Wednesday, January 25, 2017

We'll Leave the Light On

When I was a little girl, I couldn't sleep without a night light. Somewhere along the way that changed. I try to avoid any light when I am sleeping. I don't want to see light peeking under the door, or from the digital clock, or coming through window coverings. I'd prefer conditions to be perfect when I go to sleep.

Perfect conditions? Yes, ideally, the bed must be soft, the pillow has to be moldable, the room has to be cool and it must be pitch black dark. These are my preferences.

Falling asleep is my super power. Staying asleep is another matter. I am grateful any morning I sleep past three. Insomnia and I go waaay back. 

When I was a young mother whose day job was teaching elementary school, I used to wake up in the middle of the night, and count on the fingers of one hand how many hours I'd slept, and try to determine if I could function on the little sleep I'd had. I fretted and worried about my insomnia. 

Over time, I just accepted the fact that I'm not much of a sleeper. I made friends with the early morning hours. Yes, I know the benefits of a good night's sleep, and I have tried everything I know to try to achieve that, but nothing has made a difference. Room-darkening window coverings, melatonin, kava tea, giving up caffeine, lavender oil, white noise, silence, meditation, and even prescription sleep aids; I have exhausted my options, to no avail.

"Although most people need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to function well the next day, the National Sleep Foundation...found that the average woman aged 30-60 sleeps only six hours and forty-one minutes during the workweek." (National Sleep Foundation

Six hours and forty minutes? That would seem luxurious.  My average has been about six hours, but many nights were less than that. Those extra minutes would have been such a boon to my energy levels.

The results of too little sleep reported by the NSP that seem to affect me are these:  daytime sleepiness [one or two naps a day helps], increased accidents [have you seen my bruises?], problems concentrating [I have assumed attention deficit issues], and possibly, increased sickness and weight gain [Dang...].

Darkness is so important to my sleep that yes, I have a sleeping mask for daytime naps. I have a serious sensitivity to light. Chuck has always teased me that if I just closed my eyes, light wouldn't bother me so much, but you see, I am very aware of the glow from the streetlights and neighbors' houses that comes through our blinds. 

A couple weeks ago, we were lying in bed, and Chuck had me close my eyes. He held his hand in the air, and told me to tell him when I noticed his hand passing in front of my face. Yes, in the semi-darkened room, I could tell when conditions changed from kinda dark, without his hand in front of my eyes, to darker, with his hand in front of me. See? I'm a little light sensitive. Shutting my eyes does not shut out all the light.

So imagine my astonishment when we put a Himalayan salt lamp in our bedroom, and I was actually able to fall asleep with that light across the room from me on my dresser. I fell asleep, and I slept for seven hours. WHAT? I know. I was super-shocked, too. I figured it was just a fluke; my exhaustion had finally caught up with me. 

But you know what? Since purchasing the lamp on January 9, 2017, I have only had two nights of sleep that were less than desirable. For the last couple weeks, I've gotten anywhere from seven to eight hours of restful slumber. I don't have any empirical evidence; I wasn't doing a sleep study. I just wanted to give the lamp a try because I'd tried every other crazy thing out there.

My anecdotal evidence of a change in sleep patterns is not hard evidence of the magical properties of Himalayan salt rocks. I cannot attribute my improvements to the new lamp because there all always other variables. For example, the last couple months, I have been doing yoga 3-7 times a week, and I would like to think that the time I spend on the mat is benefitting me, too. 

So will I be experimenting with not doing yoga, or sleeping without my lamp? Not on your life. Starting my day with yoga has so many other benefits not related to sleeping, and as long as I'm sleeping doing what I'm doing, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. 

Being able to sleep with ANY light on seems miraculous to me, so just like Motel Six, we'll leave the light on. It seems to be working for me. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Grey Skies and Blue Feelings

First of all, let me preface all that I am about to say with an expression of gratitude for the blue skies of Saturday. They were most welcome after a seemingly endless stretch of grey days. Feeling the sun on my face was such a blessing.

They say the universe gives us more of what we notice. Are you listening, universe? I not only noticed, but expressed thanks for the sunny day. I'm looking forward to more, and any time would be good, but sooner would be better than later. 


Not sure the universe and I are on speaking terms at the moment.

I'm a little worried about drawing attention to our current weather for fear the universe will just continue to deliver what I'm noticing. It's hard to ignore so many cloudy days. Grey, dreary, cloudy days that lower my resistance to prolonged moments of melancholy.

Grey skies, nothin' but grey skies... It is starting to get old. One sunny Saturday isn't quite enough to get us through January, if the clouds aren't going to cooperate, and at least deliver some snow. It is winter, after all; not that we can tell from the temps hovering in the 40s-50s here in the Midwest. Yeah, I'm a little irritated by the lack of snow, too.  

My mood is temporary, just like the weather, but sometimes it's a challenge to sit with situations or feelings that are uncomfortable. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is something that many of us deal with this time of year, and I suspect that is the root of my unexplained lethargy and mid-winter blues.

In my yoga practice yesterday, we focused on stillness. Breathing through positions that challenge us, trusting that the instructor won't have us hold a pose for longer than is humanly possible. Being still, and just noticing our breath when we want to quit, or at least change positions, is difficult. 

When my legs were shaking from exertion, I just kept breathing. When my arms began to feel they were weighed down with lead, I tried to focus on my breath. I'm proud I stuck it out. It was uncomfortable, but do-able. 

So here I am, just trying to bring my mood up to something socially acceptable. For me, it seems to help when I move more, so I got myself on the mat, and practiced yoga. I pushed myself out the door, and went for an early morning walk. When Bridger wakes up, he's going to teach me some more drum beats. Tonight, after Chuck gets home, we'll have a game night: ping pong for the guys, and then I'll join in for Scrabble and Boggle. 

Sometimes it may be a good idea to just sit with the uncomfortable feelings, and see what there is to be learned from them, but right now, I'm trusting my gut, and my gut says to keep breathing, keep moving forward, and make the best of each day, even if it's gloomy outside, and my mood matches the weather. It's just hard to remember that nothing lasts forever when we're in the thick of grey skies and blue feelings. We just have to keep breathing; focus on the breath.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Take the Tree Down Already

Next January, when I'm dreading taking down my Christmas tree, would you please remind me it only took me about 15 minutes to have the tree ready to go to the basement? Seriously? I've been dreading the task all month. If I could just start the job, I knew I could get it done. I just didn't seem to have the energy to start.

One of my favorite ornaments is not really a Christmas ornament at all, but just a metal heart with Thoreau's words inscribed on it: Simplify, simplify. It spoke to me this morning as I contemplated if today would be the day to tackle the tree. 

Restoring order to our living room would be a nice way to simplify things. How long could it possibly take to undecorate an average tree? And how much better would I feel knowing I finally got it done? 

Once I got my complaints out of the way, confiding in a friend that I was dreading taking down the tree, I decided right then and there to get it done. I pulled up an R&B station on Pandora, and set a timer for 15 minutes. If I hadn't had to go find some tape and a tube for my garland, I would've been done in 15 minutes flat. When the tree was stripped and ready to go to the basement, I celebrated with some lemon sparkling water. 

How much time and energy do we waste when we procrastinate the things we  don't want to do, but need to be done? More than we should, for sure. 

My timer is my secret weapon on days like today. I set it for 15 minutes, encouraging myself to get the task done quickly. I know even if it takes me longer than the set time, I will probably just power through the task and complete it once I start. Starting is the hard part, for me anyway. 

So next year, feel free to tell me, any time in January, "Take the tree down already!"

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Our Circle of Women (What Women Know)

Our circle of women grows
with the passage of time.

Each union,
each birth,
each loss,
and each death
brings us closer together,
and strengthens our bond.
We are women;
we know these things.

To be loved, and to belong;
is there anything greater?

We lift one another
with voices and hands,
joining forces with heaven
to strengthen the weak,
to steady the faint, and
to celebrate the strong.

My circle began with the woman
who gave me life, and her mother
who gave her life, and her sister
who grew to love me, too.

The mother of my father, 
and his sister, and her daughter;
all women of my tribe,
who made me welcome here.

As sisters joined hands with mine,
the family grew to include us all.

The girls of long ago
helped me see the world 
through their eyes,
and even after the 
passage of time, still remain
constant in my life.

I have been mothered by
another, who gave me the gift
of her love, and gave to me
a sister-friend when

she became a mother herself.

My own daughter, and the
woman who married my son 
bring joy and laughter wherever they go.

Photo Credit: Dylan Waters

As brothers took wives
who bore them their daughters,
our sisterhood grew,
each girl a perfect gift
to those who love her most.

The women in my circle are strong and vibrant.
They stand tall in the face of adversity, 
and show me the way when I feel lost.
In my trials, I have learned that
they will not leave me; they will sustain me.

Caring, loving, embracing;
their actions, louder than words,
remind me of my worth.

A woman is strength.
A woman is courage.
A woman is love.

Women know these things.

Women united 
know no limits
to the good they can do.
These things we know
because we are women.

From the heart of my circle,
I feel gratitude for the grace
offered me when I 
somehow felt
that I was less.

Women whose faces 
I know only from photographs
lift me from afar.
Their understanding of who I am,
and what I need, touches me
in ways I cannot explain.

We are united by our common experience
of traveling this world as women and friends.
There are things we know because we are women.

Women know of loss.
Women know of love.
Women know of fear.
Women know of courage.

As women, we remember
these things when
those around us begin to forget.

We are strong.
We are amazing.
We are loved.
We belong.

We are women; 
we must remember these things
so when others begin to forget,
we can remind them of what women know.

For the beautiful women in my life,
thank you, all of you.

The pictures here represent a larger
body of women I wish to honor today.
If you are reading this,
you have touched my life,
and for that, I am grateful.

Never forget your worth to the world.
You are priceless to your family and friends.
You have value beyond comprehension.
I love you.