Sleep experiment – next day – 7 hours

Luck… or practice?

So, I’ve gone from 5-1/2 hours to 6-1/2 hours to 7 hours, last night, and I’m starting to feel better. I’m also feeling better about the job business, because I’ve been spending time brushing up on my skills and working with techniques that are in demand, these days. I’ve also been doing my market research to find out what people are looking for, and what they’re paying for.

Things at work have been difficult. There is a lot of tension in the workplace, and I have been so swamped with extra work that people have snuck in as a “favor”, that the framework I had for getting things done has pretty much fallen apart. People are jockeying for position and they are pretty frightened of losing their jobs and/or being yelled at by management, so the tension is high and the atmosphere is tough.

I’m working from home today – my spouse had a doctor’s appointment originally planned for today, then yesterday it got changed. I’m still working from home today – it will give me two more hours to get work done, than I would have, if I drove into the office.

I’m also collecting contact names and companies for my job search. In September, I will start contacting people about work, so I can start interviewing. I have almost three weeks of vacation time left this year, so I plan to take two weeks off in September/early October, and have some time to talk to people, interview, and brush up on my skills.

At this point, the biggest challenge for me is not getting distracted — by drama at work, by problems with coworkers, by indiscriminate, indeterminate fears that I will not be able to accomplish this, that, or the other thing. I am in the process of moving on, and I need to keep my eyes on the prize… not let people get inside my head and try to stop me. I don’t want to end up like an Olympic athlete who gets so caught up in the criticisms of bystanding reporters and drama-driven news cycles that it affects their performance. The static at work has been cutting into my focus, and I can’t let that happen. I need to stop it, stay steady, not let it keep me up at night, and just keep moving on.

I have great things to accomplish. I have to keep that in mind. I’m getting clearer and clearer all the time about where I want to go and what I want to do with myself, and I have to stay true to that, not get waylaid.

One thing that I’ve found surprisingly helpful is prayer. Yes, prayer. It sounds strange to hear myself saying this out loud, because my “prayer life” as my church used to call it, has been pretty much non-existent for the past 10 years or so. Especially since I fell in 2004, I haven’t had much religious inclination at all. It’s just kind of evaporated. And to tell the truth, I don’t actually believe in the same God that I was raised to believe in. “God” for me is less concrete, and less definite, too. In fact, what we refer to as “God” (or whatever other name you choose) I think of in more quantum physics terms — the personal God that my family believes in doesn’t exist for me. And yet, there is a spirit, a presence, that I recognize — and that presence in my life has always made itself known to me in many, many ways.

My life has been a series of miracles, no doubt about that, and the existence of “God” seems as rational an explanation for those amazing “accidents” as anything else.

Now, I was raised very religious. My parents both came from religious families, I have plenty of pastors and deacons and missionaries in my family history. Holiness was a top priority with everyone, and my grandparents used to go to a “holiness camp” each summer where they would go to revival meetings and worship services and live their entire lives around their faith.

That faith had no tolerance for my ways of thinking and living, however, so I broke with that tradition and I have lived a secular but “plugged in” life, for the past 30 years. When I fell in 2004, that schism was widened even more by a rapid loss of any religious or spiritual inclination. I just wasn’t interested anymore in that way of being in the world.

I’m still leery of that way. It just doesn’t seem helpful to me, and I have grown increasingly literal in how I  think about my life. I don’t know if it was the injury that did it, or if it’s been my life experiences since. I know that some people completely lose their faith after war or a terrible trauma. I think it might be both. I do believe that religion has a neurological component. Many neurological conditions are accompanied by “spiritual” experiences, like visions and revelations. And I suspect that having a neurological upset can switch those experiences off as much as they can switch them on.

I suspect that’s what happened to me. Or it could be that I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, and my brain has been so busy trying to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B to Point C without getting detoured through Points X, L, and T, that I just haven’t had the energy for religious experience.

Whatever the reason, a few nights back, I was lying in bed — awake — getting more and more freaked out that I could not sleep. I was all caught up in anger over things that were happening at work, I was bent out of shape over things that I was doing wrong, that others were doing wrong, and I was really upset about having to leave my current job. (For the record, staying is NOT an option — there’s just no point to it.) I was harboring major grudges against people who had slighted or worked against me, and I was really burned up about a lot of things — some of which go back two years, to when I started in this job.

I was pissed off at lots of people, including myself, and I couldn’t get my head off it.

Then these sentence came to me, from out of my religious past: “Love your enemies… Pray for them that persecute you.

Well alright then. Interestingly, I haven’t really thought of my colleagues as “enemies” but technically they are. Someone who deliberately undermines you and works against you and sabotages your work on purpse, pretty much fits the profile of a sort of enemy. And I don’t like to think that others are persecuting me, but if that’s not what middle-management is doing, I’m not sure what they are doing.

So yeah, they’re acting like my enemies, and they’re persecuting me. Enough giving them the benefit of the doubt — let’s call it what it is.

And since I was completely out of practice with prayer, but I was also completely out of ideas for how to spend my time lying there in bed, trying to get back to sleep, I figured I’d at least give it a try. If nothing else, it would direct my thoughts away from my own pain and frustrations. I wasn’t very good at it, at first. I felt like I had to apologize to God for my “absence”, but then I thought about it and realized that no matter how distracted or otherwise occupied I’ve been, there have still been evidences of miracles and great coincidences in my life, so it’s not like that part of my life was completely gone — I just wasn’t actively involved in directly participating in it. Anyway, the whole religious experience thing is something I understand very differently from before… we all change with time. The important thing is not always doing the same thing, year after year, but doing the kinds of things that help… that work… in the ways we find most useful.

Long story short, I started to ask for help, and I asked that I be given the answers I need and the strength to do what I need to do. I asked to have the burdens of cares and worries lifted off me, and for my mind and spirit to be set free from all the terrible weight of it all. And a little while after I started to pray, I was able to fall asleep. I’m not sure I even got through a whole “prayer” before I was down.

A few nights later, I had the same kind of troubles getting to sleep. Problems with work, problems about work, worries and dread about what people were/were not doing to/for/about my work… After lying awake for an hour or so, the thought came to me again to pray, and I did. I asked that the people who were giving me so much trouble be reassured and supported in their work, that they receive divine guidance, and that their worries be eased by divine intervention. I didn’t think about myself so much as I thought about them. And like before, I fell asleep.

Last night, I got to bed an hour later than I planned. The Olympics were on, and for some reason, I had to watch platform diving. I got to bed feeling a bit pressured and rushed, and I was starting to spin with all my worries and concerns about work. So rather than get caught up in that, I started to pray for the people who have pissed me off the most in the past six months. There were a number of them — most of them on my immediate team. And before too long, not only was I feeling better about them, but I was also able to relax and get to sleep.

And I slept seven hours, which is the most I’ve slept in about a week.

Now, I don’t want to get all hyper-religious on you, and I’m not sure I’m even praying to the same deity everyone else is… but this “prayer” business seems to work in a couple of different ways.

  1. It gets my mind off myself. It forces me to think in bigger terms, beyond my own immediate cares and worries.
  2. It humanizes the people who seem hell-bent on making my life impossible. It makes them actually seem human and deserving of respect, dignity, and compassion.
  3. It gives me the sense that I can tap into a source of power that is much greater than myself and any of the cares and worries I have.
  4. It helps me feel not so alone anymore.

Each of these things alone would be enough to make my life better, but all together, they really really help. At least, they have for the past week. Now, I’m not going to go down the road of saying that religion and prayer are the cure-all for the ills of my world — or anyone else’s, for that matter. For me, this is a deeply personal thing, and it’s not even something I can describe and explain exactly the way I want to. I’m really uncomfortable with the “personal God” concept, and I do not like to imagine a human-like God, or even a god-like God.

All the same, the simple act of praying for those who persecute me, really takes the pressure off and lets me get on with my life — or my night’s sleep. I’ve even started doing this while I’m awake — when I start to obsess about what someone has done to me, I ask that they be given the love and support that they need, and that they get the answers and reassurance they’re looking for. If nothing else, the goodwill goes a long way towards easing the animosity that flares up and floods my head — and my behavior — and my entire life… Somehow, prayer has a way of chilling that out, of cutting it off at the pass and letting me focus on what’s truly important.

And God knows, I can always use that.

 

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