The little things we enjoy in life transform themselves into epic events when we lose them.
Like sleep. I understand all about hormone imbalances that occur as we age, along with increased levels of stress over getting older in a society that offers no honor or value to the “elderly.” None of that matters, though, when my eyes pop open at 1 AM and I realize at 2 that I’m going to struggle with regaining that elusive state of sleep I fell out of without warning. Falling asleep is normal. Falling awake, and staying awake, when your eyes are still gritty and sore with exhaustion….that’s something else indeed.
At 3 I decide to read for a half hour and then try again. Nope. At 4 I decide I might as well get something done so I fold laundry or empty the dishwasher or some other mundane task that makes me sleepy during the day….but not in the tiny hours of the morning when I want that to be so. At 5, it’s almost time to get up anyway, so I just drop into my day and off I go. Of course, at 6 my eyes won’t stay open, and that’s the joke my body is playing on me. Not funny.
I’ve slept in my recliner, at the other end of the bed, on the floor, even outside on my patio. I’ve sampled enough herbal tea to float an ocean liner. I have tried over the counter sleep concoctions that make my heart pound and my body go on overdrive. I've soaked in my hot tub until sleep is just there within my reach, my consciousness drifting a bit in the heat....until I climb back into bed.
I started experiencing insomnia to various degrees in my 40s when I was still teaching. Try managing, much less teaching, a roomful of 13 year olds on 2 hours of sleep. Add to that the fact that my own child was born when I was 35 years old, so I was chasing a toddler around……as a divorced single parent. I get tired thinking about it now, coming up on 20 years later.
One would think that I would have fallen into bed at night and pass out. And some nights I did, I’m sure. But there were more and more occasions when I would wake up for no apparent reason and stay awake until it was time to start all over again. Talk about stress.
Today, my life has become purposefully less stressful. Some of the changes were the results of the natural progression of things: My daughter is an adult and on her own. Other changes were made to reconfigure my life into something more workable for me: I made the difficult decision to walk away from a tenured position as a teacher with benefits. I started my own business, still educating others in topics I think are critical. Most importantly, though, I am doing what I should have been doing since I was a young adult: I’m writing. The stresses (and there will always be some) are manageable and of my own choosing. That’s important. We can handle the difficulties in our lives when we feel we have control over them.
Physically, I’m probably in the best shape of my life. (Well, maybe not when I was 25, but I can hardly remember that far back so it doesn’t count.) I exercise often and strenuously, and I’m adding some new types of movement to my repertoire. Emotionally, I think I’m healthy, too. I love my life the way it is and I am better at expressing myself honestly to those who matter around me.
My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can. (
The trick is in occupying yourself the BEST you can, no matter your age. Perhaps, then, sleep can return as a "simple" thing in our lives.
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