I think it started around the time my Dad was dying. I would wake, look at the clock and discover digits blinking 4:15 am. Sometimes 4:30 am.
Not every day although occasionally nights would compile and form a streak.
A deep concern inevitably prompted the awakening – the death of my Dad, the future of my brother. In time, other things joined the chorus – worry for my wife, my own health, my children and now grandchildren.
Sometimes the fear could be stifling – and not without cause. Actions taken or withheld would alter the future lives of those I loved.
Deliberate decision and effort were required to rein in my imagination about all the ill that might lie ahead.
It took me quite awhile to recognize the gift in such times. Instead of lying there, marinating in my own anxiety, now I get up, find my journal and pen and engage in a version of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages.
I know the process doesn’t work for all but it works for me. Some people don’t know what they think until they talk; often I don’t know what I think or that with which I wrestle until I write.
Over the years I have learned, through the Journal, to ask questions, sometimes basic, occasionally profound. Often I will start simply, “What might be poking my spirit awake at this hour?” Acknowledgment of an ill-timed – but delicious – chocolate bar can jumpstart the list; inevitably other things roll out.
Sometimes I ask a question and another appears. Frustrating at times although often I am led deeper into the core of what’s truly at stake. And it can be infuriatingly humbling. “After all this time, you mean I still am carrying around that struggle with church/my Mother/my family that started when I was 9 years old. Oh, c’mon!” Or “You’re afraid to risk because you don’t like failure.” Really? Again?!
Many of those moments are sacred, even when they contain anger. “Hey You! Where are You? I could really use some help on this? Any suggestions!?”
And sometimes I am surprised by how deeply I love the person or care about the issue that has roused me from sleep.
Even more frequently, I return to the need for faith and the difficulty of living with some trust.