Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31, 2011 ~ Day 172
Digging Deep in the White Night

Yesterday evening I was showering before bedtime when I realized that I hadn't figured out our final family budget expenditures for the month of May.

Wanting to be sure that we started the new month of June fresh with everything balanced, I began to crunch numbers. Mind you, it was about 12:30am when I started this process.

Before I knew it, an hour had flown by and although I'd finished compiling our data, it came at a hefty price. The clock read 1:35am when I finally lay down for the evening.

Obviously, this was not terribly smart.

Soon I'd fallen into the vicious cycle of anxiety that comes with going to bed too late when you know you have another big day ahead in only a few hours.

The inner dialogue went a little like this:

Crud. I have to wake up in five hours. I need to sleep!
Oh man, I'm not sleeping.
What am I going to do on less than five hours of sleep?
I'm STILL not sleeping. Oh gosh, what if I have insomnia?
Oh no, what if I have insomnia ALL NIGHT and I'm still not sleeping?
What is my husband going to say when he sees the budget for May?
Oh gosh, I hope he isn't going to be bummed about our expenses.
Oh man, I'd better do A LOT of tutoring to bring in more money.
Aaag, how am I going to be a good tutor tomorrow on NO sleep?

And so forth.

By the time I realized how negatively I was speaking to myself, it took a while to turn around that freight train of anxiety and settle into sleep.

First, I had to scan my brain for positive thoughts or feelings that I could really focus on. I'm starting the process of learning how to do this and I am getting better at it, but at 1:30 in the morning it was definitely a stretch to go from "Insomnia!" "Money!" "Anxiety!" to ideas that were more positive and relaxing.

I tried remembering a point in time when I felt incredibly healthy, and came up with the memory of listening to live music at shows all the way into the wee hours of the morning on work nights, back when my husband and I were only dating.

That was a nice thought but it didn't have much staying power and within about 40 seconds I realized that I had begun to fret about money again. ("When will we have enough money to go to see shows and get babysitting?")

Next, I tried remembering a time when I had felt really good about money - which brought up memories of the summer of 2004 when I had not only secured a high paying teaching job for the Fall term but was also bringing in a ton of business running my own Summer writing program and tutoring on the side. Money was plentiful and I received calls with more clients all of the time.

This was a really nice memory, but focusing on it prompted me to stress over how I could possibly replicate that Summer when I have so many more obligations and responsibilities now - from full time motherhood to working around my husband's busy schedule. I began to fret over babysitting - where to find it and how to afford it - and whether or not I would still be a good mother if a babysitter was watching my children while I tutored in the afternoons.

At 1:48am, my heart was racing and I still had not relaxed enough to sleep.

Finally, grasping at straws, I asked myself: "OK. When is the happiest I have ever been in my entire life?"

The memory that flashed before my tired eyes was one of the hospital birth center where I brought my younger son into the world on a bright, sunny afternoon. I remembered holding him for the first time filled with postpartum endorphins and incredible joy that (a He was healthy and strong, (b) I had not needed a c-section, and (c) The birth had been much shorter and less painful than the intensely grueling 60 hour experience I had giving birth to his elder brother. This time it had taken only 15 hours from start to finish, with no oxygen and no pitocin needed.

"I did it!!!" I'd glowed to my mother and husband.

My heart was full of emotions, all of them good. I'd overcome tremendous physical pain and fear to bring another perfect little life into the world and it felt exactly right. My elder son was never far from my thoughts during the process and I actually made my husband hold a photo of him right in front of me throughout the entire second labor, so that I could keep my eyes on what mattered as I allowed my body to open up and then push out a 7 lb 10 oz baby.

There in the room with three of the people that mattered to me most: my husband, my mother and one of my adored children, I felt as though I was radiating pure energy... like it was pouring out of me voluptuously. My husband brought a sumptuous dinner from Whole Foods market and I marveled at how good salmon and asparagus could taste after going through such an intense life experience.

Remembering that feeling of incredible joy and power turned out to be exactly what I needed yesterday night (a full four years later!) to fall, at last, into a sound slumber.

The next thing I knew, my body had awakened me at 7am to begin preparing school lunches and get the kids bathed, dressed and fed.

I'm still working on reframing my anxieties and self-talk. I am happy to be on this journey and I honestly do not know how long the process will take before I am actually able to catch myself BEFORE I descend mentally or emotionally into the murky pits of worry over money, health and child-rearing.

I'm glad though that in my darkest and most fretful moment yesterday evening, I could at least find one lasting memory of beauty capable of overpowering even the negative feedback loop of insomnia!

Perhaps if we dig deep enough, we are always capable of summoning some memory of love, happiness or joy strong enough to cut right through our fear, pain and worry.

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