I woke up at 4:45 am Sunday morning and could not sleep or get comfortable. I thought about just getting up. Instead the thought that came to me was to just lay there and be grateful. A long list of things came into my thought and eventually I fell back asleep. I woke up an hour or so later, not able to sleep and still uncomfortable. So I did the same thing.
I have had pivotal moments in my life when I have woken in the middle of the night and could not get back to sleep with very strong thoughts about another person in my life. Whether I had an intuition that something was not right in the world, or a moment of pause about a specific individual. Early on when I would have these pitch-black-middle-of-the-night intuitions, well they freaked me out. Over time I learned to stop, be quiet, and listen. Depending on how coherent I am I might lay there and pray, or think about how I can support and think good thoughts for the world situation or individual that woke me from sleep.
Waking in the wee hours of Sunday morning was not about a person, but it was a full body reminder for me. Why did I have to lay in bed unwilling to get out of my cozy bed to take moments to be grateful for my amazing husband, family, friends, colleagues, home, work, etc? The list went on in my head. Even to specific worldly pleasures, such as my new favorite sheets that I was laying between. That utter euphoria I felt for all the goodness in my life (does not mean it was perfect) reminded me to take more moments in the day to acknowledge that goodness. Why not before I fall asleep at night? Or at least on those nights when I do not fall asleep the instant my head hits the pillow… Who am I kidding? That never happens to me.
This is a reminder for you and for me. Be grateful. Keep it inside or let it ooze out and tell those that you are feeling gratitude for them. Snuggle in your bed and appreciate the sheets that have you smitten. Watch the video of your niece laughing over and over again. Forget the struggles that you have for a few moments and just be head over heels grateful for all the good in your life.
Often I think we do not even realize we do it. We complain about how little sleep we got the night before, the guy that is driving too slow on the road, how a co-worker treated us. We might complain about the wilting lettuce that came on our salad, or how cranky we feel. It is almost second nature for us to complain. I am just as bad as the next person. I think about it though. I try to watch myself and see when I am complaining. I wonder what life would look like, feel like, or sound like if we did not complain. Would we all sound like Pollyanna?
This Fast Company article, “What It’s Like to Go Without Complaining For a Month” is an interesting idea. I know it would not be easy to do, and yet why not? Does the Pollyanna vibe feel odd to us because someone who does not complain feels fake? Does that mean that our society is so immersed in the idea of agonizing over the hand that we were dealt, that it is almost very strange to imagine not sharing our qualms, experience, and drama with our co-workers, family, and friends? Is it the drama that encourages to complain? Or is it the storytelling and community that comes along with going into all the gory details of all you went through getting your take out last night at your neighborhood Chinese restaurant?
Often I think individuals do not realize they might be complaining. We are all storytellers at heart. I am an addict of a good story. I love to laugh and while I am not one to make fun of someone’s misfortune I do love when a story weaves and explores what someone might have had to go through – even if it all happens in the process of complaining.
While I do not think I have it in me (yet) to go an entire month without complaining. I am going to *try* to be conscious about my complaints. For someone who is very free with my thoughts and what is on my mind, I could do a better job filtering the complaints. I should probably spend some time thinking about the list of ideas in the Fast Company article that are tips for complaining less.
I have nights when I sleep beautifully, and other nights when I toss and I turn. Either I cannot sleep on one side, I get hot, or I have to pee multiple times. Some nights I toss and turn because Chris is snoring. I have to either deal, or pat him and ask him to roll over so I can actually go to sleep. Other times I ponder life, and eventually fall back asleep, or I get up and read and when my eyes can no longer handle it, I snuggle up next to my warm husband and fall back to sleep.
When I found a new way of approaching falling asleep, I thought why not try it? It actually works (from what I have found so far). It is the 4-7-8 principle outlined here:
“She happens to be a licensed wellness practitioner who studies meditation, stress, and breathing techniques, and told me it would change my life. You simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. She explained that the studied combination of numbers has a chemical-like effect on our brains, and would slow my heart rate and soothe me right to sleep that night. “It works,” she told me. “It’s crazy.”
I have tried it a few times and since I do not remember what happened next, I think that means that I have fallen asleep. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale through mouth for eight seconds. When I do it I can physically feel a difference in my body. When you hold your breathe for seven seconds, and then exhale, your body has to go through a moment of relaxation. You would exhale out in a different way if you had not held your breath. While it feels a bit strange, I feel my body relax and release in ways it probably would not if I did not do: 4-7-8.
They are right that is slows your heart rate. It somehow slows my mind, which is just what I need to let go and let my mind and body relax and allow a few hours of sleep to get me to the next morning where it all starts over again. Take a moment to read the above link to see more detail on mindless breathing, and how it can help you sleep better. ZZZZZzzzzz…
Occasionally (Chris would probably rebut that comment and say often), I talk in my sleep. He thinks it happens when I work too much and have tons and tons of information coursing through my mind. Yet, the most recent occurrence happened around the holiday, when my brain was mush, and there was a tiny fraction of thoughts flowing in my head. My recent middle of the night rambling:
[Tami rolls over in bed.]
T: Put them in a pile. Put them in a pile in the middle of the floor.
C: Put what in a pile?
T: The sticks that are meant for play. I think I know what I’m talking about.
C: Ok babe.
Chris has learned it is best to agree with me in these moments. We have been married for 11.5 years. He has learned over time about my late night babble. It is like an alter ego comes forth via my subconscious and I can snarl, cuss, and disagree. Since everything makes sense in my unconscious mind while I sleep (it does for everyone, right)? Early on in our marriage I would talk and he would find it fascinating and ask me questions about my babble, if he disagreed with me I got a bit aggressive back at him. For example: if he said you cannot put sticks in a pile, I would snarl and get confused and frustrated as to why not.
Over time he realized that I would wake up in the morning and have no remembrance of our conversation, what I was talking about, or my reaction. He decided he would just agree with me. So if I said there are sticks coming out of my head, take them out. He might say something like: “okay, I did, is that better?” Agreeing meant that I could babble all I wanted, but not have to process why it was not logical or made no sense (thus last week’s ramble).
My husband is a saint. I think he should start to write down all my middle of the night ramblings, and we can compile and publish them together. A coffee table book?
Last night my sister made my day. See I love to hear my niece laugh. I tried quite often last weekend to get her to giggle, and I had my ways and succeeded, but not that deep gut laugh that continues and is impossible to stop. My sister knows how much I love a baby that giggles, and how happy it makes me. So, of course she texted me the most recent video. I cannot tell you how many times I have played it since she sent it.
Since Charlie’s birth my sister and I started a little informal tradition. Either I will text her: “POTD” (Photo of the Day) especially when I am having a rough day, or she will just text me a POTD without prompting. The video last night came with the text: “I think the element of surprise really got her. He was closing his eyes like he was asleep and then he would open them with a loud laugh.” I think we might have just ventured into VOTD (Video of the Day). No pressure Pen. Here is the video of Charlie:
If only we all lived our lives taking time each day to make others laugh. That would be an amazing shift for the world. If we all lived to make others laugh until you pee your pants, because you cannot stop giggling, well that would turn the world upside down. Stop what you are doing, let your shoulders drop, watch Charlie again and find a way to share a deep heartfelt laugh today. Or better yet, giggle until you pee your pants.