it’s a recurring theme. and variations. sleep. no sleep. partial sleep. disturbed sleep. sleep with snoring. sleep sans snoring.
i don’t remember having this problem earlier in my life. it’s not like i wasn’t worrying about things then, so i don’t know what the difference is. other than menopause. and hormones. and…ummm…aging. a fun trilogy.
we try to have good conversation in the wee hours. we generally have a banana (somewhere we read that bananas are sleep-inducing plus they are easy snacks in the middle of the night.) if we are still starving, we have been known to get up and make pancakes. having mid-night pancakes always sounds better than actually making pancakes in the middle of the night – tired and a little ornery from not sleeping. but once they are made, it’s pretty dreamy to indulge in a few maple-syrup laden pancakes at 3am.
david doesn’t really have trouble sleeping. his troubles come from my trouble. he is a generous sleep-giver-upper on those nights, for which i am grateful. he mustn’t have the trilogy, the whole trilogy and nothing but the trilogy. plus, somehow or other, he places all angsting to the side when he lays his head down. he just goes to sleep.
(to the tune of “the old gray mare”) sing: a good night’s sleep just ain’t what it used to be, ain’t what it used to be, ain’t what it used to be. a good night’s sleep just ain’t what it used to be…many long years ago.”
yiiiikes. no kidding. a whole night of sleeping – like from late evening when you lay your head down on your sweet pillow all the way through the wee hours of the night to sunny morning when you wake blissfully rested and dreaming of a hot mug of coffee in your hand and zero aches and pains – is elusive. how utterly annoying. and a repeated pattern. over and over.
middle age, hormones (or the lack thereof), medications, angsts, the world, too little water, too much water, d snoring, me snoring, leg cramps, foot cramps, shoulder twinges, a pillow too flat, a pillow too puffy like one that makes you feel like your head is on top of the empire state building and your body is in the lobby, a full moon, the neighbor’s motion light, the wind, a skunk somewhere out the window in the ‘hood, sirens, the trains idling on the tracks for hours on end, wishing for midnight pancakes…the list is endless…reasons to be awake.
and we had a conversation most of the night – the waning moon and i.
right outside my pillow window it invited me as it moved from one glass panel to the next to the next. it wasn’t full wolf anymore; its pull was less intense. but it was present and bright and we were both awake, the moon and i.
we talked about time and life and breakfast. we talked about children and moving and empty nests and career. we talked about friendships and family and my parents and loss. we talked about being 19 and being almost-63 and meaning. we talked about legacy and dust and snack-time and happy lights. we talked about winter and the fireplace and the bathroom faucet. we talked about this town and decades and northport harbor and beaches. we talked about dogdog and sleep-running and we talked about babycat and empty space on the quilt. we talked about the pandemic and quiet and distancing and confusing questions. we talked about filling in the moments between spending time with others. we talked about horses and donkeys and lakes and cantering-land. we talked about mountains and porches and houses-we-know-well and courage and change. we talked about pianos and blogs and cartoons and value. we talked about grey hairs and jowls and pounds and wrinkles. we talked about gluten and dairy and glasses of wine and achy mornings. we talked about hiking and dreams and the pacific crest trail. we talked about decisions and successes and regrets and things-that-won’t-ever-make-sense. we talked about people and betrayal and forgiveness and remorse and sadness. we talked about plans and intentions and indecision. we talked about how laughter feels. we talked about gratitude and random texts and the littlest things.
and, again, we talked about time and life and breakfast.
and then we both slipped off into sleep…me – into my pillow, and the moon – sliding past the last windowpane.
it’s completely mind-boggling how you can be totally exhausted at the end of the day and, yet, be totally awake as soon as laying your head on the pillow. what IS that?
as this year ends, i read an article that impresses upon you to choose a resolution you are capable of keeping. i suppose that’s a good idea … i mean, why set yourself up for failure when you can set yourself up for success?
my new year’s resolution, thus, will be this: i wish to sleep and i wish to dream. and i hope to succeed at it.
history shows this would not be a good resolution. but i am determined. after leaving everything of concern back in the waterfall, i am hoping for my peaceful slumber.
there is no question – whatsoever – that i lay awake inthemiddleofthenight waaay more than he does. i ponder and wonder and fret and worry and perseverate and plan and make lists and sigh and re-start the cycle over again. i lose sleep over things that are troubling me and during times of discontent. it is impossible for me to not carry these concerns into sleep – it’s disquieting and, most definitely, interruptive.
on the other hand, it takes david about six seconds to fall asleep and – perish the thought – stay asleep. there is little to no tossing, turning, blankets-on-ing-blankets-off-ing, staring-at-the-ceiling, looking-at-the-clock. somehow it is possible for him to empty-his-mind-of-all-troubles and just sleep.
“as estrogen declines in perimenopause and menopause, appetite ramps up. … hormone weirdness can impact your sleep (night sweats, for example). insufficient sleep can further elevate sensations of hunger.” (gennev.com)
and this additional news:
“the decline of sleep-promoting hormones including estrogen and progesterone is one big reason for disrupted sleep. and the other symptoms of menopause—from mood swings and anxiety to night sweats—also contribute to sleep problems for women. production of another critical hormone for sleep—melatonin—also decreases with age, which can compound sleep problems for women during menopause and beyond.” (psychology today, m.j. breus, phd)
shocking, isn’t it? it makes you want to sign up, doesn’t it? huh?huh?
as one who is smack-dab in the middle of this estrogen/progesterone/post-peri-full-blown-meno fun, i know i am not alone. there is nothing like lying awake in the wee of the night, filled with swirling angst-filled thoughts and lists and no shut-eye, listening to david gently snoring and dogdog running in his sleep, blanket on-blanket off-blanket on, grateful-for-each-moment-crabby-as-all-get-out, melatonin-deprived and starving. i can’t count the vast number of bananas and bowls of cereal we have eaten smack-dab in the middle of the night.
“levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin increase, a reason why many women find themselves frequently hungry during this phase.” (psychology today, m.j. breus, phd)
the aarp article addressed ‘dyadic coping’, in brief, the way a couple together handles the stress reaction of the other spouse. the edition is dedicated to the pandemic so this bit of writing is not a surprise.
in my rant yesterday about every-little-thing david very calmly started to talk about a plan – ways that i can lower my level of anxiety, ways that i can process without taking it into my body. ugh. i just wanted to rant. for a little bit of time. his let’s-solve-for-this guy approach was lovely dyadic-ly, but made me want to roll my eyes. letting off steam, regardless of the lack of any linear thought, is helpful. five minutes later i felt better. nothing was solved, stress still existed, but i could breathe better and move on to the next thing until the next time.
these are somewhat sleepless nights. even if i drift off after our mountain-climbing adventure of late night fare, i awaken. and, like you, i suspect, i start to think. everything from wondering when i will see my children to finances to work to why the kitchen sink is draining slowly filters through my brain. although i would definitely label david more daytime singularly focused, my obsession is in the middle of the night with angst. serenity is elusive.
perhaps this painting is so very appealing to me because of the quietude. the surrender to rest, beloved pets conceding to the gravity pull of being together, of repose. an eyes-closed moment. triad-ic coping.
and as yesterday passed into today and i drifted off to sleep i knew, despite that she is on a different plane of existence, my sweet momma was holding me close to her. it was bracing to think of the five year mark that has just passed now since she has been gone and the every-day-missing-her that goes along with that. no different with my dad. in a month it will be eight years and i can hear his “hi brat” in my heart. i have no doubt that he is right there, holding on tightly. both of them. forever and ever.
it is a fact. this parenthood thing is mind-bogglingly paramount. ever forward from the day they are born. it is all-consuming. in every good and every daunting way. every most-jubilant and every brutally-difficult way. every securely-confident and every tumultuously-distressing way. every way.
in this pandemic time of chaos we pine for a sense of normal which escapes us. anxiety barges in and replaces our regular routines; peace escapes us. we long to see each other. we feel tired; we feel restless. we sleep more; we cannot sleep. we are astounded by the surrealness of this; we are crushed by how real this is. and we worry. it is hard to be away from those whom we love and knowing that right now we cannot go to them compounds it. my heart needs to hug My Girl and My Boy and see that all is well. we feel anxious. our wishes go unfulfilled.
and yet as today passes into tomorrow and they drift off to sleep i know, despite how busy they may be or where they are in the world, that i am holding them close. that no doubt can exist – i am right there, holding on tightly.
and i hope, like you with your beloved children, that they can feel it. forever and ever.
there is little as comfortingly sweet as watching your dog sleep. dogdog is whirling motion so when he sleeps in your presence it is a magical time of trust and deep respite. the vision of him asleep on the bed or in the middle of the living room rug is a picture of all-is-right-in-the-world; he has no other cares except he is with his people and he can rest.
some of the times i remember most about when My Girl and My Boy were young are the times they fell asleep with me holding them, in my arms, on my lap. the moment you feel their little-child-body relax and fall into you. exquisite.
it’s that moment you sigh and lay your head back to nap with someone you love. the moment you close your eyes on the beach towel in the sun, warm sand beneath you. the moment you drift off in the grass watching the clouds. oh yes, the moment your face plants against the window at the rest area during your long journey and a couple hours pass by. the moment, hiking in high mountains, you lean against a tree and your eyes close to the sound of the wind in the aspens.
rest. a time of no real conscious worry. a time of innate trusting that all-will-be-well. a time of repose, of tranquility, of solace.
i have found, sometimes, if i want to go to sleep and cannot, that if i watch dogga or babycat sleep it will slow my overthinking-breathing. it will settle my heart and mind a bit. it will remind me that my own whirling motion – physical, intellectual, emotional – needs time to rest, to curl up on the living room rug and close my eyes.
at the end of the day, when we sit listening to the quiet, waves lapping at the shore, a silent moon pulling our attention outside, dogdog lays, finally resting, his eyes tightly closed. there is something about the trusting nature of a beloved pet sleeping that tugs at your heart. i wonder what are the thoughts he thinks; what are the dreams he dreams?
as we weave through complicated days, dogga weaves with us. he is always aware, always watching. our sweet aussie, he is a mess of empathic energy, his eye contact unnerving. his little heart beats fast and he watches, watches. he has comforted us with his gentle knowing more times than we can count. he doesn’t say much, but then, he doesn’t have to.
and then, at some point, he drops to the floor. for him, everything is right in the world. his people are close by, his babycat lies next to him or across the room. all is well. and he sleeps.
sometimes i wish it was all that simple. it’s people who complicate matters.