To sleep, perchance to dream…
For a lot of us the idea of a good night’s sleep is, indeed, a dream. I’m often awake in the middle of the night with a wandering mind that will not shut down. Thoughts leap from work to family to conversations the previous day to fire to politics to refugees to nuclear war to wondering about life after death to my dad who passed away four years ago to my mom and back to my family in an endless loop.
Some people get up in the middle of the night, but I just lie there in the dark, wondering how many other people are awake at the same moment. Maybe half the town is awake? We should all do something. As I write this on Jan. 30, tomorrow night is a blue moon (the second full moon in the same month), a super moon (closest to Earth and therefore huge in the sky) and a lunar eclipse, all rolled into one. Too bad we didn’t plan a party in Plaza Park for all us insomniacs. We could wander outside in our pajamas and gather together to look at the sky, like a cross between Moonstruck and Night of the Living Dead.
When I set my alarm to get up early, I inevitably wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. On deadline? Check. Got an important meeting? Check. Going on a trip? Check. I’m originally from West Virginia, and my cousin says they call that “Goin’ away proud” or “Travel proud.” I call it paranoia, even though I’ve never overslept and missed a flight in my life.
We all have tricks to quiet our minds. In my head, I’m working on a screenplay for a sci-fi thriller. How is my protagonist going to escape a repressive government in an age of facial recognition and tracking chips implanted at birth? This exercise works, because the next thing I know, it’s morning. My plot is obviously not thrilling enough.
Lying awake in the dark and worrying is, of course, a waste of time. Almost everything that you think about and worry about in the middle of the night never happens. It’s the things you don’t worry about that happen, and when they do, you are blindsided. I never worried about having to flee in the middle of the night to escape a raging fire, although in retrospect that would’ve been a good thing to think about.
A practicing Buddhist tried to explain time once. He said past, present and future are all one thing – the present. When you think about things that happened, you are thinking about them right now, and when you worry about things that will happen, you are worrying about them right now, so it’s all the present. Let’s try to use this present moment wisely, by going to sleep.