The Benefit of Sleeplessness


I used to be a runner.

Going out for a long run by myself on the country roads that led to and from my parents’ house was one of my favorite things when I was a teenager. I used that time to think, to reconnect, to let go, and regain.

Until this morning, I hadn’t been for a run in probably a couple of years…at least.

My daughter, Ava, still wakes up at least once a night to nurse and thus incomplete sleep patterns are a regular part of my life. I have had troubles sleeping since I can remember and when Ava wakes me up in the middle of the night (today it was 3 am) I often have troubles going back to sleep. I drudge out to the living room, sleepy-eyed and hungry Lady Bird in tow and I inevitably turn on the television and cruise Netflix for something to watch to keep me up long enough to finish feeding her. If I don’t watch anything I will almost certainly fall asleep and wake up a few hours later still holding my daughter in a nursing position with an arm that fell asleep along with us two ladies and a sore neck — as has happened on numerous occasions. That is why I have taken to watching things like chick flicks, lame tv shows and the like (which I, for so long, abhorred) just so I may put her back to sleep in her own bed, rather than her getting used to sleeping in my arms on the couch.

The trouble is I often can’t get back to sleep. Either I shamelessly get wrapped up in whatever silly show I am watching and can’t tear myself away from the distraction, or I simply cannot turn my brain off enough to lay peacefully and still in bed to actually get the rest my body so badly needs. This morning after I laid my Lady Bird in her crib at around 4:30, I was in a state close to complete anxiety. My heart was racing and I just felt like I needed to go somewhere…and fast.

So I did.

I put on my scarf, my coat, my hat, and my gloves. I dusted off my old hi-top Chuck Taylors and checked the temperature outside. A chilly 29 degrees almost made me stay inside. Almost.

Besides being a runner….I used to also be a morning person.

I used to get up at 3:30 am at least 5 days a week for either work or school. As much as I hated the lack of sleep I inevitably suffered…I absolutely loved being up by myself in the mornings before the sun even came up to greet me. Getting up early and functioning at ungodly hours makes me feel sort of in control. And Control (with a capital “C”) is something I have grasped at my entire life. This desire to control myself and my surroundings has been self-destructive at times — yet it has given me the drive to be willful  disciplined, and dedicated.

For the past few months I have dedicated myself to my health. It can take weeks of smoothies and yoga and vitamins and supplements and bone broth to get myself to a point where I feel pretty darn good. Yet it takes only one day of putting myself on the back-burner…and perhaps having too much wine…to throw everything off.

I get upset with myself for lack of focus…not just with this…but with anything. I feel like I always have to be on top of my game. In control. I always have to be the most patient and loving mother…the most devoted wife…the most fluid writer…the most fun and creative teacher… I don’t like to admit that I cannot possibly be all of those things all of the time. It makes me feel weak and vulnerable — two things I have been in the past and never want to be again.

I am recovering from an “off-day” just a couple days ago and this morning I thought I would benefit from my sleeplessness. I took my racing heart and anxiety and I pounded it beneath my feet into the crooked sidewalks in my neighborhood.

My solitary nature reveled in the fact that I saw not a single soul in the 30 minutes I was outside. The chilled morning air burned my throat as I ran but I cared none. I felt like with every pace forward I was putting my life back together. I exhaled the vulnerability and delicacy of my health into the darkness and quiet and left it outside when I was finished.

I don’t enjoy falling off the wagon…but I certainly enjoy feeling strong enough to get back on.


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