One of the books I am currently reading as part of my resolution to read every day is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. (Oddly, I have yet to read her blog of the same name, but I do plan to check it out.) Today I read the chapter I’ve been dreading from the moment I bought the book over a year ago, AUGUST: Contemplate the Heavens. It’s really the subtitle, Eternity, that filled me with dread.
Why? Eternity is a tough subject for me. I can’t comprehend it, can’t wrap my mind around it, and it freaks me out.
When I was in fifth grade or so I became acutely aware of mortality (but not for any death in the family kind of reason, as far as I can remember). And this mortality awareness manifested in trouble sleeping. Like, lying awake for hours, thinking about death and the afterlife and getting more and more freaked out. It was not fun. Nor was it something I ever truly grew out of. I think it was around this time that I started the habit of listening to something when I went to bed in an attempt to distract myself from the rabbit hole that I was so “fond” of. And it is a habit I still have to this day. It’s actually even worse now because most nights I put on a DVD I’ve seen a hundred times. It doesn’t matter how many times I read research that suggests one ought to have complete silence and blackness to get a good night’s sleep, I will not give up my noise. The sad part is, as addicted as I am to my noise, it doesn’t always do its job. Like earlier this week, when I decided that I need to start the Jane Eyre DVD at chapter 10 so I don’t have to listen to Mr. Rochester thanking Jane for saving him from the “horrible death” that is death by fire.
And these freak-outs aren’t confined to bedtime. Nope. Death is pretty much at the top of the list of things I’m afraid of. But I have figured out that it’s not death itself that I’m afraid of so much as the unknown-ness that death implies. Or, as Jesse Lacey so elegantly put it in “Jesus,” “I’m not scared to die/But I’m a little bit scared of what comes after.”
Which brings us back to eternity. Because I understand now that that was really the reason for my problem sleeping in fifth grade. It wasn’t death per se, it was that death is the only time “eternity” really means “forever” (at least if you were raised Catholic, like I was), and eternity freaks me the hell out.
Thankfully, Rubin’s chapter on eternity really didn’t think about eternity in any of the ways that I tend to. Although part of me was hoping that she would offer some insight that would work for me (no such luck). But blogging about this probably means I’m in for some trouble sleeping tonight. Who knows though? Maybe getting some of this out of my head will prove beneficial.