There’s no rational explanation why sometimes I will be in a deep, sleeping nirvana, and suddenly, bing, my eyes pop open, at which time my body calls it quits. All done sleeping. That’s been the case the last couple of nights. Hormones. It’s the menopausal ‘’crazy juice” coursing through my veins and brain that often cause me to operate a tad out of bounds. I hit fifty and it’s like I’m a crack junkie injecting the stuff from concentrate, on the edge of an overdose.
So now, the regular routine for this hormonal woman-of-the-night at two a.m. is to head down to the living room and take up residence on the couch, turn the television on low, and hit the station for EWTN. I fluff up the pillow, grab a throw blanket, and try and convince my body that it would really be advantageous to resume some sweet repose. I make the futile argument that three hours of sleep is not going to provide the kind of hutzpah I will need to properly carpe’ deum.
I was lying back, eyes closed, and faking sleep when one of the cats jumped up on me and stretched out to demonstrate how to properly slumber. Almost like she was bragging. One of the reasons I leave my bed in the first place is because I don’t want to disturb my husband with all the tossing and turning I do when I wake. Everything is uncomfortable. Everything itches. Clothes are wadded where they shouldn’t be.
On arrival the furry cat padded around my torso searching out that certain “I don’t know what” that would make her the most comfortable. This was the crease between my shoulder and the back of the couch, inched close enough to my face so the fluffy hair would tickle my neck, and the incessant purring would bore into my sleep-deprived mind like a jackhammer. The cat solidified my uncomfortable position. God forbid I shift and cause her to be annoyed.
Then her sister arrived. Same game plan. She ended up on the outer crease next to my hip. Between them they pulled my blanket taut, effectively pinning my arms in a calico straightjacket. Then sista two started her subtle growl because she doesn’t really like sista one. Now I gotta pee.
I fought it like a trooper; closing my eyes against the claustrophobia, because ain’t it always the way, when you suddenly can’t move, that’s when by golly you really, really want to. There’s a logjam of the senses, a growing hysteria with all their contented purrs and tickling fur and it made me think of those holy monks who endured hair shirts for the love of God. Wasn’t this the equivalent? Albeit, much more colorful. I willed my mind toward distant, sunny meadows where my arms were free to move, and clothes didn’t bind…
Suddenly I was reminded of the wretched souls in hell.
Every year I read bits from the writings of St. Anthony Mary Claret entitled: “The Pains of Hell” to my eight grade catechism class. I want them to understand that although evil is often glamorized in movies and such- hell is a horrible reality. I recalled one of his sobering descriptions as I was lying on my couch: “A damned person lies in hell forever in the same spot which he was assigned by divine justice, without being able to move, as a prisoner in stocks… In this prison the damned are packed so tightly one on the other like bricks in a kiln…”
It’s when I gravely contemplate Divine Justice that I tend to step back and regroup. Reprioritize. I truly see all these little “nudges” as communications, graces from God and promptings to pray. They seem to come in an instant, a quick bolt of unexpected lightning and, as it was in this case, I see all the benefit to the little sufferings surrounding me, and all the merit they possess if I would but offer them up.
Life is short. We all get the gist of it; but we tend to focus our attentions on what appears to be more demanding temporal things. Our comfort. How small really is my discomfort? It’s in these flashes- lying on the dark couch, the cats acting as the deadweight, beneficial ballast in this sudden call toward holy things that I soberly contemplate my finite attachments and the great need to work for souls. The tremendous value in our crosses!
I think it was St. John Vianney who asked an impenitent to hold his hand over a candle, and when he refused asked him how he planned on enduring the pains of hell for all eternity. What do we have here in this life, and what are we willing to pay for the Kingdom? These thoughts were still on my mind when I awoke hours later; still having to pee.