Exhausted from a long day and an even longer week, I crawl into bed. I lay down and before my eyes have fully adjusted to the dark, my brain snaps back on with a fierce second wind.
I stare into the black and eventually my eyes make out shapes in the room – the dresser, the curtains, the shaggy outline of a terrier taking up more than his share of the bed.
The first thirty minutes or so, I tell myself that sleep will come. I reflect on pleasant things from the day; I allow my mind to wander to places I can only go when wrapped in the secret ebony blanket of night. On a good night, this coaxes me into a slumber.
At the thirty minute mark, I start getting restless. I’m exhausted, yet sleep is elusive. I try resting on each side of my body, but no position can entice me to slip into even the shortest of naps. The thoughts enter my head in a steady stream, swirling with more and more fervor as time passes. Try as I might to shut them down, they keep gradually building intensity.
At forty-five minutes, I test the steady hum of the space heater to see if it can lull me to sleep. Thirty minutes later, I try the thunderstorm app on my ipad, and yet none of these things even induce grogginess. My mind is abuzz with a blur of thoughts and feelings.
It’s at this point that I realize sleep isn’t going to come tonight. Try as I might, there are times where it is an elusive temptress, dancing just out of reach. Once I accept this, a calm washes over me. I allow my body to absorb the silent energy of the night. The swirling slows ever so slightly, and I am able to pluck a few thoughts from the flow to really mull over, while the tornado continues to thrash about in the background.
The healthiness of this process varies from night to night. There are evenings where this inner dialogue can’t let go of any missteps that I made during the day. Every comment I made that could have been improved upon is fair game. Every awkward action I performed is up for critique.
Somehow, my brain only briefly touches on that tonight before being drown out by the deafening echoes of questions that have been bouncing around for hours. One by one, I delve into them deeper. It’s a slow process that involves close examination, and the steady chiseling away of layers. Some reveal answers; others only more questions.
Eventually, I fall into a restless sleep. Although brief, it is littered with dreams. Upon waking a short time later, the fragments of those night stories that I’ve retained are what now occupy my cranium. I savor the parts that spread a warmth throughout me. I overanalyze the angles that don’t make sense. I question why certain people and things made an appearance at all.
The current continues, sweeping along, and soon enough those dream remnants are merely floating along while my mind accepts its next bit of fodder.
Ultimately, sleep prevails. My body slips into a peaceful slumber.
Twenty minutes later, my alarm clock goes off.
Good morning, sunshine.