Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Thoughts on a Sleepless Night

Last night was one of those sleepless nights. I wanted to sleep, knew I needed to sleep, but sleep would not come. I tried one position and then another. I closed my eyes and whispered, "Sleep, sleep, sleep" to myself over and over, but finally, I knew I might has well get up. I was awake and that was all there was to it. Rats! After several restless nights, I had slept well the previous three nights, but there I was awake, wide awake. 

I thought to myself perhaps it was because I had not written today's  post, and I was devoid of ideas. I had little snippets of ideas, but nothing compelling.  Perhaps it was because last night was the first night without pain medication since surgery for a broken ankle. I had deliberately not called for a refill, but decided to see how it would be to only take ibuprofen before going to bed. Not so good. Maybe walking almost 10,000 steps, according to my pedometer, wasn't such a good idea. I think I am pacing myself, listening to my body and stopping between activities to put up my feet for a half hour or more and even napping. Perhaps it is not enough, and I need to remember that it takes at least six months for bone to heal.   

Perhaps it is because my husband returned home last night after his usual days of working in Madison, and it always takes a night or two before I adjust to not being alone. By the time I readjust, he has left again. We are both ready for this commuting life to end. Perhaps it is because after another hot, wet day, I felt sticky and I should have taken a shower before going to bed. Why didn,'t I wash my hair? I felt prickly and itchy all over.  

Or perhaps it was because I just finished reading a book about caregiving, Susan Allen Toth's No Saints Around Here, A Caregiver's Days, and I thought about the loving care I have received the last few months, but also I wondered about my own ability to care, to give. I have read all of Toth's previous books beginning with her memoir of growing up in Iowa, Blooming: A Small-Town Girlhood, and I appreciate her down-to-earth descriptions of her experiences and her feelings. That is certainly true as she writes about the last 18 months of her husband's life. He had Parkinson's or Parkie, as she calls it, and the dementia that often accompanies it. I think about a family friend who died not long ago of Parkinson's and wonder if this book would have been helpful. I think about other friends whose spouses or other loved ones require increasing amounts of caregiving, due to cancer or mental illness or other debilitating issues. Would Susan's words offer comfort or companionship? A hospice worker says to the writer who feels guilty about wishing the time away and about not always being loving and understanding, "What matters is what you are doing, not what you are thinking." Perhaps I should have immediately opened another book and not let these thoughts of loss roll through me when I needed to sleep.

Perhaps I was still awake because I had not spent enough time the last few days doing the breath practice, which was the assignment for a group I attend. If I had done so, I suspect I would have felt more relaxed, more able to let my body's needs take over.  It's not that I haven't done the practice of gentle inhaling and exhaling--how simple is that?--during the two weeks since our first class. In fact, I have stopped and paused periodically during the day and intentionally and deeply inhaled and exhaled. I have done this during rest periods. I have done this before turning out the light at night, but not first thing in the morning, for once I am up and to the bathroom, the day seems to thrust me forward. I am certain I have not done the practice for chunks of 5 minutes or more as suggested by our facilitator, but I have closed my eyes and honored my body's ability to breathe. I have noticed that often my exhaling breath is raggedy and uneven and short, but the inhale amazes me with its capacity. What I have not done is set aside time, the same time every day, for this practice, and I must admit, I wonder what that resistance is all about. I know the value of meditating, of centering prayer, of following the breath. I encourage others in the practice and have adhered to the practice myself in the past, but right now I am not walking the walk. Why is it we know what would be the wise and healthy and loving thing to do for ourselves, but we don't do it? Is that why I have had trouble sleeping lately? 

Perhaps it is because I feel on the brink.  Am I ready to return or restart or renew or venture forth to something new?  Am I ready to add in and awaken to new passion and purpose? My night time body seems to say, "yes," but my daytime body in need of more healing time does not agree. 

When I am not able to sleep, I know it is better  to get up and read or write, and so last night at 12:30, I climbed the stairs to my garret office, sat at my desk, and jotted down thoughts for this post. Then I sat in my comfortable chair with my hands open on my lap and gently inhaled and exhaled, feeling the breeze breathing through the open window. I wondered about the light I saw in a second floor window in the house across the alley. Does she always leave it on or was she also having a sleepless night? Maybe we will compare notes some day. Eventually, I knew it was time to give sleep a chance again and I hoped I wouldn't disturb my husband as I crawled back into bed. Maybe tonight will be better.

An Invitation

What do you do on sleepless nights? What thoughts rumble around in you as you wait for sleep to take over? I would love to know.

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