Sleep. To lie down and shut out the noise, the fear, the unceasing misery. – Tad Williams
Oh to be able to drown out the terror, the anxieties, that grip me at night! Alone, in the darkness, with only a racing mind for company, things seem so much worse than they really are – and I recognize that in the morning. But by then it is too late, and another sleepless night puts the day into a fog.
Falling asleep is usually not a problem, I’m always exhausted, though there have been numerous nights without even a wink of sleep. But after falling asleep initially, maybe it’s a noise from the kids room, or the cat is in the kitchen playing with his food, or maybe my to-do list just punches through the unconsciousness with something urgent that I forgot to take care of – doesn’t matter the reason, once I’m jolted awake, that’s usually it for the night.
The snowball starts rolling, gathering a worry about forgetting something necessary at the store here, a fear about not paying a bill there. It starts slowly, but it’s going downhill and quickly gains momentum. OMG I didn’t put more minutes on Jake’s phone, what if he has an emergency and can’t call anyone? Shit, I forgot about that second shut-off notice from the water department; I’ll do it first thing in the morning, right after I get a load of laundry going and the dishes done and fix that error in the spreadsheet that I forgot to fix last night.
The little worries then morph into the big things, and my snowball is now picking up boulders – how am I going to be at T’s baseball game and Jake’s football game and still get this presentation to the executive committee ready for that 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday? How will I possibly be able to do my job now, now that I can’t put in the requisite OT, late nights and trips to Akron that require being on the road by 5:30? What happens to us financially when I’m fired or demoted? What will I do for health insurance without a job? What if I get sick, who will take care of the kids? What if they get sick, how will I take care of them when I’m working? What if they get a long term illness like diabetes that requires constant attention, or worse, a childhood cancer??? At this point the snowball is a monster, it is out of control, an avalanche careening down the mountain at 100 mph, flattening all sense and logic in its way; my heart is pounding and forehead dripping. The night sweats force me out of bed, there will be no more sleep tonight, might as well get up and get some things done…
Doing helps. Everything little step towards finding a “normal” again chips away at the massive snowball. I know I just need time, I just wish I could magically extend the day to 30 hours. Or take another month off work.
But I have made real progress. The days and nights spent in the hospital, taking 1-1/2 hours shifts with Deb’s sister to get her through the nights, “sleeping” in chairs and on hospital couches listening to the wails of other cancer patients struggling with there own demons; the oppressive blur of funeral and burial arrangements; the crush of navigating the murky financial waters of beneficiaries and wills and outrageous hospital bills. These have all mostly passed, and the boulders I am picking up at night seem to be getting smaller. But it has still been over two months without a decent nights’ sleep…
Yep, tried sleeping pills – didn’t work and made me a zombie until lunchtime, not good when trying to balance multi-million dollar budgets. Would love to zen out with calming meditation and deep breathing exercises, but the mind just cannot be calmed. And an hour spent doing yoga or listening to an ocean waves CD before bed would be great, but how would the homework get checked and lunches packed?
I have kept up the exercise though, running and working out, and the physical exhaustion does get me a couple of hours every night. That has at least kept me mostly functional.
Finally, a breakthrough – Labor Day weekend, three days removed from the worries of work. The first day is spent outside, camping with friends and the boys, a day doing normal things again. And then Sunday, after unpacking and cleaning up from the camping trip, a nap – a glorious, one hour, deep sleep even dream and wake up in a puddle of drool nap! A good long run in the sweltering heat, to enlist the endorphins to chase away the blues of the first holiday weekend on our own, is followed by the simple joy of making a wonderful dinner. It doesn’t even bother me that I am eating alone, either (T turned up his nose and feigned gagging at the sight of the quinoa stuffed peppers!), because for the first time in a long time, there is a subtle sense of peace.
I’m not sure where the peace is coming from; maybe all the small victories, like getting through the first week of school intact, the first month back to work and almost getting through my inbox. From my little guy giving me a hug and feeling his confidence in me grow. From the kindness of friends and family, who have hoisted us upon their shoulders and prop us up, who are there with an embrace or a heartfelt comment, who have helped with laundry and cleaning and meals and have kept me in the know with this new school stuff. Maybe it’s the grace and love and patience that I ask Deb every night to open our hearts to finally sinking in. Or maybe it’s just the chirping cicadas and the moon and stars and the brilliant eternal light of the cosmos that flow through all things finally being felt again…
Sunday night, we’re tucked in at 9:30. A dose of natural melatonin supplement ushers in the rest, and it’s well past 8 in the morning before I’m conscious again… Joy, relief, and restfulness, what a feeling!
Wow, the day seems so much clearer after a good nights’ sleep! The Holiday is bearable, and I know what I have to do; a short but exhilarating mountain bike ride at Boyce, a couple of beers with a good friend at Pugs, my to do list is in check by day’s end, a great meal prepared by perfect strangers who spent their holiday cooking for us, and hope springs eternal that maybe I can return to normal sleep patterns.
Okay, but now it’s back to work and school and all the after school activities and music lessons and fundraisers and three major deliverables at work this month – can I keep it up? Can this little bit of peace – and sleep, precious sleep! – can it last??? What happens when everything piles up and the inevitable worries of life mount?
I think I’m learning to enjoy the peace while I have it; maybe someday I’ll even learn to enjoy the worries.