Skip to content

Now I lay me down to sleep

It just seems to be one of those nights.  I’m listening to a live recording of a Phil Lesh and friends concert from New Year’s Eve 2001.  My mind is wandering, and while I gave up psychedelics a long time ago, when my mind wanders you get something like a cross between Grant Wood and Peter Max.  (Not that it can’t be entertaining, but it’s not like you could get $2,000 for a limited edition lithograph of it.)

Anyway, I hate going to bed at night.  As a young man, I speculated that it was because I was afraid I was going to miss something.  Like there was anything going on in my life at the time that was likely to amount to a memorable experience if I stayed awake for another hour.  But I’ve spent an awful lot of time not going to bed, so much so that I don’t sleep much for days on end and then I usually crash for a ten or twelve hour night.  Lately I’ve tried to be a bit more reasonable about my sleeping habits, but they are, after all, habits.  Late night calls from work don’t help, but mostly I just keep finding things to occupy myself late at night.

Tonight however, it occurred to me that there may be something darker and more deep-seated involved.  I haven’t thought about it for probably 40 years:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

My mother used to make me say this every night at bedtime when I was little.  Nothing to put a child at ease like getting him to contemplate his mortality and the possibility that he might not ever wake up.  I remember when I got old enough to think about it and not just say it by rote it used to scare the willies out of me.  (I was going to say “bejeezus” but on second thought, it didn’t seem quite appropriate.)   One might speculate as to whether this was the first manifestation in my young mind of doubts about the nature of God or whether I was self-aware enough at even that age to understand that I was kind of a little shit and not likely to go to heaven if I died in my sleep.  At any rate, perhaps my reluctance to go to sleep has less to do wanting to stay awake than it does with a fear of not waking up.

Or maybe it is just an expression of a more general paranoia.  After all, I was the child who, on summer nights when we left the windows open for the breeze (before we had air conditioning), used to lay flat on my back with my arms straight down at my sides for fear that any random body position I might adopt might be interpreted as the cosmic equivalent of the “finger” by any aliens who might be conducting surveillance from their space ship and I might therefore be the unwitting cause of an intergalactic diplomatic incident.  Or get killed because I pissed them off.

It’s a wonder I sleep at all.

{ 4 } Comments