For many weeks now, I’ve had occasional bouts of insomnia. I’m not alone in this, by any means. Many women I know are awake for some hours during the night. Comes with age, I suspect, or hormones changing. Maybe that’s the same thing!
Anyway, it’s usually no big deal. I quietly put on my bathrobe and slippers, and the cats and I leave the bedroom, gently closing the door behind me, and head to the kitchen, where I make a cup of chamomile tea and fill their food bowls if necessary. Then we all perch in our places in the living room – the little boy on the couch with me, the female cat often on the pet climber where she can survey the room. I grab the throw blanket and put it on my lap – it’s very snuggly. Then, I sip my tea as it cools, and I read or write or sometimes knit. I often find myself blogging at this hour – seems like a typical time for me to write. The tea makes me a little sleepy, so I’m usually only awake for one or two hours. I’m very cozy and sometimes I fall asleep on the couch instead of going back through the cold house to the bedroom.
For the next few days, I’m trapped. We’re staying in an AirBnB, and there’s someone sleeping on the couch in the living room. So tonight I’m awake with no place to go! It’s too noisy to make a cup of tea in the kitchen. And the light there will shine brightly into the living room. Plus, where will I sit?
So I’m trapped, awake, in our bedroom. I have my phone screen on nighttime mode, and pointed away from my husband in bed, so as not to wake him, if possible. It seems like writing my blog on my phone is an option! Should I try to read my Kindle on my iPad – can I adjust that intensity to nighttime lumens? But what do I do with myself without my chamomile? I really want that cup of soothing tea and my cozy blanket!
It’s uncomfortable to just lay here. I might try sitting up in bed, but there aren’t really enough pillows to prop me up and support my back like a chair would. The room is tight, with space to get around the bed but none additional – no room to bring in a chair.
I guess I’ll stay in bed and read until I get sleepy again. Maybe I’ll have tea for breakfast!
I come to the edge, just a little closer this time. I break the surface. Damn!
I thought I might be able to stay just-asleep, but I can tell I’m not. My first thought is “I’m still asleep,” maybe wishfully thinking, willing, myself back under.
Somehow the kitten knows. She must hear my breathing change, because she’s there immediately. She makes no noise, except the roar of her purring. She somehow parts the covers and wriggles under.
She is soft and warm – the pads of her feet and her belly fur feel almost hot as she steps across my legs. She settles down in the crook of my knees, and begins kneading. It’s gentle, like a relaxing massage, except that one claw pokes occasionally – just enough that I am now certain that I’m awake.
“It’s ok,” I think. “I can go back to sleep.” And I try to think sleepy thoughts, relax more, breathe deeply.
It works…I’m fading back to sleep. Oh, no I’m not. Yes I am. No I’m not.
That – that right there– should be my cue to get up. Once that argument in my head starts, I’m emerging into wakefulness. Even though I’m still so sleepy, my eyes won’t open. But my brain is waking up, and it won’t go back quietly into that dark good night. (Now it’s trying to remember poetry!)
At some point, I need to know what time it is. The light on my iPhone is a beacon when I push the button. 4:23. Why did I do that? Why do I care what time it is? But my brain is now engaging in math problems – yep, we’re coming awake. Oh, and my brain tells me we’ve estimated that it’s been “awaking” for the past twenty-three minutes.
No, I tell myself. It can’t be that long. Now my brain is trying to trick me into waking up. I roll to the other side to find a more comfortable position.
There’s a kitten there. She’s purring. And her kneading intensifies, now on my shin. It’s her fault I’m awake.
Maybe I can go back to sleep.
Quit fighting. After several sleep positions, rearranging the pillow, stretching – finally it’s enough. Get up quietly, don’t jiggle the bed too much, hear the kitten come out from the covers, open the door without squeaking the hinges (sorry!), head into the dark living room. That darn cat better be with me! I can’t see – my eyes have not adjusted. Oh, there she is.
So I sit on the floor, in the dark barely-morning, and give her a good-kitty rub down. She purrs loudly now, having successfully roused me from my warm cozy bed. I pet her soft fur and she is so happy. She wanders from my left hand petting her to my right hand petting her, until she leaves me completely to go to her food dish.
Now I’m awake enough to know I’m not going back to sleep until nap time, if there is a nap time today. I sit on the couch to read. She hops onto the cushion, curls up, and purrs herself to slumber.
Moving to Florida meant that our time zone changed – from Central to Eastern. No big deal, right? An hour. News is on at 11pm instead of 10pm. No problem.
Except that my bedtime has been 10pm for the past decade and a half. I was head-to-the-pillow by 11pm at the latest, and that’s even before the kids were teenagers. I’d try to stay awake until they got home, but I never made it. I’d usually head to our bedroom by 10pm, brush teeth, wash face, put on pjs, try to read a book, and my light was out by 10:15pm. I might roll over to find my husband still engrossed in his book, well past my sleepy-time. How did he read The Fall of the Roman Empire at 11:30 at night? I couldn’t get two pages of anything read before my eyes started to close.
We’ve been living down south for 6 months and I still don’t have a consistent bedtime. I’ve brushed my teeth and washed my face as early as 9pm or as early as 2:30am. I cannot get this figured out, nor get my body to cooperate. I don’t go to bed “on time,” and my waking time is all over the place – 4:30am, 7:30am, roll over fall back asleep get up at 10:30am!
Blame it on my new meds. Blame it on “the female change” (I am 51.5 yrs old – hormones must play a part in this, right?). Blame it on the kitten – kneading, purring, climbing on my face, hungry at 5:00am. But there’s no way this is my fault.
Ok. It is. I admit it. It’s my problem, caused by my choices, which makes it fully my responsibility.
I don’t want to go to bed at 9pm. My hubby is so good at this – consistent, dependable. He knows he has to leave the house for 1/2 hour commute by 7:00am, so he heads to bed at 9pm to get some reading done before lights-out. But I don’t want to go to bed that early. (You can read that sentence again – insert whiny toddler voice.) Shoot, some of my weekly TV shows are just starting! I won’t be done watching until 11pm if I watch Prime Time TV like I used to. Not that there’s anything incredibly amazing on TV, but that’s been my routine – watch TV, then go to bed.
Ah-ha! The culprit…Routine! It’s not that my bedtime has changed – it’s my routine that’s changed. And I am all outta-whack.
I used to work part time at the best job in the entire world – The Children’s Museum of La Crosse. I worked there for a total of just over 11 years, with a 3-year hiatus when we lived in Madison, WI. And since my job was part time, there was a fair amount of flexibility to my weekly schedule. But I knew I had work most days.
My job flexibility allowed for other weekly routines – Tuesday morning Bible Study, Friday morning Moms In Prayer. My month had some structure too. During the school year, the band meeting was on the third Monday at 7pm. There were Bible study leadership meetings, Moms In Prayer prep, getting study done for Tuesday, Care Groups on Monday. When the kids were younger, my after-work schedule was whatever they had going – getting this one to rehearsal, picking that one up from a friend’s.
Though like any schedule, it could be either hectic or repetitively boring, it was routine, consistent. Even summer developed its own easy rhythm, pattern. Simply the freedom of the summer “schedule” – swimming lessons, play dates, Vacation Bible School, Driver’s Ed, camping with friends. Even summer held its own routine.
I don’t have routine, no real reason to. I’m just beginning to figure out my weekly schedule – there’s not much to it yet. Not working (my choice, and I’m really enjoying that freedom right now), Moms In Prayer on Wednesdays, still trying to add Bible study. Still meeting people and finding connections. Might add the knitting club that our neighborhood offers. Community activities change with “season” – when snowbirds return and roads get crowded again. And my schedule has plenty of room to add exercise to each day – why hasn’t that happened yet?
It’s still early. I guess while I wait for my day to start, and my weeks to fill with routine, I’ll relax in the freedom that right now brings. I’ll enjoy the start of this morning with Jesus, trusting Him to fill my future days the way He wants them. I’ll try to do a better job of going to bed, and will add exercise to most days. Today, maybe just a nap after church. But in the meantime, thanks, God, for the sunrise!