Sunday, October 23, 2011

Late Night Story

I stay up too late. I love the quiet of evening. My golden hours are between ten and midnight. It used to stretch until one or two in the morning, but now my alarm clock has a five-year-old child's face, and she doesn't have a snooze button.

I think the magic of these hours is two-fold: I don't have a back-stop—I can continue to work into the wee hours of the morning if inspiration strikes—but mostly, in these hours I don't have to feel guilty for what I am neglecting. No errands to run, no phone calls to make, no family demands to answer. Email traffic dwindles. And even my eyes have less demands placed on them, as the world shrinks to what can fit into small pools of light.

I have always had trouble settling down for sleep. Afraid I would miss something. Nights are when I go inside—into my cave. I didn't honor this until I saw my reflection in my daughter. While other children may be able to “go, go, go” all day long, she self-assessed in the first week of kindergarten that she needed to come home to her own space after school each day, rather than fill her afternoons with a list of activities. After I pick her up from school, I watch her get lost in dramatic play, creating a world to process all that she has absorbed that day. And I believe she sleeps much better than I ever have.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
Those evening hours are my dramatic play. Sleep is supposed to provide the opportunity for the subconscious to work through the events of the day, but for me, if I go to bed without traveling inside first, I wake up exhausted even after many hours of sleep. With no direction as to how to process the experiences of the day, my mind simply whirls in circles. I am often left choosing between tending to my emotional health or getting enough sleep.

What's a girl to do?

I suppose it's a question of balance...and boundaries. I'm still carrying around a misconception from childhood that if I go inside and focus on my needs, I might miss something more important “out there.” Blame it on a society more in tune with extroverts who are inclined to recharge through activity and interaction. As an introvert, the only thing that truly recharges me is to sit in a quiet space and tend to my internal story.

Is there a way to replicate that late night quiet and focus during the day so I can sleep at night? I don't know. But I think the first step is believing that I won't be neglecting anything if I choose to spend more time looking inside during the day. And then learning to set boundaries to protect that time. If I do, I will not only be taking better care of myself, but also modeling this self-care for my daughter. And creating a space in the world for others to honor their own needs.

Want to make plans not to have plans with me?

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