You can fall asleep first.

It’s the first episode of the Netflix series, Dead to Me, and newly-widowed Jen—played by the evergreen Christina Applegate—is tucking her son into bed when he says, “You have to wait until I’m asleep.”

“Hmmm,” she murmurs.

“All the way asleep,” he clarifies, his arm angled behind his head.

“I know, bud,” she says, as if she’s said it a billion times before. Night globe on? Check. Jen crawls into bed? Check. A need is met? Impossibly, check.

It’s a sweet scene, right? And yet, I had a Dana Carvey, “Well, isn’t that SPECIAL,” moment when I first saw it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve become a bit sardonic about the ability to get my needs met or meet the needs of my people.

Do any of these thoughts sounds familiar?
I hardly know what I need enough to ask for it.
It’s too painful to ask for what I need—and not be met in it.
If they really loved me, they’d know what I need without asking.
And, besides, I’ve learned to meet my own needs; and, ahem, you should, too.

That last one is SPECIAL.

My nightmares started young, and persisted. The usual stuff showed-up: Disney witches, men in trench coats, death. I’d wake the parents, and Mom would trade places with me, her spot beside Dad for my basement bedroom. His snoring didn’t help me sleep; instead I synced my breath to his, every inhale a prayer, every exhale a promise.

They tried to wean me off the late-night knocks, first by allowing me to sleep outside their room, then by giving me five bucks to sleep through the night in my own. Some nights, unable to stay but with nowhere to go, I tugged my Mickey Mouse comforter to the bathroom and made a bed in the tub, pulling the curtain closed so the scary couldn’t find me.

But nothing seemed to fix the feeling of being in my body, in my mind. The dawn was my only deliverer, and it could not be rushed anymore than GROWING UP.

This memory has returned to me in adulthood when I’ve felt the familiar gloom of “Nothing is working” and “I’ve asked too many times already” and “Nobody can live my life for me.” The last one? It’s totally true. And, yet, when I hear this hopeless self-talk, I’ve decided to try something new.

I’m starting to imagine God, sitting on the shag toilet cover and saying to me from the other side of the curtain, “You can fall asleep first.”

Do you ever wonder if there’s Someone who wants to say the same to you?
I know what you need.
I want to meet your need.
I may not fix it, but I can heal it.
You’ve done good, but let me take it from here. 

I am ALL for strategies for self-management. Our trouble-with-sleeping kiddo in the family has a “Sleepy Time Reminders” print-out tacked to her bulletin board that includes things like taking your Melatonin (yes, we’re not above medicating some zen zzz‘s), turning the lights on, looking around the room, and shaking something called a glitter jar. We even tell her exactly what we’ll say to her if she knocks on our door. Sometimes I think these lists are more for my meandering brain than hers.

It’s a good and worthy thing to teach our kiddos that they have what they need within them. I just also wonder if we forget to say more often, “You’ve done good, but let me take it from here.”

I’m digging this image of the toilet-sitting God who promises not to fall asleep until I do. This is no Father God nor Mother God for me, but rather what I call the Adult in the Room God. Who holds vigil for all my worries. Who may not fix it, but can heal it. Who does not say, as I once did, “You realize that when you wake me to tell me you can’t sleep, then I can’t sleep, right?” COLLECTIVE CRINGE.

I do not begrudge an Adult who sometimes sleeps. I recall the story about a God-Man who slept—with a pillow!—on a boat of fisherman bound for “the other side.” Woken by his crew when a storm closed in—Is it nothing to you that we’re going down?—he called them cowards, then calmed the wind. Sounds more like Captain Cranky Pants than Non-Anxious Presence at first. But if I read closer, I wonder if the offense was not that the fishermen freaked out, but that they assumed the God-Man didn’t care.

“Wait until I’m asleep?” I ask God when the waves rise high.

“Hmmm,” she murmurs.

“All the way asleep,” I clarify, but confident in what’s coming next.

“I know, babe,” she says as if she’s said it a billion times before. Night sky on? Check. Adult leans back on the bowl? Check. A need is met? Impossibly, check.


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