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A Little Favor Can Sometimes Make a Big Dent on Misery

27 Feb

I’ve been coming into my neighborhood cleaning store to drop off or pick up clothing for years.  I usually chat with the same attractive, caramel-colored, 40-something woman at the counter.  We talk about politics, children, movies, travel - you name it – for about 5 or 10 minutes, and then we both move on.  

From all these brief, casual, accumulated moments – moments that are the glue of any real neighborhood – I’ve come to like this no-baloney woman quite a lot.  

One thing I began to notice a few months ago, however, was that she was starting to look pretty haggard.  And her conversation was getting bleak. 

On a morning when nobody else was in the shop, she told me she just wasn’t getting any sleep, and she was exhausted.  She said she was worrying too much about everything – her kids, her future, her finances, her friendships -  and every night her thinking would start going in circles.

The longer this continued, the worse it got.  She was in one of those horrid downward spirals, where sleep deprivation was affecting every part of her life and now it was causing her sleep deprivation.  She was starting to feel, in her words, like “a mental case” and worry for her sanity.  

She’d had a bad reaction to medication and didn’t want to go that route, but I thought she really needed to do something to interrupt this destructive, self-perpetuating cycle of iinsomnia or nothing would get right for her.  

So I told her if she wanted to try it, I could drop off some Sleep guided imagery, for her to use… Or not. No pressure! I promised I wouldn’t even ask her if she liked it.  

I got home and tossed a CD in the back seat of my car and the next time I drove by the shop, I dropped it off for her. Then I went out of town.  In fact, I was in and out of town for several weeks, and didn’t get back to the store for quite a while.

When I came back in last week, she greeted me with a big, beaming smile.  Her face was pretty again and she looked about 10 years younger (- in fact, maybe she’s not 40-something after all…).  

As soon as her customer left, she told me she’d been getting the best sleep ever…  that the first time she listened to the imagery, she was out like a light and didn’t remember waking up until 8 in the morning.  She looked so happy!  

I thought to myself, Hot Damn, this is what lack of sleep will do to the hardiest psyche.  It will make you feel certain that your whole life is in the tank, that nothing is right, and that nothing will ever be right.  And it’s not so. It’s because you’re tired!

And I also thought how lucky I was, to have been able to make such minimal effort – toss a CD in my car and wait for the next time I drove by her shop –and yet have such a  big impact on someone’s misery!!   Wow.

So I know there is much consternation these days about our digital age and what it’s taking away from us. To be sure, it no doubt is messing with us in ways we can scarcely apprehend.  

But encounters like this, where so little can yield so much?  Well, this gets digital media a huge check in the plus column, far as I’m concerned..

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award and was released in paperback January of 2006.