It is early, yet not uncommon for me to be up at this middle-aged happy hour. I often insert soft sounds into my ears, close my eyes and hope for another hour of blissful sleep. Other times I follow the poet Rumi’s advice and get up to hear what the silence has for me.
I started the practice of early mornings during seminary while learning the ancient language of Greek in order to translate sacred scripture from the original language. It was the only time of day when no one else was awake and focus had its best chance. It is one thing to jump start your mid 40 year old brain into remembering how to write papers and read hundreds of pages of scholarly texts, it is another thing to guide it into learning another language. While I rarely use that skill set while sitting in the ICU with a family, it created a habit and love of the early morning.
This morning actually started at 1:08 a.m. Lately we have a couple of neighbor cats who have decided to visit our deck in the middle of the night. They come to the sliding glass door and bellow for our cats to come to out to play. Our cats, sit inside the door and bellow back their lament.
Over the years, I have learned the value a good pair of earplugs for these kind of nights. The same cannot be said for our Pug/Jack Russell. Cooper, throughly pug in his sleeping habits he is the ultimate lounge lizard. However, when the visiting felines holler, every Jack Russell alert signal goes off in Coop’s body and he sizzles with excitement. No earplugs silence this noise. Once he assesses the danger is clear, he comes back to bed, 30 minutes later, the visitor is back, Cooper is up and anxiously telling me his concerns, and I am awake again. Finally at 3:53, I relent and hope Rumi is right.
It has been a couple of weeks since our country inaugurated a new President. My phone enthusiastically tells me how much more sleep I have been getting, as if it is surprised. Over the last months (and years,) many of us have experienced sleepless nights, and developed an anxious habit of checking our phones for the latest disaster news. A therapist friend explained, “We have become addicted to trauma.”
Our bodies have responded a bit like Cooper’s. We are up and watchful, exhausted we fall asleep, then jerk ourselves awake to remain in a guarded space of preparedness against a threat we cannot always see. Between the pandemic, politics and world events, we have remained on guard for a very long time. Have you found yourself tired lately? I have, and my mirror confirms it. Everyone laments the same mantra: “I am exhausted.” “Tiredness” can be our physical response to stress, to sadness, to overwhelm. This is not surprising; we have been living in the State of Continuous Stress.
These days you may find yourself needing more sleep. Our bodies, along with our mind and spirit need time to heal, to restore. We have been living in grief and overwhelm for months, years and for some of us, a lifetime. We are tired. The pandemic is far from over. There is more work to do. More love to give. More injustices to right. So we can’t run on empty.
Grab some good earbuds and slide some calm words or music into your ears. Breathe deeply. Take time for your body to rest, your mind to relax, your spirit to heal. Sit on a bench in the sun, or on a yoga mat on the floor. Whether you are up at 3:00 am or napping at 3:00 pm, allow your soul to take good care of you, follow its lead. Be exceedingly gentle with your self.
We need you. But more importantly, you need you.