Let’s start with a quiet time

I’m standing stock-still in my livingroom, unintentionally meditating on two huge aspects of my life — my sleep life and my future as a writer. Everyone tells me that I need to be writing; that I can be paid to do what I love; that I should have a book deal. A lot of times, I don’t even know who “everyone” is — random angels sent anonymously from God to the Internet to let me know I’m on the right path; that all is not lost, that I am not wrong to keep on having, making and following my dreams.

As I stand here, motionless in my winter-darkened living room, my mind delivers me messages about my life. It is the gift that comes from meditation — the practice of slowing, settling, calming one’s mind — the ability to receive and listen to the message and intuition that the Universe is always sending. The concept of a regular meditation practice bringing countless benefits is one that transcends cultures, times, and countries. The need for meditation has entered my life through “self-help” books, mentors, therapists, religions, novels, memoirs and the 12-step program that gave me and continues to save my life.

Despite the constant and gentle reminders, I have resisted it with every cell in my body. The idea that I would even do something so simple as sit quietly and do nothing else so much as breathe, disturbs me. The idea that I would just take a walk with no purpose other than to “clear my head,” never seems like what I want to do. The thought of going to bed early to give myself some times to “wind down,” seems like a waste of time — it seems scary.

Yet, when I find myself walking a few unexpected blocks, I see things I have walked past countless times like they were invisible. My mind takes in a piece of the neighborhood in a whole new way. Or perhaps I see a piece of the city I have never even seen before. When I realize I have found myself sitting on the couch or on a park bench or waiting for the bus with no real agenda — just sort of sitting there, having a moment of nothingness — I find there’s room for things to move around. There’s room for answers to come for questions I didn’t know were roaming around in the back of my head. Questions I didn’t know I was asking; questions I was too scared to know the answers to. When I finally find myself with a little moment to breathe, I am always given over to all the small signals my body has to offer.

When I stood in my living room and contemplated the idea of writing a book and getting more disciplined and how sleep would figure into all of that, I realized that one of the reasons sleep has become such an issue for me is that it’s not something I look forward to. It’s not a place of repose and rejuvenation for me. It’s not a period of time where I feel like I come out the other side refreshed and renewed. No, sleep is merely a time where I punch a clock — a necessary evil that is demanded so I don’t go insane — much like having a corporate job where I have to do something I don’t enjoy very much so I don’t starve. How distasteful is that?

When I go to sleep, I have to take medication to get drowsy, to even feel like I want to be tired. Or rather, for the mind part to be turned off. Now, i understand there is more I could be doing about this than I currently do, but follow me here. But even when I am just about to go under — when I turn out the light because I am falling asleep on my book or staring at my computer — I then begin the arduous process of finding a place I can fit where I don’t feel so tortured by my back, my knees, my shoulders, my neck.

Pillow between my knees? One under my ankles? Could/should have a better bed. But I don’t. Could/should have better pillow/s. But I don’t. Side? Back? Hold on to pillow? Crack back? Stretch? Rub back/shoulder/neck? Switch sides? Move the pillow?

My therapist has suggested breathing exercises. I know them — the diaphragmatic breathing exercises that I could/should do to be a better singer, actor, improviser, meditator, liver. But honestly, do I want to feel more in my body? Do I want to feel every little ache and piece of ack? I don’t know. There’s also something honestly that just doesn’t make me feel safe … that makes me feel like I want someone to be watching over me if I’m going to be that relaxed.

And so it goes. I do fall asleep and then I dream. I don’t know how long I’m in actual R.E.M. sleep — sleep studies cost thousands of dollars. And even if you can find one for research, you can’t be on medication. Oh well. But, I dream and dream and dream. And then I wake up feeling as though I have been doing things or being beaten up in my sleep. I sit up and have to put my chest out and shrug my shoulders down and the ache from that is substantial, I can assure you.

Should I ache when I wake? God, I hope not. But do you see why this doesn’t beckon me to a “good night’s sleep?” I don’t get them, so I think there’s a part of me that thinks … “why bother?” There’s definitely a vicious circle there, I will admit. But, it’s hard to sell me on something that seems so shitty to start.

But, I did get that answer from an unintentional moment standing still in the livingroom, so I guess it’s worth a look.

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