It is 10 pm on a Wednesday night as I sit down at my laptop to check in with each and every one of you. The sights and sounds of the evening are settled around me. I write at the kitchen table, an orange bucket of mini halloween candy sitting right in front of me and calling my name. My daughter is up late doing homework, my son is asleep, and I hear clothes tumbling around in the washing machine. I have a hard time going to sleep these days before my kids are finished with their homework; there is something about knowing the day’s work is done, they are safe in bed, before I can take a full breath and settle in myself to rest for another night.
Lately, the nights have been challenging. A spell of insomnia has been visiting. As the darkness settles, my mind starts whirring with a host of thoughts, memories, emotions. I lie awake, get up, use the bathroom, write in my journal, read a few distracted pages, and lie down again. Soon, I get hungry, pad down to the kitchen and make myself a snack. Some days it is a toasted English muffin with butter, some days it is leftover pasta, some days cereal (Honey Chex or Lucky Charms with cold milk). Eat a little, pad back up, peek in on the kids, lie back down, often get on my phone and scroll through Instagram or Facebook for a little bit, and try to sleep again. Eventually I fall into a fitful sleep, and wake up worn and tired around 6:30 am for another day.
This is of course the exact opposite of the good sleep hygiene that I talk about day in, day out with my patients. But we are all, at our best, human, doing the best we can to navigate the days and nights with all of the hyper vigilance and stress that they can bring. I often tell my patients that everything feels worse at night, and so our challenge is to (a) not believe anything that can feel real at 3 am, and (b) befriend the night if we can. So although I don’t follow my advice to keep my phone off, I do try to follow my own words of relaxing into the dark, and with some stretch of the imagination, try to find a space of peace and curiosity in the mid-night hours.
Last night, I had a sudden sense of gratitude for the places that were open at night. Convenience stores that are open 24/7. Gas stations. Hospitals. Social media, where someone is always up. Occasionally I will look out the window at the moon and the fog, and notice a house off in the distance with a few lights on in the windows. And all of a sudden, feel a little less alone, and more reassured, in my nighttime wanderings and musings.
I try to not feel anxious about another night falling, and I try to remind myself that my body will ultimately get the amount of rest it needs. This is a season that, for reasons unknown to me, brings a sense of over-alertness and over-drive. And that is okay. Amongst nighttime questions also lay nighttime hopes, wishes, and insights. Amongst the darkness also wanders the peace of solitude and a quiet that doesn’t make itself known during the day. Within the shadowed landscape lies the beauty of shifting moons, distant galaxies, and the song of coyotes. There is a world that receives a different part of me, which perhaps needs to come alive right now.
So we shall see where this night leads me, especially after releasing some thoughts here with all of you on this early November night. Wishing you all a night of ease and rest, whatever that happens to look like in your starry corner of the world.
With gratitude, Monisha