In your blood and in your pores, breathing it in and out, on your eyelids and on your lips. The last thought before you drift away at night, and the first sound from your lips in the bright gloom of winter mornings. Taking care. With everything you say and do and love and hope and breathe.
It’s never about falling asleep. That, I can do at rock concerts and stomping Broadway plays. On the couch in front of the dreadful news, and on the couch in front of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” One bad, and one good. I sleep any which way. Upside down, curled into a ball, cat-like, dog-like, kid-like. I rarely feel any pain at all. Physical, anyway. It’s when I propel myself upstairs – away from the warm pets and hot fires. Cool blankets and cold window panes. I lie awake and I don’t always instantly fall back asleep. Sometimes my mind and throat and stomach all race. Sometimes I forget I can breathe, and then I remember how to breathe. It’s not sleep apnea.
Sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m aging and he’s aging and they’re aging, and all of our parents and pets and mailmen are REALLY aging. It seems faster with them. Sometimes I can’t sleep because of troubles – like bad work weeks and bad relationships. I remember the last time I had to “get over” someone. Honestly it took about three days because it was an unhealthy crush and nothing more. It’s that middle of the night/morning paralysis, though! It brings it all to light. Whether it takes three days or years. It’s a thief of sleep. Unkind and unsympathetic.
Once upon a time, I couldn’t sleep because of babies stirring, or not stirring, because I knew that when they woke up – they’d need me. I couldn’t sleep because of phantom kicks and stretches, the prickling letdown feeling in my chest, and mysterious night fevers that went away as mysteriously as they came. Probably breastfeeding related. Maybe not. Maybe hormones-related because of the pulling of the moon and the pulling of my heart and body, and the way we are all capable of moving heaven and earth. It’s hard to wrap your head around that to sleep.
Sometimes I can’t sleep because of the choices I’ve made or haven’t made. And all the wrong people and places and jobs and fits. It’s all the wrong fit, if you can’t sleep, right? I HATE when I can’t sleep, which happens more these days than it used to, but it’s like the princess and the pea. Tiny fears and cracks and holes and irritations – small, but mighty – capable of reaching through the frame, then the mattress, between the sheets, over my layers, and held like fingers around my neck. That’s powerful. That’s care. In a world too big, too small, too bright, too sad.
It’s rarely, if ever, about character and integrity. It’s never been about taking away the freedoms of anyone. ANYONE, (do I stutter?) based on religion or age or race or sex or identity or class. I never lie awake because I split up families or helped ruin the environment or attacked or harassed or lied in court. Another day, another dollar, and I managed not to bully, belittle, or browbeat anyone. And really you know I have suffered a near lifetime of self-loathing and uncertainty. I am plagued by racing thoughts and stupid things I’ve done today, five years ago, and 25 years ago. I think it’s about getting closer to the person you’re meant to be, or maybe want to be. When you lie down at night – before sleep – and restless in the witching hours.
Five years ago, for my 1000 Speaks (Themes of Compassion/resolving conflict without violence) post, I had loved ones ask me questions about kindness and compassion for Scarlet, and she answered them! I have new answers from her. Five-year-old and ten-year-old Scarlet Speaks:
1 – Scarlet, sweetie, remember that time Mommy bought coffee for the lady in the car behind her? Have you ever done something like that for someone? What was it? How did it make you feel?
Scarlet, age 5: “I remember when she did it and I always ask her to do it every time we get coffee! Usually there’s no one behind us and my Mama says it’s because she wants coffee late in the day, when no one else needs it as badly by then!”
Scarlet, age 10: “Once, me and Dada gave hot chocolate to a homeless person and it felt good.”
2 – Why do you think it’s important to help other people, even strangers?
Scarlet, age 5: “‘Cause maybe they’re nice, and maybe they’re really poor. And that they are really sad.”
Scarlet, age 10: “If they’re having a bad day, and you can easily help them, then there’s no reason not to.”
3 – What can you do to make other people smile and feel happy?
Scarlet, age 5: “To be nice to them and to give them a hug and kiss! (giggles a lot)”
Scarlet age 10: “Smile at them back, or say ‘good morning’.”
4 – How do you feel when you help someone?
Scarlet, age 5: “I feel happy because I like helping people.”
Scarlet, age 10: “It depends on what I did, and who I helped. Which is the reality of the situation. It can be uncomfortable, but doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing that feels better in your heart.”
5 – What is one act of daily kindness you’d like to practice?
Scarlet age 5: “What does that mean? Oh! I could say ‘I love you’.”
Scarlet, age 10: “Smiling at people I don’t know.”
6 – What do you think makes a person Beautiful?
Scarlet, age 5: “What’s inside their heart.”
Scarlet, age 10: “How kind they are, and what they do in a situation in which someone needs help.”
7 – What act of kindness would you like to do for your mom, your dad, and for Des?
Scarlet, age 5: “For my Mama, I’d like to snuggle with her forever and ever and ever. For my Dada, I’d like to give him a hug and kiss. For Des, I’d like to play one of his favorite games that we made up.”
Scarlet, age 10: “Have fun with them and do them favors.”
8 – How do your pets make you happy Scarlet, and what do you do for them that makes them happy?
Scarlet, age 5: “How cute they are and because they aren’t mean. That my cats don’t hiss and my dog doesn’t bite. To make them happy, I can snuggle with them, which means they’re with YOU because they’re always around you.”
Scarlet, age 10: “I love snuggling them and I think that makes them happy too. Also, when we go to the pet store or the dog park.”
9 – How do you feel when you see someone sad at school? Do you try to make them feel better?
Scarlet, age 5: “It makes me really sad too. I try to help them by asking them what’s wrong, and they answer.”
Scarlet, age 10: “I try to make them feel better, although it does make me sad too to see someone else sad.”
10 – Would you give your favorite toy to a child who had no toys?
Scarlet, age 5: “Of course because they have no toys!”
Scarlet, age 10: “Yes. Definitely.”
11 – How can you tell if someone is lonely?
Scarlet, age 5: “If they look sad.”
Scarlet, age 10: “The looks on their faces, or what they’re saying. Body language too.”
12 – What is something nice someone has done for you & how did it make you feel?
Scarlet, age 5: “Eva (at school) once said that she would maybe give me a pony I really wanted, and it made me really happy.”
Scarlet age 10: “Once when I was putting my math book away, I dropped the whole bin, and a bunch of kids helped me clean it up. I was really happy that I didn’t have to clean it up alone.”
It struck me that many of her answers didn’t change, and many got shorter, but that’s a GOOD thing. Compassion and care and resolution are simple really, like the magic and innocence and pure wisdom of an ageless child’s answers – taken straight from her heart and her world views.
This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “1000 Speaks (COMPASSION)” And there’s time to write. Come link up HERE.