Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stolen Joy

Rarely do I have trouble sleeping at night. But I was angry over a work-related incident—sore vexed, I’d say, if we were still speaking in King James English. Part of the vexation was that I was in some measure to blame for what had happened, and I hate being wrong. There was no avoiding the fact that I had been foolish, and as a former boss used to say, “Stupid costs.” Nor could I sidestep the truth that I now had no choice but to accept the consequences, which didn’t seem positive.
So I tossed and turned, for the second night in a row, upsetting both cats, making as big a mess of the covers as I’d made of the situation. None of my usual methods for inducing sleep were working: I’d prayed for friends from east to west coasts, repeated prayers I’d memorized, breathed deeply, recited psalms. And still I was wide-awake, justifying myself in the dark.
I don’t know how many people have music tracks running in their heads—perhaps everyone does. Mine can play as background music, barely noticed until I deliberately turn up the volume. Last night, the track was playing over and over two pieces from Francis Poulenc’s Gloria, which we’ve been rehearsing for a performance next month. On the verbal track, I was explaining to myself why this incident was so unfair. The music track, however, was shouting Gloria in excelsis Deo and Laudamus te: “glory to God in the highest,” and “we praise thy name.” I’d try to switch the music, forcing myself to replay a section of a symphony I’d been listening to earlier that night. My subconscious would have none of it. Gloria! it sang. Laudamus te.
I gave up and let it play, deciding to concentrate my attention on the verbal segment of my problem. Blessedly, I recalled words from Marcia, a beloved wise woman at church. At a recent gathering of women she told us about a distressing incident, concluding with, “I determined they could not have my joy. That belongs to Me and God, Inc. They can have my possessions, they can in some cases even have my life, but they cannot steal my joy.” Something in her statement reminded me of Booker T. Washington saying, “I will allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.”—that wonderful determination to protect one’s spirit for joy, against hatred.
I was letting a work-related problem steal my joy, no question about it. When I put it that way, it hardly seemed worth the cost. The noise in my head finally quieted. I rolled over one last time and went to sleep. Gloria in excelsis Deo.

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