Strange Currencies

“Y’know with love comes strange currencies
And here is my appeal
I need a chance, a second chance, a third chance
A fourth chance, a word, a signal
A nod, a little breath
Just to fool myself, to catch myself
And make it real, real” — R.E.M.

You know that place between being asleep and being awake? And do you know that space between night and morning? For me, it’s 2:00am – 4:00am. Those are the witching hours. Every minute before then is just late night. Every minute after creeps slowly toward dawn. Dawn is a clean slate and fresh plate – it’s where you can almost forget the hauntings of the night before. If I’m ever to get haunted, it’s always in those witching hours. By haunting, I mean bad dreams, bad places between being asleep and being awake, and bad spaces between night and morning. Sometimes it’s an anxiety attack – although they are rare – and I’ve come to either expect them or accept them. Both. Then they drift away as mysteriously as they come.

Not quite as rare, but rare, is that I can’t sleep. Legend holds that I can sleep through ANYTHING – earthquake, gun powder plant explosion, hurricane, thunder, snoring, TV, loud parties, Broadway plays, Flogging Molly concerts, and a cat walking across my head. Legend also holds that I can sleep through ANYTHING – except newborn babies who need me to breastfeed them, bad roommates, and pretty much anything taking place in Douglass College – Rutgers University. I can sleep anywhere, anytime, anyhow, except when I can’t – which is when I don’t feel completely safe. That can change as mysteriously as anything I’ve listed above, because it’s not always about who, what, where, when, why, and how, but it’s about the me at the given time. All I know is that different things hit us differently at different times. Sometimes I can’t sleep. Mostly I can.

Sometimes I’m haunted. Mostly I’m not.

A week ago today, I woke up with a start at 3:39am, although I was certain it was more like 6:00am. I was sick – that’s why I woke up. I’ve woken up from nausea maybe three times in my life, and this was a fourth. I didn’t think it was anxiety because I never wake up from it – rather, I’m triggered by it every now and then – and then it takes over my body. It’s like a fast-spreading flush. This was different, though. This was nausea, chills, and sweats. I went downstairs because I knew I was going to face this. I wasn’t going to hide from it, which is one does as a legit vomit-phobic. I let it go. I was ready. I wasn’t even that scared. I figured I’d lie on the couch and then confront it when everyone went to school and work. It passed over me in deep waves, chills, and a red-hot heat. I shivered and writhed for three hours or so to wait until everyone else woke up.

Around dawn, I went into a small dream about cupcakes. 7.5 years of parenting, through sinus infections, allergic reactions to antibiotics, RSV, clogged ducts, throat viruses, and many, many nervous stomachs, and this.. THIS.. was the first time I’ve ever not been able to do what I usually do. Cassidy took the kids to school. He even picked them up. He made lunches, packed backpacks, and they all left me in my misery. I stood up first, then attempted sips of water, then Matzoh (we had it for some reason), and then even a shower. At night, I went out to the school for movie night. I have no idea what happened, because it had never happened to me before. Was it something I ate? The shortest, most non-vomiting stomach virus ever?

All I know is that giving myself that space to rest was like a magic balm.

I always need a safe space – in the middle of the night – and in general. Sometimes there are 18 people, overflowing into dens and studies. Sometimes I’m in beach houses, where there are so many houseguests, they spill out onto the yard and camp in tents. I’m always ok, but even better the other 364 days a year where my special place and space is always there waiting for me. Like flying with Xanax you never intend to actually crack open, I rarely – if ever – use or need my space and place.

I just like to know it’s there for me.

So if you ever find yourself wide awake during witching hours – with anxiety, or mysterious stomach bugs, indigestion, creepy roommates, snoring kids, farting dogs, hauntings, real ghosts, bad Chinese food, marital chills, strange currencies, or whatever else the HECK that can happen during witching hours, what do you do? Where do you reach? What lulls you to sleep?

I like to connect. I like to reach out for anything hard and tangible, soft and distracting, focusing and connecting, anything to let me know I’m awake, alive, real. When it comes to those strange currencies, sometimes it pays to ride the radio waves.

Currencies and Frequencies. What might you find?

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “When I can’t sleep, I…” And there’s still time to write yours. What do you do? Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.

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  1. This happened to me once about two years ago with the stomach bug. I woke with a flash around 4:30 am and twisted and turned for about two hours until Kevin’s alarm went off. It was only then that I got up that I finally got sick and then was sick the rest of the day not being able to be much of a help to anyone here either. It is absolutely miserable and truly hope that I can escape this for the time being in all honesty. Just glad you recovered quickly and are all better to go to Disney now 😉

    1. Is it weird that I actually remember that? You were so upset and it was so sad! I’m glad it hasn’t happened since. Knock on wood. The bug is taking over the second grade here. Two kids barfed IN SCHOOL on Thursday. I was so thankful we had a random three day weekend..

  2. That is a good hubby you have. I am glad you got the time to recuperate. I don’t know why, but lately I have been up right smack dab during those witching hours. Every night. Like clockwork. Dang I hate that! Every one else is all snuggly and sleeping, but not I. That’s gotta change stat!

  3. Ah being sick is the worse, but every once in a while everything that is going on in my mind wakes me up. I pull the covers up and am usually back to sleep. Sometimes I write stuff down on a paper if is it something I need to address. Nighttime can be a scary place – everything is easier to face when the sun is shining IMO. I hope you are feeling better.

  4. The stomach being bad in the middle of the night is the worst. I got that, about oh wow… maybe four years ago now, and I couldn’t make it downstairs and I was trying to be quiet… ended up falling back asleep on the bathroom floor and it was gone in 30 hours. So weird. I reach in rather than out when I can’t sleep. I read or play on my phone.

    1. Oh man. It’s like college! The bathroom floor thing! Right? Right. Or am I calling out the normal social functions of Rutgers University too closely here?

  5. Oh no, I hate when I’m sick. It has happened a number of times–a few times when Tom was deployed, so that was just awful.

    I love all your photos! What gorgeous colors in them.

    1. I swear I remember one time when YOU had the stomach bug. I was remembering it with Janine too. A year or two ago? And you were willing yourself not to puke? I was impressed.

      (thanks about the photos!)

  6. Oof, I’ve been in that place where you wake up in the middle night and you just KNOW. Andit always hits me in the middle of the night. I’m glad it was so short-lived. There’s a stomach bug going through our coop right now and I’m just bracing myself.
    Illnesses aside, when I wake up during that witching hour, and usually my mind starts racing and worrying about things in my personal life and the world, I find if I force myself to pretend like I’m on the beach and imagine I hear the sounds of the waves, eventually I fall back asleep. It takes me awhile to get there, though.

    1. The stomach bug is now racing through the second grade at our school. Two kids in the other class got sick AT SCHOOL on Thursday before our three day weekend. I hope they all bleached the classrooms during the break. I told Scarlet not to touch anyone!!

      I get the mind-racing thing BIG.

  7. My alarm clock every single day is anxiety and now that my son is diagnosed with severe OCD – his panic attacks at 3 am are also my alarm. I never sleep anymore.
    I know a lot of people find it phony but guided meditation is a wonderful thing. I have apps on my iphone. They have various things on there from gentle sounds, white noise, music, an actual person guiding your thoughts…
    Most of the times now though with my son, it’s just really tight snuggles and of all things – it’s his thing – an ice pack on his tummy.
    It’s hard.
    Love you. I hope that you get lots of good suggestions.

    1. Oh, Kim. I’m so sorry. For all my lifelong anxiety, my kids didn’t get even a touch of it. I think that would keep me up for hours.
      I use a guided meditation on my phone and I swear by it!

  8. I’m glad your illness only lasted a day. True rest can do wonders for you. But as moms it’s often hard for us to give ourselves the time we need to truly test when we are sick. Especially, when our kids can’t do everything for themselves.

  9. I hope you’re feeling better, Tamara! Nothing worse than waking up sick in the witching hour. I often wake up at 4-5 am. My mind is wakeful but my body begs to differ. I read my kindle to lull me back. If that doesn’t work, I get up and write for a while. After an hour or so, I’ll get sleepy again. Trick is, no tea or coffee, just write. When you listed all the things you’ve gone through as a parent, I was nodding to myself and saying “me, too”. RSV, viruses, croop,chicken pox, flu bugs, broken arm and that was all within the first 7 years. That’s why being a parent is the hardest job.

    1. I just went through a week of waking up suddenly at 4-5am. Today it was 6:20, which was an improvement. I’m able to go back to sleep before that, but this was my wake-up this morning! I used to sleep until noon in college! Or later!

  10. I read if I can – focus my mind on something completely unrelated to my life and the fact that it is 3 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I try to read through pain too, if sleep won’t come. It turns off the conversation in my brain.

    1. Cassidy is such a light sleeper that I usually just lie there. I’m going to be better about giving myself the space to read or focus or watch TV or write, or anything else!

  11. Oh my gosh – I had a very similar thing right after Christmas. More sick to my stomach than I’ve ever been and suddenly in the middle of the night – bam! I’m not a vomiter – I hate hate hate it. But there was no avoiding this one. Horrible. Glad yours was short lived.
    That time between 2 and 4 in the morning is definitely something different, a very particular time for fear and anxiety and worry. It’s not late night, it’s not morning…it’s just dark. Great post and great description of your witching hours.

  12. I’m generally a good sleeper – I have no problem going to sleep at night, but as I get older, I’m waking up earlier with anxiety. The only solution is to get up and get busy. Glad your sickness was so short lived.

  13. I know those hours oh too well. It seems that lately I’ve been up around 3am, no matter what time I go to bed and I can never go back to sleep. I haven’t been sick, luckily, but I usually just grab my Kindle and start reading. That always seems to calm me down, no matter what’s going on. BTW I just love those photos, it’s 6:30am and dark outside but I just know that it’ll soon be light and I can just imagine seeing the outdoors looking like this. It also brings back memories of the Caribbean on an early morning.

    1. For me, it’s been 4-5am for a whole week. Today, it was 6:20 so I’m hoping that’s improvement. I do find that when left to our own devices, Cassidy and I will sleep until about 9. Heaven!!

  14. Oh that middle of the night – not feeling so well thing….

    I know it.

    In fact, I had a bout of this one night last week and one night the week before that.

    I usually find comfort in our full of springs, uncomfortable, stiff 1960’s couch. I lay there with pillows, a cozy blanket, and a puke bowl. I will often play my binaural beats (anxiety) with a guided relaxation or guided meditation. Oh and essential oils (Tummy Time)… that usually helps whether it’s anxiety, nausea, a flu, whatever….

    Glad you’re well.

    1. Oh no!! Two weeks in a row of late night nausea? Not fun. Des had a boomeranging stomach bug once and that was awful. I pray it doesn’t happen again to him.
      Tummy Time sounds like a good oil!

  15. I am so sorry you had such a rough night. It always is so startling waking up, convinced it is morning and then realizing it is only between 2 – 4 a.m. I try to calm myself by reading or laying in bed until I drift back into sleep. These photographs are stunning, Tamara.

    1. I really need a nightstand for late night reading. That’s something I love about hotels – nightstands and TVs to lull me to sleep. Cassidy will have none of that at home.

  16. Glad you’re feeling better! I think sometimes the body just needs a break. Knowing you have a family that lets you take that break is a wonderful thing 🙂

  17. I just love how you handled this weird random bug that hit you so hard, Tamara! I KNOW how you feel about vomit and I’m so glad it turned out to be less than you had anticipated and that you took good CARE of yourself and Cassidy took over. <3 Waking up in the middle of the night with any sort of illness or anxiety is the WORST. I'm like you- anxiety doesn't wake me- it flushes through me at predictable and unpredictable times…

    1. Vomit is my nemesis!! Remember when you tagged me in a photo of it?? So mean!
      I one day want to know why illness generally strikes at night! It must be the body worn out or the body (trying to be) at rest.

  18. Oh my gosh the colours here soothe my soul. My hours are between 11 pm and 1 am… that’s when all the words seem to come unbidden. It really doesn’t work with kids that wake up at 7 am. ha.

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