Maddening Mindfulness

In what do you find your rest? The pastor posed the question and I knew it posed a problem. I value rest more than anyone I know.


When we had to fill out our request cards for a college roommate, I pleaded for someone who needed at least 9 hours of sleep a night. When I got married, people chalked up my pre-midnight bedtime to the life of a wife. I told them I hadn’t seen dawn since Christmas morning 1988. On ladies weekend, I feel like a downright lush for sleeping in past the very un-adult hour of 9am. In the last five days alone, I have taken precisely five naps (although the last two may were induced by popping a couple Benadryl for a bug bite the size of a mitt). To top it off, I work for an organization with the word renewal in the title. Rest is practically an issue of social justice.

As I kneeled during confession, I began cataloging the things in my life that brought me inner peace, like a splinter successfully pulled or a chalkboard thoroughly erased. In the approximately 25 seconds any good Protestant church allots for silence, I came up with the following:

dragging my pencil across the list of my to-do’s each day;

putting pajamas on to watch a new line-up of NBC sitcoms;

throwing away old clothes and replacing them with new ones;

sucking up spiders with the Shop-Vac;

listening to Bon Iver like a creeper in the dark;

and other simple pleasures. I knew instantly what was missing from my list.

I was supposed to find my rest in God alone. But was everything else just artificial sleep aids meant to dull my senses and distract from the pain of real life with all its kinks (and bugs)?

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around mindfulness lately; a maddening exercise for anyone but especially someone like me who reflects for a living. Perhaps the real discipline was to acknowledge God as the source of my rest, that is, not apart from my superficial soothers. Or perhaps I was just doing mental gymnastics to excuse my sloth, as if a marathon session of House Hunters could be justified with a simple “Thank God for the roof over my own head and that my husband has never uttered the phrase ‘man cave’.”

Rather than analyzing, berating, or excusing the things that bring me rest, I’m going to try letting my body lead on this one. To look my husband in the eye when my to-do list is running through my head. To sit up straight when I’m watching Parks & Rec and turn the television off when my butt falls asleep. To refrain from buying that one completer piece that would make my new ‘oxblood’ colored-cords just perfect. To cook a meal for friends and not get up to do the dishes when I want them to leave. To listen to Bon Iver without any bitterness that all worship music doesn’t ring of Skinny Love.

Of course, I imagine by the end of all this posturing, I will need a good, long face-denting nap on the sofa. And when I awake by sliding off the leather cushions and onto the side of my knees, I will mindfully say, “Thanks be to God for eyelids and eye make-up.”

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