Saturday, January 5, 2013

Overcoming the Gloomy Passions of the Night

My room was hot, and the need to evacuate my bladder woke me up this morning. My mind bumbled out of dream state, but something from the images and narratives of subconscious clung to me. I swung my sprained pelvis carefully and pivoted in pain towards the bathroom, then lurched back to bed, to shake off the dream-haunts.

I have started having these again. Dreams were always vivid to me in my early childhood. Some dreams are still so clear, I called them visions for years on end. In high school, dreams of glowing hands of God, or fearsome beasts, morphed to mirror the horror movies I imbibed. Gruesome murders, involving people I knew, haunted me for days, recurring sometimes. After I broke up with my first boyfriend, I had seven years of dreams about him. I woke up for the first six years of marriage with mornings where I felt adulterous for longing for the man I had put away years ago.

Finally, around my thirtieth birthday, the dredges of my mind stopped rehashing the dream state. I also stopped sleeping more than six hours a night. For the four years we lived in Pennsylvania, I slept little, severed dreams from wakefulness, and thought I had beat back the "gloomy passions of the night" against which I prayed before sleeping and repented of with morning prayers.

In fact, morning prayers might have been part of why dreams did not cloy at me for hours into a new day. I beat my alarm clock to wakefulness like it's a race. I turn towards the small icon of Christ on my bedstand, and stumble out of sleep with the Trisagion. I move through morning prayers and into prayers for those on my list, the sick, the suffering, my children and god-children, my husband's ministry, the spiritually seeking. By the time my alarm goes off, I've wandered in and out of prayer-sleep and I'm ready to see the day with centered psyche, nous is what the Orthodox Christian calls it.

Not this morning. I woke up realizing I felt grinchy and stingy and that I'd fed my brother-in-law Miralax instead of Claritin, and it all felt so real I was checking to see if I guests. That's right. In my dream, I'm standing in my kitchen when my brother-in-law comes down and says he's hunting for some Claritin. I have some, I say and sprinkle what I take to keep regular on his drink. He gulps. It's all good until I wake up. It's laughable that I realized my error upon consciousness, and felt bad.

Later in my dream, a fellow priest's asked to get together on Sunday night. In my dream world, I wanted to say no. Sunday nights are how my husband and I center ourselves for the week. I could not bring myself to say No, though. That's pretty much me. I hate saying no. I will often say yes and break the bank of my emotional reserves, or our literal bank to fulfill obligations.  I do it all with a grinchy heart. A cycle of obligation and thanklessness feed each other.

Does anyone else struggle to find a place for gratefulness to free them for grace?

Now that I've prayed, written and tooled around, I am ready to begin today's list

  1. Music. I'm surprised at how much music of any sort can be made into something beautiful. 
  2. Learning to listen, moving towards listening. The discipline of good things like listening.
  3. Fresh rosemary in the dead of winter- I'm eating it now.
  4. The ability to write and surprise myself with words, and maybe, surprise others.
  5. The serendipity of messages from friends that changes the tone of a moment, even the moments after getting a rejection letter.
  6. Morning prayers and evening prayers, written wisely by saints who realized that even dreams spoil our healthy souls, and that prayer is healing.
  7. If, you view the video above, I'm reminded to be thankful for even being able to walk, because walking is causing me a decent amount of pain right now.
  8. Finding the unexpected beautiful "Something the Lord Made" in another person.
  9. 2 minute talks with my husband, moving through the day.
  10. Water, clean and running into my house to drink and clean myself. Being quenched.
  11. Water as a metaphor for how I need to be dynamic, able to move around and yet be a powerful force in the world around me.
  12. Water, by which Christ baptized and redeemed our sick and broken environment, and gave us the promise of cleanliness.
  13. Reminders to loosen up, let go, be present.
  14. Hot spicy food, like bhut joloka peppers and Valencia hot sauce.
  15. Finally, because I just finished a great essay in Mystery and Manners, Flannery O'Connor's insights into story-telling and God.

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