them silently through the night?  It was trust.  Trust that the strong arms that held them would not let them fall.   Trust that they would be warm and fed and safe.  Trust that tomorrow would come, that after a time, the ebony night would be split open by the pale golden fingers of the sun.  Trust that they were held close by someone who would love them beyond days that could be numbered. 

Could it be that I was lacking trust?  I trust…sort  of.  I give over the problem, but find myself clinging to a corner, just in case.  I know that I need to relent- to let go, but I pump my arms and legs, and thrash against it, much the way my infants fought their naps. 

But that isn’t really trust and I know that I need to release my hold totally and completely.  I realize that it is time to stop fighting, to stop controlling, to stop directing.  It is time to know that the arms that hold me are strong and will not let me fall. That I will be warm and fed and safe, and that this ebony night will someday be split open by the pale golden fingers of the Son.  He will hold me close because He loves us beyond days that can be numbered.

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1 Comment

  1. Libby Crenshaw

     /  November 17, 2010

    Funny you did this one, last night I saw 1:30; 2:30; 3:30….and finally fell asleep @ 4…only to have my alarm go off at 5:00…..none of my usual remedies was working for me last night…..Man I hope I sleep tonight!!! and you too!!

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