Ordinary Time, Insomnia, and Thankfulness



I love that here in America we celebrate the end of “Ordinary Time” with thankfulness.

It’s been months and months of nothing special, Easter is over and there’s quite a stretch until Christmas, and right at the end of this we celebrate Thanksgiving. Because it’s built into our calendar that thankfulness has nothing to do with blessing. Thankfulness comes from accepting what we have been given, whether it is ordinary time or God Made Flesh that we are about to celebrate.

Thankfulness is like insomnia.


I never realized I was a bad sleeper.

Maybe I wasn’t always: Once during rest hour as a camp counselor I fell so deeply asleep that my campers had to shake me awake (and it was 1:00 in the afternoon). But I think days like that were the exception for me, not the rule.

When I was little, I used to sing (sometimes loudly) to myself in my room until I fell asleep. I have distinct memories of my parents coming in and telling me to sing a little more softly because I might wake up my brothers.

I was almost never the teenager who could sleep until noon. I’m not sure I’ve ever consistently slept past about 9, really. And as far as I can remember, it has always, always taken me a long time to fall asleep. On some nights, sleep never comes at all.

I’ve always known that about myself, but I never realized that it was uncommon. My dad possibly asked me every morning of my childhood if I slept well, probably because he often doesn’t. I really believed I had, even if it had taken me an hour or more to actually fall asleep.

Recently I read somewhere that the average adult takes seven minutes to fall asleep. SEVEN. I’ve found, in telling this fact to people, that no one is on the fence with this fact. Either that sounds pretty much right (aka the non-insomniacs) or that sounds totally absurd. If you couldn’t tell, I’m in the latter camp.

I’ve talked to some 7-minutes-to-sleep friends about it since then and they’ve been sincerely sorry for me that it takes me so long to fall asleep, or that some nights sleep doesn’t ever come. They’ve asked what I do, how I function, how I don’t get frustrated.

I learned long ago that checking the clock when you can’t sleep is stressful and futile. Calculating how many hours of sleep you can get if you fell asleep right at that moment is also unhelpful, and doing anything on your phone is entirely counter-productive.

In fact, the thing I usually do when I start to feel myself getting frustrated at my inability to doze off is to remind myself that laying quietly and still is restful for my body and my mind too. I remind myself that these hours of stillness will help to rest me for tomorrow whether or not sleep comes quickly or at all.

Essentially, I’ve learned to accept and embrace that which I cannot change. I am significantly more likely to actually be able to fall asleep if I am able to convince myself that I am happy either way.


For me, thankfulness works the same way. There are constantly things in my life that I am not in any capacity thankful for. I get sick, I get tired, work gets stressful, I have to move. But I am significantly more likely to find joy and find what I have to be sufficient if I can accept and embrace that which I am presented with each day.

It’s the season for thankfulness. It’s the last day of ordinary time.

I’m thankful for ordinary time. But I’m thankful that Advent is coming, that Christ is coming.

Perhaps Hope has a thing or two to do with thankfulness as well.

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