Monday, March 14, 2016

knowing grace in my sleep

Nearly a decade ago, it felt as if my body was starting to fall apart. My knees would swell mysteriously for two weeks at a time, so stiff and painful that I wouldn't be able to walk for a few days. Then it was my stomach, then bruised and swollen ankles and feet so sore when I woke up that I couldn't walk. By that time, I had a diagnosis and medication, but even with those concrete signposts on a path toward healing, I couldn't be sure I would get there. My body felt foreign to me and I didn't know how to make peace with it.

Just as troubling was the heavy boulder of tiredness that I felt I was always carrying around. Turns out that trying to be well is exhausting. Added to that, blood had been seeping out through sores in my digestive tract, making me anemic. I remember days waking up in a haze, wishing I could just go back to sleep. I remember evenings taking naps after work, then falling asleep before the summer sun had set. I remember being afraid I wouldn't be wakeful enough to do the things I hungered for: making day trips to the beach, working a meaningful job, mothering a baby.

As with most trauma in our lives (at least the minor, boundaried kind), the daily fear of navigating chronic disease faded as I got well. Now I remember that I am sick only because of daily medication and doctor's forms that prompt me to recall the disease by name. Symptoms are minor and no longer grip me in the same way.

But there's still the tiredness. Every month or so the wave of it will come, that boulder placed on my back, that heavy layer of clouds dimming my mind and energy. My life is mostly normal, except that I can't help but feel the loss of these hours every month, when I go to bed early or sleep in later or take long naps on weekends. I wish I'd spent them writing or at a concert or hiking. Instead, I am in bed, semi-conscious. I don't even have dreams to account for the time. I have written in my journal under goals for the month or year, or as questions for my doctor: "energy issues." That's what I call this need for my bed.

But here's the thing: being tired helps me know grace. I ask for words to form in me during my sleep that I couldn't have thought of sitting at my computer. Maybe I dreamed of that concert, even if I don't remember it on waking. The music might still be in my head somewhere. And my legs, they are made strong in the lying still and resting. The Lord gives sleep to His beloved, the psalmist once said, and I wonder if he gives it not only as a relief to those who lie awake anxious, but also to those who might know something true of life in the body that others miss as they run around in this crazed sunlit world. I want to know this beloved-ness.

(In celebration of National Nap Day, purely by coincidence.)

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