Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sunday Thought: Our Lady of Sleep?

I caught the end of some TV show about sleep disorders. I had meant to watch the whole thing but, as often happens, got distracted by something else (probably another show), and remembered only when the hour was almost up that I was supposed to be watching that other thing. So I flipped back real quick and saw a young boy tucking himself into bed while the narrator said that he (the boy) would lose 10-15 years off his life every time he went to sleep. That can't be right. I must have heard wrong, or else the narrator's guilty of bad grammar, or sleep deprivation. I have heard that a condition called sleep apnea can take 10-15 years off your life all told. That's if it doesn't kill you first for not breathing. Anyway, the two second snippet I saw put me in mind of the Blessed Virgin, but it wasn't my fault. I rummaged around in the old cerebral suitcase for a while before it finally came to me. I did some more rummaging through one of our bookcases and finally found it too (the book, I mean). Then I had to rummage around in the book to find the passage. (All the rummaging took over an hour.) It was in a letter from Flannery O'Connor to one of her friends. Apparently the friend (who at the time was religiously curious, later converted to Catholicism under O'Connor's influence, before finally de-converting, to O'Connor's grief) had mentioned in her own letter something about broken sleep, to which Flannery responded:

The business of the broken sleep is interesting, but the business of sleep generally is interesting. I once did without it almost all the time for several weeks. I had high fever and was taking cortisone in big doses, which prevents your sleeping. I was starving to go to sleep. Since then I have come to think of sleep as metaphorically connected with the mother of God. Hopkins said she was the air we breathe, but I have come to realize her most in the gift of going to sleep. Life without her would be equivalent to me to life without sleep, and as she contained Christ for a time, she seems to contain our life in sleep for a time so that we are able to wake up in peace.

The reason it rung the bell for me is that when I have trouble sleeping, I head for the rosary. Well, more accurately, I start saying Hail Mary's. Holding the beads doesn't help. I'm usually too tired to keep track of which bead I'm on in which decade, so I just jump in with "Hail Mary, etc." and keep going. (I've more than once realized that I've said several Hail Mary's while still holding on to the same bead, so I have to start over.) I do try to think of a few intentions beforehand so that I'll feel like I'm doing something more important than counting Mary's in lieu of sheep. I'll just have to trust that the Lady doesn't mind. After all, she gave the idea for the rosary to some saint way back when, it's repetitious by nature, so she can't complain if people use it as a sleep-aid. It was her idea. Plus, the only reason it ever occurred to me to use it that way is that she once rocked baby Jesus to sleep, so I figure she can do the same for me. Rocking is repetitious, but so are the good habits that end in virtue. (So they tell me, not having gotten that far.)

The only other technique that works nearly as well is stuffing the King James Bible under my pillow. I don't know why it works, but it does. Just trust me.

I won't have that problem tonight, though. I did a lot of yardwork and inhaled enough beer to keep me yawning through this post. Probably best not to tempt fate. The night might come when I can't sleep and she won't let the Hail Mary's work. Fine. I have a backup plan. It's called the Miraculous Medal. No beads to count. Just hang on and say the words. Over and over.

11 comments:

Lydia McGrew said...

Trying to pray always is at least somewhat helpful for sleep, though it doesn't work if I'm actually in physical pain or discomfort. Then it just gives me something constructive to do while I can't sleep. I'm not sure what sort of comment it is that praying makes me sleepy...

Bill White said...

Funny you should mention that - I'm rarely able to stumble and weave all the way into a second Hail Mary if I'm praying them in bed.

Beth said...

I enjoyed this; I often can't sleep and it made me laugh. Is it only the KJV that works under the pillow? Just curious. Ours is a pretty old copy and I'm not sure it would withstand my tossing and turning . . . :)

On a serious note, I've been learning about the Rosary recently (one of our graduates who converted to RC sent me one, with a booklet that has the prayers -- I really appreciate the meditations and prayers that make up the Mysteries) -- but I'm not sure I understand the concept of "intention" -- would you mind explaining?

And I hope you'll chime in over at Lydia's about offering up suffering -- I'd like very much to know your take on that.

So them's your writin' assignments! :) (Yes, I'm working on mine!)

William Luse said...

"I'm not sure what sort of comment it is that praying makes me sleepy..."

It says the prayer's doing what it's supposed to do.

From the sound of his "problem", Bill White's going to live 10-15 years longer than most of us.

Beth, by 'intention' I just mean offering the rosary for some purpose greater than my selfish desire to get to sleep, as in the hope that some babies will escape the abortionist's blade, or that the dead people I've known in life (they're dead now, not when I knew them) will get a shorter route through purgatory, that kind of thing.

As to the right sort of bible, I'd assume anything that wasn't translated and footnoted by modern synthesizers, or handed to you by a Jehovah's Witness knocking at your front door, will work. The KJV is the only one I've tried. Had it since childhood. It's a hard cover with pages trying to fall out, frayed edges, and beautiful language suited to the dignity of the message, unlike the big fat paperback Jerusalem bible in the bookcase, which hasn't changed position in decades.

Beth said...

Thanks, Bill. I may have to try the Bible under the pillow . . . :) My friend who gave me the rosary says she prays it to calm her mind and get to sleep also. I definitely need something to help me, and *some* kind of repetitive prayer would certainly help, I would think -- thinking about specific needs to pray for just puts my mind right back into "roiling thoughts" mode . . .

dylan said...

Do you think the 1928 Book of Common Prayer would work as well as the King James Bible?

TS said...

Great post Bill, I'll try it out.

William Luse said...

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer is almost guaranteed to work. I've owned it the exact same length of time as the KJV. They were always companions. The three of us grew up together.

Paul Cella said...

I am amused by the post, not least because of its timestamp. 5:03 AM. Were you doing yardwork and drinking beer in the middle of the night, Bill?

William Luse said...

I started in late afternoon (temp still in the 90's), kept working after darkness fell, sat outside drinking for a while, pondering all the important things I could be doing instead, but not caring enough about the important things, ate dinner (probably pizza), may have nodded off for an hour around midnight but can't remember, around 2 A.M. sat down at computer, pissed around reading others' blogs, began my own post around 3, the point at which the capacity for approximately logical thought kicked in, and the rest is very minor history.

smockmomma said...

mr. luse, it is my experience that the later, new king james version, works well for sleep, too. when i was in college, i lived by myself and suffered from pretty awful nightmares [thanks to my stephen king addiction], and was headed for serious sleep deprivation. my grandmother's remedy was for me to sleep with the Bible (NKJV) under my pillow and to pray the following proverb:

when you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. (prov. 3.24)

now, if sleep wasn't something that God finds important, would he promise it to us in His Word? by the way, my nonny's remedy? it worked wonders ... and still does to this day when i have trouble sleeping!