I wake up with a sense of alarm or urgency.
The room seems shadowy and ominous.
Forgotten tasks on my to-do list surround me, unearthed from my unconscious while I slept. Worries that seemed manageable during the day become fat monsters, sliding their bellies around the room, claws dragging, teeth sharp as glass shards.
I want to go back to sleep. I know I can do little about any of these troubles at three a.m. The middle of the night is no time to let fear take the reins.
So I pray.
I keep prayer beads in a wooden bowl next to the bed. I hold them in the darkness and let prayer soften the edges of my anxiety.
I pray the simple prayers I know by heart. Sometimes I pray the Lord’s prayer but more often, “all is well.” I pray for anyone who comes to mind: people I love or strangers I only saw in a momentary exchange.
I pray and relax, accepting the time as a sacred slice in my life too full of rushing. My fingers on each bead bring me back to a steady rhythm.
Instead of panicking about my lack of sleep, I enjoy the quiet of the house. I hear smooth breathing around me and feel body warmth. The house rests. The cool night offers relief and peace. The world goes on in its worldly way.
I remember others are awake somewhere too. I pray for them. May they be well. May they be happy. May they be calm.
May they know love.
I roll each bead in my finger, a little piece of earth grounding me. The word bead comes from the word for prayer.
I tell myself that if I don’t go back to sleep, a few hours praying will be time well spent. The room offers a soft murkiness that seems gentle. The worries nibbling me no longer have sharp teeth. I can ignore them.
I wake in the morning with prayer beads still in my hand. The round stones are warm. I wake feeling blessed and calm.
We can resist the 3 a.m. insomnia and fight the darkness. Turn on the light and fuss.
We can accept being awake and recognize it as a time for the holy.
Just pray. Just listen. Just soften.
This is the choice.