I'm certain that I've experienced this before...but these days, sleep is more elusive than a blade of grass beneath the thick blanket of snow in my back yard. I've had the most horrible nights. I'm tired--exhausted--and yet I cannot sleep. Even when my mind is not racing, I can't sleep. Even when I read until my eyes are closing and I begin to read the same sentence five times, when I shut off the lamp, sleep runs from me at Olympic sprinting speeds. Even when I pray the Rosary and get stuck saying twelve or fifteen Hail Marys because I lose count, sleep does not come. It's ridiculous.
Tonight, I cannot sleep because of a truly impressive amount of pain running down my left hip and leg. Sciatic! GAH!! It started just before Mass this morning, and it's probably directly related to all of the driving of the week. And combined with the SPD that I've been experiencing for a few weeks now...well...it's really....um....special.
The week was crazy-busy, and mostly relating to all things Christmas and church.
Thursday, the kids and I went to town to go to daily Mass. After Mass was over, we helped to decorate the church for Christmas...which I *love* doing. It is all so beautiful and elegant--really well done. One tall lit tree in the sanctuary, lots of red and white poinsettias, and two of the most beautiful Nativities--one more elaborate set-up in the narthex, and one very simple ensemble in front of the ambo.
Friday, being Christmas Eve, found us having supper with some dear friends. Between the four couples there, we had 23 children! What a lovely time it was! We departed for Midnight Mass according to what part we had; four of the servers and I left early, they to vest and prepare for the junior servers, and I to rehearse with the choir.
Unfortunately, Friday began a little differently. It was the second day in a row during which I longed for sleep. I had fallen asleep at four-thirty in the morning, and accumulated about 3 hours' worth of sleep by the time we had to leave the house. It really seemed on Friday that anything which could go wrong went wrong, as though Satan were attacking my desire for a peaceful Christmas. The stinker. But you know how he works--he sends his nasty little minions to do his bidding, a la Screwtape and Wormwood.
I wanted to just rest up, and since My Darling was home, he let me hole up in the bedroom for most of the day. I rested, but did not sleep. When I came downstairs, though, it was to a room which had been clean the night before--now completely trashed. THREE apples lay on the floor, because no one had been watching Cuppie. This made for a crabby Mama who then informed the three older children that they could rinse off the apples and have themselves a snack.
I received a package from UPS, but the box, labeled "2 of 2" lacked it's companion. Of course, when calling UPS, one never really gets to speak to a person. One is encouraged to say various things to trigger the automated response, which sounds very much like an actual person, but which is really a tool of evil designed to drive perfectly sane people completely and very directly mad. And of further course, the company from which I had ordered this shipment was understandably not open on Friday--it being Christmas Eve and all. Was this understandable to Yours Truly on Friday afternoon? Not on your life.
Well ok then--I decided to have a shower in the afternoon so that I would have plenty of time to dress carefully and attend to my ridiculous hair, which has plagued me since I was about twelve. While I used to have to do strange things with chemicals to make it curl, after I had the Frog, that all changed. What used to be a lovely wave in my hair is now a combination of frizz and pseudo-curl, with which I can do very little. I must put all sorts of things in it to make it behave, but it has to be done while the hair is still wet...if it's even the slightest bit dry, then all the products in the world will do nothing, and my hair mocks me as I stare at it in disbelief. I think I actually saw a little man within my riotous locks dancing a jig of glee and sticking his green tongue out at me the other day.
After the Battle of the Locks was fought and...settled...I turned to cosmetics. With the dark circles making my eyes appear akin to skid marks left behind by a race car, and the bags beneath my lower lids looking like Santa's bag of presents stolen from his sleigh, there was no way I was going out of the house without attempting to do something to improve my appearance. I began washing my face and realized not once, but twice that I was using the wrong substance to cleanse my skin. Good grief. The nasty little man danced.
After finally getting my face clean, I went through the usual three minute routine: loose powder for foundation, light eye liner and shadow, blush, and mascara. I am always a little bit nervous about mascara, because it has the power not only to thicken and beautify the lashes, but also to create absolute havoc on a freshly made-up face. And which potential did it fulfil on Friday? Why, none other than the latter, of course! First, the tip of the brush collided with the inside right corner of my nose, making it look like a gigantic black tear had squeezed from my tear duct and landed squarely next to it. Then, even though the brush never touched my left eyelid, I blinked. Anyone who has attempted to apply mascara knows what happens when you blink. It leaves a perfect print from the brush on the skin beneath the lower lashes.
Oh, this was perfect. Juuuuuuuussssssssst perfect. It is nearly impossible, without completely starting over, to remove mascara from skin. If you rub it, it smears. If you try to wipe it away, it rubs in. Again, in the mirror, the horrible little man with the green tongue began to mock me with his nasty little jig. I did get the majority of the mascara off of my face, but was left with what appeared to be an even darker circle beneath my left eye and next to my right eye--making me look, oddly enough, even more tired than I did when I began!
I came downstairs, looking tired and frazzled, but determined to make the "Happy Birthday Baby Jesus" cakes as pretty as they did in my mind: two white cakes, nicely frosted, with the words written in red, and holly leaves and berries in the corners. I found My Darling swirling the frosting onto the cakes, and I reached for the can of frosting and the finishing knife to smooth it all out--only to drop the can of frosting onto the cake. "HA!" shouted the little man, his feet tapping furiously on my shoulder.
After I came back to the kitchen, having walked away to cool off (but not before stamping my foot and complaining rather loudly that nothing could go right today!), I looked for the icing and the decorating tips to do the writing and drawing of holly leaves. Now, I'm not a professional cake decorator. I totally buy those nasty tubes of "icing," colored with horrid chemicals. I use the plastic screw-on tips that come attached to the "flower nail" that I never use. But I do know enough to keep them all together, in a baggie, in a bin in the cupboard, so that I can find them when I want to do things like...oh, decorate a cake.
But they weren't there. The decorating tips weren't there. They weren't in the bin, or on the shelf that the bin lives on, or on the other shelves in the cupboard. And since I only have two cupboards which hold food items (the other used to store canned goods), pretty much they were missing entirely. And the nasty little man danced some more. I wanted to swat him like an insect, but since My Darling was already looking at me a little sideways because of the Mascara Incident, I resisted the temptation to bat at something only I could see.
The cakes were for dessert for this Christmas dinner which we shared with friends. The beautiful thing is that I didn't even have to explain...I just said to the Mamas, "They're Happy Birthday Baby Jesus cakes, and they're white for purity. Also, I couldn't find my decorating tips." They've all had Those Days, too, so they understood.
At least from the dinner on, things would get better.
Except that we left for church later than I had thought we would (I wasn't driving, or we would have left well sooner)--but not being a regular part of this particular choir, I wasn't in on all of the details, so I didn't know what time I was supposed to be there...and it turns out I was quite late. It did work out ok rehearsal-wise. When we were finished running through the things we needed to, I left the choir loft to run to the ladies' room. A friend was there with her mother and three small ones--one sleeping in Grandma's arms, one being terribly tired and less-than-cooperative, and one being only three months old. She asked me if I could hold the baby while she ran to the ladies'...and I ought to have said no...but I cannot resist the lure of a cute, pudgy baby..........and the choir started singing. Without me. And it's a chamber choir, which is very, very small. So I passed the baby to the Grandma, who I'm sure juggled the two of them just fine as I huffed and puffed my way back up the stairs to the loft, having missed singing Dixit Maria, which is one of my favorites. The nasty little man danced so much I was sure everyone else could see him.
Thanks be to God, that was the last of him though. The beauty and grace of Midnight Mass actually at Midnight and not at ten or ten-thirty, like some places do (and still call it Midnight Mass...), seemed to cause the nasty little jig-dancing, green-tongued man to evaporate into thin air. And good riddance!!
There were so many priests, deacons, seminarians and servers in attendance, one had to look for the miter to know where the Bishop was. The incense was lovely and pungent. The music was sacred and beautiful. The people were rosy-cheeked and alert. The ancient prayers and rituals were reverent and inspiring. And even though we didn't get back home until around two in the morning, our children were well-behaved and polite and helpful with the little ones.
We are a family which goes not only to Midnight Mass, but also to Mass on Christmas Day. This year, I was scheduled to cantor, and it's the first time I've done so in months. I prayed hard for good stamina to make it through Mass, and I was well-rewarded. The odd thing was that since almost all of the families of our parish, of which there are a great number, had attended Midnight Mass, most of them had planned not to attend on Christmas Day. Two of the families who had planned to attend didn't--one family had sudden and severe illness (of the intestinal variety) go through, and the other family had a last-minute change of plans. This meant that my Pickle Boy was the lone server--on Christmas Day, mind you, only one server! Unheard of in our parish, which usually sees about a dozen on any given ordinary Sunday!! But the boy did us proud. He did an excellent job, lighting all of the candles, setting things to right on the credence table, carrying in the Crucifix, holding the book, setting the altar, bringing forward the cruets, helping Monsignor to wash his hands, ringing the bells at Consecration, cleaning everything up, holding the book once more, and carrying the Crucifix again as they recessed. I was so proud of him I think I cried a tear or two. It was lovely to see him move gracefully, with confidence and concentration. I think he was pretty proud of himself, too.
When we got to Mass this morning (because it's Sunday--or it was when I rolled out of bed last--I do realize that it's not quite Sunday anymore...), the boys who grouped up to serve were surprised and impressed that Pickle had done the job on his own. Several of them wished that they were old enough to drive so that they could have been there...but that will come soon enough, for Pete's sake.
The pain that began this morning has been unrelenting. I've iced it, My Darling has massaged, I've propped with pillows, I've soaked, I've done everything I know to do as I bide the time, waiting for the chiropractor's office to open in the morning. In the mean time, I am offering my suffering as a prayer of sacrifice for Candy Rant's mom...and I would encourage you to pray for her, too. I know that my pain will not last forever, and that the cause of it is something to rejoice in. Pain and suffering can be joyful!! But this dear woman's pain is not joyful...and is taking a great toll on her and her family. Read her story and offer your kind prayers for her, and for all those who suffer during this time of year, especially those who are cold, who are hungry, who yearn for love, who cannot find relief of their suffering in grief, and for those whose pain and suffering is not visible to our eyes, but only palpable to the soul.
May the profound joy of the coming of Our Lord as a tiny baby more than two thousand years ago ring deeply in your heart and soul, and may His Peace reign in your home and in your family today and each day in the year to come.