I’m not a great sleeper.
As if it’s a thing you can consciously be…
For as long as I remember I have found getting to sleep and staying asleep difficult.
My mum used to tell me how when I was small I’d hate taking a nap, and that this phase of my infancy didn’t last long. I didn’t want to miss anything.
Night time now is the time that the thoughts return home to roost, a host of noisy birds seeking shelter for the dark hours.
In the day time I’m a busy type of person, like pretty much anyone there’s plenty going on; work, family commitments, passion projects, relationships, interests, and the ever-present hum of social media.
I have been practising good sleep hygiene for the past ten years or so, since my first burn out and stroke…no working in the bedroom, avoiding tech after hours, creating a quiet space to sleep in, clutter free and with a window open and so forth. This has certainly helped. But some nights when the lights go out all the questions, and ponderings of the day turn up, noisy teenagers in the street, rattling my cage.
If I get to sleep often I will wake up in the small hours.
It is 2 a.m. I woke quickly, as though someone switched on a light, and couldn’t get back into sleep. It is as though my brain lives separately from my body and has questions, a child clutching its teddy bear in the doorway; why this? What about that?
Tonight my eldest son is on my mind. I have written here before about this remarkable person. He is now twenty three. He has an indomitable spirit, despite what some might call considerable challenges.
Tomorrow he will travel almost five hundred miles to Glasgow to visit a friend. This is the first time he has made a long trip alone. We began travel training with him when he was about ten years old, and gradually his confidence increased. He is able now to get himself around independently, to work/ study/ leisure activities in our local area and has been doing this for the past three years.
He just hasn’t gone this far before.
I am not even sure why I am anxious. I want it to be a success for him.
There is some part of me that believes if I think hard enough about it I can make it ok for him. But my rational self shakes her head. He has taken longer than many of his age to reach independence, but it is coming, and I realise that on some level I am empty nesting. Neither of my children went to university. I would have liked that I think. Not because I wanted them to have a degree, but because I would have had time to get used to the idea they were leaving.
Which reminds me of my own journeys.
I travelled to visit my friend Vera in Germany when I was sixteen. My parents waved me off at Dover docks and then I made my way down to Wurzburg on the train. I had no doubts at the time that I would be ok and indeed the journey was without incident and I had a great time, returning home safely two weeks later.
I wonder when I grew so fearful. I feel sometimes like the fear arrived when I became a mother. Before that I don’t remember fear, not like this. Motherhood brought with it a whole host of night time shadows, and day time anxieties, I had never even countenanced before. A hundred and one hidden dangers waiting just out of sight that I would need to protect my children from…
Then there are the facts. Our world is not always kind to people who are “different”, they have, throughout history, been persecuted, mocked, belittled, restricted.
These dark imaginings do not help. Today is a different day. Today is a day when I have to let go. To step a little further into the life of a mother of adults. That they stretch their wings and leave is what is supposed to happen. That this is difficult is normal. I am just normal. A human type person.
Which is, I guess, after all’s said and done, a relief.
I have spent a lot of the past few years crossing limits. Extending beyond what I felt was comfortable, safe, expected. This is another one of those moments. I have to trust. That the well established systems of public transport will work. That people will be their best selves. That a young person can make a journey without incident, as thousands do each day.
I have to sit down with my catastrophising self and remind her of the good options. What if it all works out? What if the best outcome happens? It is easy, at 2.20 a.m. to fall into the negative spiral.
And now I will take my tired, toddler self back to bed, I will tell her that good things happen too. I will remind her of the magic that happens when we wait and see what comes next and stop trying to dictate outcomes.
Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”