I can’t sleep lately. Some nights it’s the falling, others it’s the staying. But sleep is frought. My mind lights up like a pinball machine of my childhood. The dog’s barking – weaker now – woke me. I try to read her bark: Scared? In pain? Or just lost? I couldn’t tell. When I get downstairs, she paces – to her bowl, to the door, to a place in the rug that seems to be pulling her there. Barks. Looks at me. Stares away. Lays down. Repeats.
I had laid in bed for a little while before coming down, thinking that perhaps I could trick myself into not thinking, that I could beat my mind to the punch and fill it with the image of a misty pond or a slow-arcing heron before it galloped ahead, ticking off each part of the coming day – The Onslaught of a Day: Car to the body shop for a $1,700 response to my un-mindful reversal into an electric pole. First day of new job – setting up computer, arranging desk, voicemail, insurance, yadayadayada. Pick up kids. Bella to violin. Food coop (yogurt, cheese, wheat germ, and the good flour tortillas I can’t get at the big store.) Cook. Homework. Go to bed and try again to sleep.
Finishing that list, I circled outward, looping from the terrifying cyberbullying article in the New York Times, to my son’s steamy temper and his new obsession with football; rotating through the so-tough process of trying to “blend” two families – a term that vaguely reminds me of fusion cooking, something I never liked, to the snow that surely must be coming; then swaying unsteadily to North Korea and the recesses of Kim Jong-Il’s mind – as scattered as my dog’s, to the crawlspace that didn’t get insulated this weekend; and sputtering through lost papers, especially the IRS letter lost in the fray regarding a mixed-up SSN and the book proposal that keeps moving tortoise-like along but probably won’t make my self-imposed Christmas deadline. My mind is out of control.
Children, it turns out, are the best reason ever to stay awake at night, 95% of the worries being completely unjustified.
I know what to do: Nadi shodhana would be a good start. But I’m too congested. Ok, then lay on your back and breathe in to your belly, your ribs, your chest. Repeat. I repeat about five times, my mind screaming: Don’t let them have computers – ever! What on earth was he thinking giving them his old iPhone, even if the phone is disengaged? How dare he not ask me… What pains will come to them? What am I doing wrong, right this very second that will haunt them for years? (Children, it turns out, are the best reason ever to stay awake at night, 95% of the worries being completely unjustified. I woke up with a jolt at about eight months pregant with my first child, shoved her father awake, and goggle-eyed blurted out: “WHAT ARE WE DOING? WE CAN’T DO THIS?” He hardly woke up – just turned slightly and said, “Every dumb fuck in the world does it. We’ll be fine.” Amazingly, this made me feel much, much better and I went back to sleep.)
Now, I sit on the sofa, the cat curled in a ball next to me; the dog snoring. Stop. Breathe. Listen to her. Listen to a life winding to its end. Listen to the children breathing in the dark – breathing their way toward problems and joys I can’t even hint at now. Listen to the snow gathering force up in Canada. Listen to the spring halfway round the world. Then tomorrow morning, here’s the plan: PAY ATTENTION. Watch the autobody guy – his belly, his jowl, the grease on his hands. Feel the cold while walking to work – cheeks chapped, haunches numb. Melt into the new job – enjoy the blank desk, the computer without a personality – yet. Embrace a day of not knowing. Meet Bella with curiosity for her day, with pleasure for her music. Choose food that looks good; give thanks — it doesn’t need to be a whole Bugsby Berkeley production there in the produce aisle, just a gentle nod of gratitude – for what you choose. Don’t curse if the yogurt isn’t on sale; be as okay with 99 cents as you’d be with 79 cents. While cooking, listen to the family as they hum together – perhaps happily, perhaps with peevishness. Read Judy Blume aloud and savor the words; enjoy the Judy Blume of yore – Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret – and this new one who writes about kids with Soho lofts who take the subway and shop at Harry’s Shoes but don’t have cyberbullying.
Breathe into yourself. Breathe into your children. Breathe to the dog, sending her love. Breathe out to your partner – out to your mother – out to your friends, so many cocooned in their own pinball-like thoughts, bouncing, jouncing, pivoting through life. Breathe in softness and the knowledge that what will be will be and at 1:44 am (for that is what it is now) litanies make no difference.