The hours from dusk to dawn seem interminable when I can’t fall asleep.
When I was much younger, a sleepless night was like a bonus. I simply got out of bed and filled the nighttime hours with things I was behind on, or things I didn’t otherwise have time for. Nights were filled with rearranging, sorting or deep-cleaning projects, with art-making, and with reading or writing. I’d be tired the next day, but knew that I could hammer through.
Now, when I am too wide awake to sleep, I’m also too sleepy to tackle anything productive. I’m often too tired to even get out of bed. If I do manage to get up, I don’t do much beyond sitting at the computer, watching the news and drinking tea. I know that, without a good night’s rest, I’ll be miserable the next day.
Last night, I lay wide awake in bed. There was no particular problem or worry that kept me from slumber, but sleep evaded me anyway. I filled the time with an assortment of mindful deliberation.
First, the book I am currently reading: 1588, A Calendar of Crime, by Shirley McKay. Should I put on the lamp and read for a while? Set in Scotland in the year 1588, the Plague is recent history and war with Spain looms on the horizon. Witches are persecuted; doctors practice bloodletting. The language is a bit hard to follow. I grasped right away that “kirk” means “church,” “bairn” is a baby, and “neb” is “nose.” Verbs are a bit more difficult, but, in context, I get the gist. Still, it’s not the best choice for middle-of-the-night reading.
Next, a rundown of my physical condition. My back was a little achy, but not bad. I had a stitch in my side that welcomed in all kinds of morbid midnight diagnoses. Likewise, the sore throat that has been hanging on since early spring. I stretched as much as possible while sandwiched in between two chihuahuas, and changed position. Was I too warm? Too cold? Did I have to pee?
I plotted out a few drawing workshops. I compiled to-do lists in my head for the next day, and the next week. They included housework, yard work, gardening and studio work. I thought of all the things I need to do before my sisters come to the island…before my trip in August…before cold weather comes again. I made a mental note to remember to write down the dimensions for replacement windows for the kitchen.
I experimented with several relaxation techniques, and a few mind-quieting tricks. I tried to move into a meditative state. I attempted to just embrace my sleepless state. “Just lay here,” I told myself, “eyes wide open, mind racing…just be one with it.” Ugh! Finally, I got up and made coffee.
If I’m going to “be one” with something, I’d just as soon be up, and choosing how to fill the time. So, briefly, I appreciated the extra time for writing, news-watching and coffee-drinking before I had to go to work. Then I remembered, long sleepless nights make for extremely long, exhaustion-filled days!