Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A peek under the surface

Those of you who know me have undoubtedly seen that I like to present myself as a pretty together person. I like my outward appearance to look confident, capable, intelligent, strong, independent. In this place, this blog, I admit to a lot of the stuff that bubbles away under that surface - hopes, fears, sadness, anger, joy, delight, love, uncertainty - but I usually try to keep that outward appearance intact, neatly wrapping up whatever it is I'm feeling by the end of a post. Those of you who are perceptive, especially those of you who have been through some of the neighborhoods I'm visiting these days, have most likely figured out that even though the blog post is neatly wrapped up, my feelings under the surface are not.

Right now, it is night. It is dark. There is a lovely thunderstorm outside, and though the breathtaking lightning and dramatic thunder have subsided, I still hear the soft patter of the raindrops outside my window. I worked from home today, and other than a trip to the grocery store, have had little face-to-face human interaction. There were two things I really wanted to accomplish before I went to bed tonight, but I'm too tired to take care of either now, though I'm not yet sleepy. The kitty is still hanging out in another room, but soon she'll come in and tell me it's time to get into bed.

I recognize my tired thoughts, particularly because I had them earlier today when I desperately needed a quick rest. I am feeling very unsettled tonight, fearful even. I don't like general anesthesia. I don't react badly to it, but I'm very afraid of not waking back up after. I don't like being unable to care for myself in basic ways. (How the heck am I going to take care of going potty? I don't even want to think about this one, but I have no idea! I do not want my mother helping me in the potty at age 35!) I fear placing myself into other people's hands, into strangers' hands. I trust easily with most things, but these are so basic, so primal.

I know that there is a holiness in giving oneself over into someone else's care. That is why The Servant Song has the lines

Pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant, too.


I have felt this most keenly in both physical therapy and in massage therapy. It can be very hard to accept another's undivided attention to your care. This surrender is very much like the surrender to God, which I've never been able to completely accomplish, either. My guess is that this is part of the human condition. We want to believe we're in control, and we cling so tightly to that control, especially when we feel we are losing it. I am terrified of being completely out of control of my life, of my body, of my basic physical needs and how to care for them.

I wish I wasn't going to be alone here Sunday night. There is no question about me sleeping in my home that night, before my surgery. But... I wish it didn't have to be alone. Our assistant priest offered to bring me eucharist here the night before, and do the prayers and anointing at that time, with the idea that it may help me sleep. I said I would prefer that at the surgery center in the morning. But I would really like someone to just sit next to me, occasionally reach out and touch my hair or my shoulder, and smile to remind me that it will be all right. Or maybe, to sing me the third verse of that song:

I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.

In a few minutes, I will log off and shut down this computer. I will change into my pajamas, slip into my bed, and begin to pray Compline. This is one of my favorite parts of the day - the dark silence, reaching out to God and knowing that God is with me, surrounding me, caring for me, loving me. Psalm 4 is absolutely beautiful - I call it God's Bedtime Story - and I adore this prayer...

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

... as well as the antiphon for the Nunc dimittis ...

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

It is all pure poetry. And since I seem to be writing this blog post to comfort myself, I will end with the words to a song I learned in children's choir a long time ago. I tried to find information on it, but have only found one other link from a google search, and it is on another blog, from another lady who learned it as a child as well. So here is the lullaby, the prayer I sing for myself tonight. And just maybe, if you are unsettled or fearful or sad or angry tonight, for you, too.

Good night, my father
Put thoughts of Jesus in my head
Holy Spirit comfort me
Put angels all around my bed.