Day 16 - Facing Down Worry When You Can't Sleep
Since I’ve started the 93-day Metamorphize or Die project, I’ve been sleeping better. This is in part due to acupuncture, which I’ll be writing about later in the week. The fact that I don’t wake up at midnight and 2 a.m. also has to do in large part with Dr. Mark’s food plan that I’ve been following for two weeks. My body isn’t having to deal with radical drops in sugar late at night as it processes alcohol or dessert or morning glory muffins.
I like falling asleep and staying that way until 6 a.m. Waking up at two in the morning is such a drag for a number of reasons. It’s the time of night when my mind loves to scroll through all the things it wants me to worry about and/or things that make me feel bad about myself. One time I asked my friend Janie what the worst thing a person could call another person was and she said maggot. At two in the morning, I’m 100% maggot.
I decided to list everything I worry about and everything that makes me feel bad, and that by the end of the 93 days, I will address the things on my list that I have some control over. That is in my power. I can do that! Imagine! August 2ndthere will be no reason to wake up at 2 am because I’ll still be getting acupuncture; I’ll still be eating clean, and I’ll have wiped clear my list of why I’m a maggot.
I had one rule when making the list: each item had to be something I could significantly change. If something was out of my control, for example, the health of the ocean, that would go into a new file, one that’s called It Takes a Village. I got a small notebook and wrote the big Village things down so my brain could see I was listening and that these things are being acknowledged.
Saying it takes a village doesn’t mean I’m done, let’s move on. I’ll continue to work on doing a better job of limiting the (horrifying) amount of trash I create each day so that I can feel I’m doing something for my beloved watery planet, but I’m not allowed to worry about the ocean late at night because it’s in the It Takes a Village file. I can tell my brain that worrying about that stuff is as productive as teaching the wind to spell but my brain can see I listened to it and heard the worry because I wrote it down, and so my brain can move on to other things such as finally remembering people’s names.
I made my list and there were about ten things ranging from questions about quarterly taxes to not knowing where my hard drive was. When I reread it after a few minutes, I noticed that many things were superficial, cosmetic, easily addressed: a mole I was worried about but not worried enough about during the day to get checked. The fact that I had overdue library fines. This list was so manageable. Hell, I could check off all the things within the week. I sat there and made some calls and crossed two things off the list. I’d been fretting about those things for years.
I asked myself, Come on. What are you really worried about? What are the darkest worries that plague you at night?
My brain went murky. I felt like I was on a diving board in the dark. Was there even any water to dive into below me? But I knew there had to be some thoughts my brain was not freely offering up because I felt anxious, and I suspected my mind was keeping secrets from me. I could practically hear it silencing itself.
What a weird concept: your mind keeps secrets from you. How can other people know you when you don't know yourself?
I got some paper and a black crayon and scribbled all over the paper. It would be too much work to get the whole paper colored over, but I got the sense of what I intended, a black background. Yes, I could have used black paper, but I wanted my body to reproduce what it was creating in my head. I wanted to show it that two could play the same game.
I stared at the paper and thought about how I feel late at night when the world seems unmanageable. I’ve been in such a good state lately that it wasn’t all that easy to remember the feeling, but I just waited to have an idea.
And then it came to me. There was only one thought that I was really, darkly, deeply affected by: I was going to die alone.
This was helpful information for me to have. If that’s the fear buried deep in my brain, the thing that wakes me up, I know I want to focus on creating intimate relationships in my life so that when I am on my deathbed, someone cares enough to show up and hold my hand. Social media, for as wonderful as it is, makes a cold deathbed partner. I want that hand that will be holding mine to be warm. (While I want my daughter to be there, I don’t want to depend on her for help. I want always to be the mother for her.)
It’s easy to lose sight of our deepest desires and needs when we’re paddling to keep up with the Joneses. It’s so easy to get caught up in the superficial: our own appearance, the appearance of our family, our house, our professional life, our accomplishments, and we can use up all our energy and then some trying to keep the spackle fresh.
The body keeps the score. The body knows what you really need, and it will try to wake you up so you can take care of the business that is solely yours in this life. The business of your soul.
One of my favorite movies is Broken Circle Breakdown. I’m about to ruin the ending for you, so skip the rest of this paragraph if you want to watch the film without knowing where it’s heading. At the end, the woman is on life support, and her husband and the band of musicians she and her husband performed with are in a circle around her bed, and they are playing like they mean it, like they love the music, like their hearts are both whole and broken, like she’s alive and singing with them, but the doctor has pulled the plug on the machine, and these men are singing the woman to her death.
I think it is so beautiful. I want that, to be surrounded by people who are celebrating me and grieving me in a beautiful and creative way as I die. It’s not just one hand I want holding mine: it’s a band of people singing me to the light.
So now I can work backwards to make sure I get a chance at that kind of ending. I better be nice to people. I better surround myself with creatives, or at least people who are willing to sing.
What if we can fall asleep at night like babies? Without worry. If we were relinquished as children, there is a chance we have never had that kind of sleep. But what if we can learn how to get it now? Wouldn’t that be sweet?
See you tomorrow.