Sleep has always come easy for me.
As a child, I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. Perhaps it was the long winters in the upper Midwest. Drinking some warmed milk, crawling into bed with my stuffed animals, saying my prayers and pulling the blankets up to my chin was a cozy end to a cold day. There was always a white glass with a clown on it full of water next to the bed in case I got thirsty. I was set for the next eight hours and hibernated soundlessly. A whispered prayer was my last moment of consciousness.
As a mother I first began to chase sleep a bit; it was like a friend that had gone away and I was left to wonder what had gone wrong. We had a family bed for the first year of breast feeding and although a king size one, my husband moved around a lot.
“The baby!” I’d yell when he was about to roll over on my sweet little daughter.
Then I’d rearrange the pillows as barricades to prevent the dreaded rollover but the deep sleep of my own childhood was gone now that I was a mother. Even with the strategically placed feathered barricades in my own bed, I was on guard. Fierce maternal protector.
As my daughter grew more capably and strong, deep sleep also seemed to come back to me. My friend was returning. This was good as I had begun to do some personal growth work. Divorce invites us to do that. I wanted to understand and deal with the ending of my marriage. Soon I uncovered codependency issues and compulsive overeating patterns. Twelve step recovery was my introduction into transforming my own dysfunctional and addictive behaviors. It was emotionally strenuous and I needed my sleep.
Spiritual connection also became a priority in my recovery. Adjustments in my own rituals and practice from growing up Catholic were easy and I integrated the old with the new.
My daughter and I left behind the Catholic grace before every meal but we would hold hands and say what we were thankful for.
Disclosing my character defects to a 12 step sponsor replaced confessing my sins to a priest in the confessional.
Nighttime prayers became a personal inventory before sleep.
Every evening, like the good Catholic girl I’d been raised to be, I prayed. But this time I learned a new devotion and practice. My sponsor had told me that in order to stay abstinent from my compulsive overeating and improve my relationships, I would need to do a daily inventory of myself. It was my emotional hungers that lead me to bingeing and purging, and the resentments that I carried fueled my unhealthy relationship dynamics.
For over 20 years, I’ve taken two practices to bed with me.
Before I sleep, I take a personal inventory.
I ask myself: Where have I been selfish, self-seeking or resentful? Am I carrying any resentments from the day?
Once noted, I resolve to make amends the next day. Sometimes the amends are to my current husband, sometimes a stranger which becomes more difficult, and sometimes it is to myself. If I’ve behaved badly with someone I won’t easily meet again, my amends to them are to pray that they have all the things in their lives that I want for myself.
“There is no better test of a man’s integrity than his behavior when he is wrong.” ~ Marvin Williams
Then, I pray. I give over to Spirit all that is unresolved in my heart, and ask for guidance for those I love.
Whatever is unresolved in my heart and mind becomes a spoken prayer at night. If there is any question about what action I should take in a situation, I request inspiration and clarity on what to do. Then I close my eyes and rest.
While my friend, sleep, has once again become more elusive in this new season of my life, my personal inventory and prayer rituals have stayed close. These two practices every night give me peaceful slumber and enhance my waking hour with authentic connections in all my relationships, especially with myself. I am fed with what I hunger for the most.
“To cultivate equanimity, we catch ourselves when we feel attracted to aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity.” ~ Pema Chodron
“The world is my church. My actions are my prayer. My behavior is my creed.” ~ Steve Maraboli
Author: Sally Bartolameolli
Editors: Travis May