Not a Whole Lotta Sleepin’ Goin’ On

What is it about the dark that lures us away from sleep and towards activities of a more fitful sort? While quiet may reign supreme in our homes, many of us are likely to be restless and unsettled. What is it that you ponder at night? Where does your mind drift? Worrying about your children, aging parents, or life direction? Rehearsing the necessary steps to clean house and off load a bunch of junk? Sorting through possible solutions to business problems? Replaying that last, exciting interaction with that person you can’t forget?


Here in DC, we get to witness our Revered Cadre of Officials dedicate 24/7 to thoughts of themselves$$; it’s a fulltime occupation! Respect must be paid. Before I can possibly solve the nation’s problems, I need to expand my brand by securing this next election or book deal. Nice.


Back here at the ranch, having cultivated an expertise in lying awake at night, what I have found is that relentless worry never solved any of my problems. In fact, I cannot recall a time when directing my considerable willpower towards achieving some goal or resolving some problem resulted in the matter being solved any faster or better. The intensity of total focus, while useful at times, winds up exhausting everyone around us. It doesn’t matter how fascinated or fixated we are on a particular issue, if we don’t give it a break, we’ll wind up draining whatever reservoir of goodwill and patience our friends and loved ones have for us. We need to learn when to give it a rest.


As I reflect on various episodes in my life, what inspired such obsessiveness stemmed from my anxious belief that doing something was better than doing nothing. Having no clue how to handle a particular challenge, I decided that fixating on it would expedite a solution. Not so—especially when you add in elements such as most of what we worry about isn’t in our control to begin with! We can’t determine who will like us enough to follow up or if our children will make wise choices. There’s no way for us to alter how lonely or jealous another person feels. We can’t do much to control the level of pain our body feels if we’re sick or injured, but anticipating and concentrating on future, potential pain doesn’t enhance the experience. And that job or marriage we lost? The one that paid our bills and provided a sense of identity? Lying in the dark, nursing a sense of panic and anger doesn’t increase our chances to find the next, right one. We’re way better off curbing such contemplations and going to sleep.


In fact, the Zen Buddhist philosophy of living in this moment and not another proves its usefulness during times when I can find no rational explanation for what is occurring in my life. Why beat myself up trying to comprehend things beyond my ken? Given how aggravated I am by the short sighted and politically driven leadership of most of organized religion these days (fyi, domestic politics has become the 21st century civic equivalent of organized religion), I tend to pick and choose from the variety of creeds out there and formulate my own patchwork religio-philosophical approach to find my way through this life. Hey, it works for me…


What works for you? What do you think about late at night, when you can’t drift off? What images bury themselves deep in your mind, refusing to fade? Do they evoke pleasure or panic? Are they an escape or a torment? Because the truth is, whatever we fixate on is feeding us in some way we wish to be fed. We do it because we have a craving that this line of imagery satisfies—it doesn’t matter how illogical it may be. The worst of these ponderings are the ones we think about repeatedly but refuse to take action on in our waking lives. We torture ourselves for fun–a lot of masochists out there…


I realize I’ve wandered around, a bit, in this post, but my point is that you are not alone, lying there in the dark, wide awake. For as many sound sleepers as there may be in this world, there are a whole lot of us restless types—the ones for whom a locomotive of thoughts is always tunneling through our heads. But every now and then, we, too, need to tap the brakes on that endless track.

Green train


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