May 22, 2015

An Old Fashioned Way to get through a Sleepless Night.


I was on vacation with my husband in Balmorhea, Texas when, after walking around the very small town for a while, we checked into the Prude Ranch, ate dinner from the fried chicken I had fixed before we left, played Scrabble and went to bed.

Two hours later, still awake, I finally looked at the clock.

I had been in a kind of half sleep, aware that my husband had been up and down and in and out of bed, turning tortuously from one side to the next ever since we’d lain down.

“What’s the matter,” I asked. “Why aren’t you asleep?”

He’d been having episodes of extreme muscle cramping and painful discomfort. Nothing he did relieved the tension. His body looked taunt and rope-y, his face distorted.

“I just can’t let go of the awful tension,” he said. “My muscles are so tight I can’t relax them. Everything hurts”

Parkinson’s often attacked his muscles in this way, especially if he hadn’t been careful to keep moving during the day—and neither one of us had realized the toll a 10 hour drive from Tucson would have taken on him. I supposed neither of us wanted to think about that. We wanted to think we were normal people out having a normal vacation and that we didn’t have some kind of strange hitchhiker in the car who was going the same direction we were but who had to stop every hour or so to get out and stretch his muscles.

“If I knew what to do to get rid of the tension,” my husband said, “I’d do it.” His voice was choked and agitated. Distraught, he said that he hadn’t wanted to wake me up, turning his eyes toward mine in that way he had of looking at me while not being actually able to turn his head.

He had experienced this before, but not since I had been giving him daily massages, and now it was clear—he was suffering the effects of the 10 hours of enforced motionlessness in the car along with having had no massage that day.

Short of getting the massage table out of the car, I brought in all my other accouterments and helped him to relax by wrapping him in the massage sheet I usually used, placing the flax seed pillow under his head, the eye bag on his eyes and sprinkling lavender oil over it all.

I then got on the floor next to the bed and slid my hands, palms up, under his back. I placed one hand at the middle and one hand at the small of his back and began a gentle rocking motion.

I knelt there by the side of the bed and rocked him and rocked him and after a while his breathing changed and slowed.

It was the middle of the night and everything was entirely quiet when, completely unexpected, I began to pray, aloud. I incanted a litany of prayers asking for relaxation and suppleness of movement for all his muscles and joints, rocking him and praying for him all the way from the tip of his toes to the top of his head.

He lay there silent, breathing, and soon—snoring.

It had taken a little over a half hour.

I’m not a person to pray. Not in the regular or typical sense of the word. Not in the “I need this God, please give it to me,” kind of way. Or in the “Please let Notre Dame win,” kind of way. I do feel there is an energetic reality to our lives, however; a nameless energy which is the “under music,” if you will, to all our being.

My prayers for my husband in that middle of the night event came to me as a spontaneous, verbal acknowledgement of that energy. It was not so much an expression of a theology or even of a plea for a particular result so much as it was my acknowledgement of its existence. Since my husband was Christian, it seemed perfectly natural to use a Christian language (prayer) to invoke that energy, or to expand it, or to bring it into play.

When I got into bed myself, at almost 2:00 in the morning, I was still feeling the vibrational effects of my rocking and praying and the words I had used to invoke healing for my husband kept running through my mind in a kind of chant. My body hummed.

The next morning, when I finally got up, my lower back was in spasm and I reached for the Tylenol to stave off the usual incapacity such spasms brought.

“What are you taking Tylenol for,” my husband said, as he saw me swallowing the pills.

I could have said that I was having spasms because of my kneeling position beside the bed. But I would have been lying. I didn’t think that was why I was having spasms. I thought it was because the pain that had been chased from my husband’s body had lodged in mine.

“I think the next time I engage in such metaphysical practices as I did last night,” I told him, “I need to include myself in my ‘prayers’—or at least be sure to shake off the energy that might transmit itself to me.”

“Amen, sister,” he joked-but-not-really-joked.

The truth was, my husband believed in prayer; even the old fashioned “Please Let Notre Dame Win” kind of prayer and the “Please Heal My Parkinson’s” kind of prayer. In fact, the entire time we were married, he never stopped praying and, I have to admit that, while praying never did take away his disease, it did give him comfort and a kind of soul healing along the way.

I am married to a different man these days. One who sees prayer more the way I do, as something that gives voice to a voiceless energy or that “languages” it and in that way puts us in relationship to it.

While my new husband is entirely healthy, every now and then, he will wake up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep. I remember the first time it happened.

“How about you just lay there on your side and I give you a back rub,” I suggested.

“Does that work?” he asked.

I got the oil out of the bedside table, moistened my hands—and within 10 minutes, he was sound asleep.

Works every time.


Relephant Read:

This is Why I Pray.


Author: Carmelene Siani

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Alex/Flickr

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