It’s late and I’m exhausted. My honey is sound asleep next to me. The dog is softly snoring and the cat is curled up against me, purring. We are all safe and comfortable, well fed and cozy.
And I can’t quite turn off my light and let myself drift into sleep. Not yet.
The sleep thieves have me once again.
You know these sleep thieves. I’m putting a BOLO out on them. Descriptions of a few of the ring-leaders follow.
There’s the one whose message is something like, “You haven’t done enough that is meaningful yet today so you need to journal in some profoundly deep way or read another chapter in that enlightening book.” This one won’t let me go to sleep until I do something important so that this day hasn’t been entirely wasted on the superficial and the mundane.
She’s either part of, or right up next to, the thief who seeks to convince me that I haven’t yet earned the right to sleep, to rest, to just stop and let go. There are starving people in the world, how dare I go to sleep? Didn’t Rumi tell us not to go back to sleep. Sleeping is lazy, unproductive, elitist, and unholy.
Oh yeah. I know that inner critic, that devious ET plot to keep humans small and powerless. I know that when we are tired and have used up all of our adult thinking muscles on self supervision all day long, the critic loves to kick us when we’re down. That critic of mine is the leader of the gang of sleep thieves.
But it’s not only the critic keeping me up. My sweet little rebel darling jumps in there, too. The obligations of the day are finally over, she tells me. There’s no need to respond to or take care of anything in this moment. It’s quiet and I’m on my own for these moments. I want to play and be creative. I want to read all the way to the end of this tasty trashy novel. I’m going to luxuriate in my free time. Why on earth would I want to sleep that away?
And then there’s the part of me that loves beauty and order and, I’ll admit it, control. She delights in Free Cell, because this is one problem I can solve, one place I can use my wits to bring that beauty and order, quickly and with ease. Ahhh…. Please, just let me play one more game and feel the rush of accomplishment, of a finished product without relationship issues or un-level playing fields or the chaos of change.
For sure there’s some voice in this cacophony reminding me of all the critical things I forgot to take care of this day and of all the dangers I must avert in the morning, if not sooner. As the responsible eldest child I learned very early on not to let down my guard. It is my primary duty to be responsible, to respond to whatever is needed in order to keep everyone safe and happy.
Probably the one thief who scares me the most is the insidious, the way-shoved-down-in-the-dark-of-my-consciousness one, the one who knows how deep sleep is so very close to death. Especially since I’ve awakened from sleep many times with my heart racing out of control, I know the dangers of sleep. Come on, most of us grew up on things like “if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
If I should die before I wake? What a mantra to teach children! Of course there are little kid parts of us that fight sleep. Duh. We’re not stupid.
There’s not enough time to even begin to blast this 24/7 lying thief that now is audaciously alive in our culture. That’s the new monster chewing up adults, and sparking FOMO (fear of missing out, for those of us who are so far behind we’re already missing out).
Enough! Just writing about them infuriates me.
When the sleep thieves have their way with me, I wake up with regret in the morning. Because I know that without intense force of will or a small miracle or some practical magic or copious amounts of caffeine, the morning begins the night before. The sleep thieves take my regeneration time, they take my dreams, and they take my energy for the next day. Damn them.
So when I’m making sure the doors are locked and the thermostat is set for the night, it helps if I begin to banish the sleep thieves. I laugh at myself because I am way more at risk from my inner thieves than from any dangers from the outside. Just naming the thieves and bringing some humor to the situation goes a long way towards throwing the jerks out.
Lighting my evening candle with gratitude for the day and some compassion for myself as it is ending helps too.
One of my favorite evening prayers is Midnight Rite from The Mysteries of Isis by deTraci Regula. This prayer offers Goddess the energy of the day with praise and requests for the night, including:
“May tomorrow by Your grace find me wiser and my joy in the universe still greater.
I ask Your welcome now in the Temple;
Accept me this night for rest, for study, and for worship;
Grant me dreams of meaning the memory to recall them.
Hail to you, Goddess of the starry pathways;
Hail to you, Goddess of the Deep Black….”
Join me in solidarity as we face the sleep thieves! Deep, restorative sleep and dreams of meaning are ours to keep. Please, please, may we all have what we need for the deep peace of sleep tonight.