27 June 2010

Hobbling Toward Hope

What's your weakness? Not your temptation, mind you, the thing you give in to like chocolate or shiraz or or chick flicks. I mean the thing about you that is not as strong as it ought to be?

You can recognize your weakness if you are ashamed of showing it to people, if you organize your life to avoid it, if it frightens you. And one more thing, it reminds you of your mortality.

For me it is sleep. Almost forty years ago I had a case of crashing insomnia before heading out to college. It was certainly an expression of my worries about being up to the task, fear of failure, and all that.

Ever since, I have been afraid of being unable to sleep. And I am ashamed of this because it is a small thing compared to afflictions like disease and disability, and yet it has exerted disproportionate influence over my life choices. Fear of insomnia has kept me from staying up late regularly. As an aspiring musician in college this was a key part of leaving that path (That and not being both talented and obsessive enough to pursue it). Fear of insomnia kept me from making early morning appointments or commitments, so no power breakfasts for me.

Allowing it to shape my life so much is what makes it a weakness. What could be more pitiful, after all, than being unable to do what is as natural as breathing?

This last week I have had trouble sleeping. Nothing as awful as when I went to college. But it only takes one night of struggle to awaken the midnight dreads of long ago. Last night was the first time in four nights that I fell asleep easily and stayed there, mostly, for nearly seven hours.

I could go on about the spiritual and symbolic meanings of all this, but what matters right now is that everyone has something that makes them feel weak, pitiful, ashamed, and afraid. We spend vast amounts of our life hiding them and hiding from them. What if we could all be more frank about having them?

What if we could agree that everyone has a 'limp' of some kind and that this is no failure but a universal part of being human? How much better would life be if we all admitted this, accepted this, and even helped each other deal with them?

Maybe if we didn't have to hide our weaknesses so much we could all be a lot stronger.

1 comment:

Elisa winter said...

Have you ever read "Radical Honesty" by Brad Blanton (I think that's his name)? He goes down this same mental road, with a vengence, and with lots of very bad language. It'll take you two days to read and will not keep you up at night. It will crack you up and make you think.

Wouldn't it be lovely to make a pact or a committment with one other person in your life with whom you could be radically honest, really divulge everything? (NOT the priest, the minister or the spouse.) I think it's almost possible with some very very good long-time girl friends. They're closer than family to be sure. But still there's the hidden and shameful. Because sometimes you can't even say the words. When you say it, you make it real or realer, no?