I'm Only Sleeping


I went to German Kindergarten. That's something you may not know about me.

My dad was in the Air Force when I was young. My older sisters did the whole army brat (do you still use the term army brat when it's a different sector of the military? I don't think I've ever heard anyone say Navy brat. Or Air Force brat. Right?) thing, but I was mostly spared. I was born in Virginia (did you know that about me? I returned to my "home state" for grad school) and we moved around some when I was a baby and then we spent some time in Germany. My first memories are set there. My two younger sisters were born there.

When I really young (three? four? Mom, help me out here) I woke up and went wandering down the street in the early hours of the morning because I was awake and it was obviously time to go exploring. When my mom woke up and I wasn't in the house, she freaked out. I don't remember how this story ends. Maybe it doesn't have an ending. Maybe the only thing everyone says over and over when they've told this story is me getting out of bed, creeping out the door, disappearing into the dark, the luck of me not being kidnapped.

From Germany we moved to Texas, my dad retired, and except for my (almost) four year stint in Virginia, I've been here ever since. 

Another story: One time, probably around 5 in the morning, I went banging on my neighbor's door (I would have been in elementary school at this time) because I wanted to hang out with my friend who lived there and I woke up the whole household, which they were not very happy about. My parents had to talk to me about what hours are acceptable for going over to people's houses. From then on if my neighbors invited me to go to church with them (I went to church with my friends lots as a kid, mostly to get out of the house, partly because I liked the sense of community, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm sure I was figuring out my feelings on religion, too.) I would hang around in my back yard until I saw signs of movement in their house, lights flicking on, doors opening, and I would scurry on over.

To the rest of the world, the morning was a silent time, a time to sleep, a time they wanted me to restrain myself and stay in bed, or at least to tiptoe around and not get in any trouble. I wanted to get up, to expend energy, to let loose my imagination, to eat breakfast. I woke up fresh and yearning and new when other people seemed to wake up burdened with the residue of yesterdays.

I put myself to bed no later than 8:30 through the fourth grade. I was very serious about this self-imposed bedtime. If my siblings or parents were being too loud and keeping me from going to sleep, I would go out and tell them it was my bedtime and they needed to quiet down. I know, I was a strange child. 

In middle school, I was hit with really terrible insomnia. I filled my nighttime hours doing sit-ups and reading books and writing stories on my DOS computer that had a word processor and some games and that's it. I started writing novel after novel, stories inspired by the books I read, stories that I wanted to read and couldn't find anywhere. I started to (day)dream of becoming a writer. One time when I pissed my dad off he took my computer and said he was going to wipe it if I didn't do whatever it was that he was wanting me to do. I cried for so long. It was the cruelest thing he ever did to me.

In high school and college, I sometimes had insomnia and sometimes I wanted to sleep all the time. At some point in there, sleep stopped being a thing I had to think about a lot. By graduate school I usually fell asleep pretty easily, and I got up in the morning pretty easily. Because I was sleeping next to someone who set his alarm later than mine (my morning routine took a lot more time), I would shut the alarm off as quickly as possible to keep from waking him up, and then because it was off I had to get up or I wouldn't necessarily wake up on time again.

In the ~18 months since that relationship ended, I've struggled to get up in the morning. Part of it was the removal of that external motivation. Part of it was emotional exhaustion. Part of it was a lot of other things, I'm sure.

When I moved back to Texas, I wanted to sleep all the time. I was exhausted from lack of sleep and too much physical exertion and I wasn't eating well, or enough, really. After I settled in, I tried setting my alarm earlier, making time for meditation and yoga in the mornings, or maybe even just a little writing or journaling. And I kept failing, which would lead to me feeling guilty and down on myself, which would start the day off in a bad way. Then, I decided maybe I could just stay up a little later and be more productive at night and sleep later in the morning. But that made me stressed in the mornings because I was always rushed and always running late. I decided I needed to start setting my alarm again.

Earlier in the year I brainstormed what my perfect morning would like. I re-visited that brainstorm recently and found my feelings remain mostly the same. I want my mornings to be productive but peaceful. I want to go to work knowing I've already had a good day, that if I come home exhausted and do nothing more than walk the dog, I'm good. I want my mornings to be energizing. I want to be present in these mornings. I want to wake up fresh and yearning and new.

I wanted to share some tips for having better mornings, but it seems, in order to write about that, I had to get this out first. I needed to reflect. I needed to remember my complicated history with sleep, that struggling to make these miracle mornings happen every day is natural but overcomeable. I needed to remember, and to share with you, that there is a morning person inside of me, but also a person who's had a terrible time with mornings, too. So I've gotten it off my chest. And I'll have tips for you next week.

Have you struggled with sleep? What is your favorite way to wake up?

Yours Truly, Jen

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