Prescriptions for Bad Times

There are times I find hard to cope with. Not BIG deal bad times (that’s something else), but times when I just need to get through a few hours because I’m somehow spooked. Here are a sample of them:

I’ve got a big trip coming up tomorrow and I’m anxious, keep waking up, watching the alarm clock tick off the minutes (my mother called this ‘being journey proud.’)

Having a work deadline that bothers me and I can’t get going on my work. Waking up in the night, suddenly remembering I’ve forgotten something I promised somebody.  Having something to do tomorrow and just knowing what I’ve prepared isn’t the right thing. Getting into a worry cycle that just repeats and repeats – worries about a check, about somebody, about whether somebody else is covering a base you aren’t sure he wants to….

You’re out of town in a strange motel and the pizza you had starts acting up. You know it’s indigestion, but you wonder about heart attacks and you don’t know where the hell you put the antacid tablets.  You can probably fill in the blanks with things that have kept you wide-eyed through the night. These things often look dumb the next day – but that night? Bad feelings.

Know the ‘Jesus Prayer?’ I don’t know where I ran into it. Probably somebody told me about it – and I remember it from JD Salinger’s book, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. There are variations, but the one I’ve latched onto is this: “Jesus Christ, Son of God: Have mercy on me, a sinner.” I find saying it to myself, quietly, repetitively, slowly – it helps me cool my fins. Sometimes I repeat it three or four times and I’m in a different place. Sometimes I go on a long time, sometimes slipping off to sleep. In other words I sort of use it as what spiritual directors call a “mantra.” It works for me. How? Why? I have no idea. I’ve learned to synchronize it with my breathing. That makes it even better.

Another one works equally well, only I somehow tend to use this one when I’m driving, late at night, and alone.  And this one helps me stay awake and attentive. Don’t know why they work in opposite ways – one to cool me down, the other to make me focused and alert. But they work for me.

This is one you know already. “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” I often add the rest of it — ” Little ones to Him belong: we are weak and He is strong.” This one I sing aloud. Sometimes I fantasize being pulled over by a cop on a lonely road, finding myself shipped off to the loony bin!

Neither of them solves anything. Gives you any answers. But they are ways I’ve found to get through times of alone-ness when ‘being alone’ isn’t enough.

Some weeks ago I went to a conference on retirement — one designed by my pension fund for us retired folk. It was to help us learn to be more creative and healthy in our aging years. The night of that conference I ended up being a bit off my feed – thinking about all those things I ‘ought’ to be doing and wasn’t. Reading uplifting books. Doing spiritual exercises to become a deeper, more religious person. Eating a more healthy diet.

In the middle of the night, sleepless, I decided to try the Jesus Prayer – it had worked before in similar circumstances. Sure enough, in about 10 minutes, as I repeated it once more, slowly, rhythmically as I breathed steadily – I woke up, screaming with laughter.

I had somehow listened to myself. There in the dark, trying to get over all the good advice I was getting, aware of how far I fell short of what I ought to be, I discovered I was repeating and repeating the some mantra:

“Jesus Christ, Son of God:
Have mercy on me, a senior!”

Laughing still, I rolled over, forgave myself, and went back to sleep.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Loren Mead

About stalbansparish

St. Alban's Parish is a vibrant and diverse Episcopal Church in Washington, DC near the National Cathedral. We come from every walk of life, every culture and context, and every corner of this region. St. Alban's Parish is active in the city, engaging social issues, and making the reconciling love of Christ known in word and deed. We have ministries for children, youth, young adults, adults, and the elderly. We have outreach programs that address homelessness, poverty, the environment, and hunger. We believe in being open and inclusive to all people no matter disability, age, income, gender, race, or sexual orientation. We welcome the faithful, the seeker, and the doubter, because God's embrace is wide, and God's good news is for all people. We want you to come, participate, grow in God's love, and become a part of the Body of Christ at St. Alban's!
This entry was posted in The Rev. Loren Mead. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Prescriptions for Bad Times

  1. Noell Sottile says:

    Lord have mercy, I didn’t see that coming, and now I am laughing out loud almost uncontrollably! Excellent way to start the week–thanks!! –Noell S.

  2. Jim Naughton says:

    Love this, Loren. But the Salinger book in question is my beloved Franny and Zooey.

  3. Peter Spalding says:

    Loren: Here is another a prayer that works for me:
    Lord bless me and keep me
    Make your light to shine before me
    And grant me peace
    Perhaps not true exactly to the prayer, but God undserstands, Just as Jesus smiles when I wear sandals to the 8 O’clock service.
    Your friend,

    Peter Spalding


  4. linda bickford says:

    Dear Loren-Bless you. I wake up in the middle of the night scared about having cancer. Tonight I’ll repeat many times, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. And I won’t feel so alone, and scared.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s