No Sleep-Walking allowed


Sleep beguiles me. More specifically my lack of sleep beguiles me, the way it can seem to make tangible a shadow, causing it to rise up from within me like a monster manifesting from beneath the bed.

Is it that being adequately rested restores to me the energy and resources needed to tuck in those monsters, keep them quiet and fed so they don’t rise to roar?  If so, and these fears and griefs are always present within me, is it enough to simply keep them at bay? Or, perhaps it is that an unrested mind fabricates what is not real at all.

If dreaming is my psyche’s way of dealing with the emotional fallout of a day- or a lifetime- perhaps it is that by shortchanging the necessary hours of sleep during which that debris might be unconsciously cleaned up and released, I force making its acquaintance face-to-face. Conversely, if my dream-images are messengers from my deeper soul to myself, rising up from some vast underwater reaches, to what extremes might my soul go in order to get my attention by day if I deny it the opportunity by night? Surely, it feels a lot easier to encounter those terrible fears, painful as they are, in the anesthetized state of slumber. They can be overly much for the conscious psyche to bear.

Still, if such anguish is there, the question I ask myself today is what am I to do with/for it? Is it enough to keep one’s body healthy… well-fed, well-rested… to give one’s body physical movement through which relief and release can occur. Or is there something more my spirit begs me to attend? I suppose this could be reframed by proverbial question, ‘What does healing look like?’  Does it look like lack of pain? Competent strategies for coping with pain? Treating the symptoms or digging for the source? Finding the best balm for anesthetizing, for disinfecting? Wrapping and isolating the break so that it can regenerate? Learning to walk wounded? Embracing the gift in the wound?

Yesterday afternoon I took a long walk, discovered my dragon had come tagging along, freed from her long winter’s rest by one or two sleepless nights. It seems that the least provocation stirs her awake these days, and I have come to expect her to be out and about, materializing out of the blue, but yesterday, the grief that she bore staggered me.

Thus began my wondering about sleep.  Does this grief lie dormant, buried within me, to rise from the dead in some inverse relationship with the amount of sleep that I give it? Or is it like the proverbial monster under the bed, presenting only to my bleary-eyed imagination, what is readily seen through clearer vision to be merely a shadow on the floor.

And I notice how I can distract myself from the reality of that grief with all of this discourse about sleep, escape into my brain, cleverly avoiding the pain of her full affront. I did walk with her for a time yesterday afternoon though, let the tears …almost… come.

My grief feels impossible, as if something precious has been permanently lost, never to be restored, as I suppose all griefs do. The intangible thing about it is that it feels like the grief of what could have been but never was, of lost potential, lost hope. The grieved-for is nothing I can hold in my hand, like a photograph or even a memory. It is an empty space, a hole. How does one grieve a hole?

I expect something is dying in me, and I expect I must let it die to make space for whatever will be, as paradoxical as that sounds… letting an empty space die to make space?? Can I simply be with my grief, I wonder, without any last-ditch life-saving efforts to bring the dead hope back to life, without trying to fix it, manage it, fill up this hole in me? The truth is I run in fear from it, have been running for some time now, running from coming face to face with that pain. Can I sit down with it? Let it bare its agony without redressing its face into something more pleasing, or reworking the harshness of its ingredients into something more palatable to swallow? Do I deny its truth in that way?

The grief of less-than what could have been is bitter. The grief of unrealized potential is bleak. (and, yes, I realize that it is impossible to see the beauty of What-is while standing so firmly in the despair of What-is-not, or to gather the abundant blessings of the gift in the particular journey upon which your soul has embarked when you are lamenting the road not taken, but I think to go there in this moment is to miss the invitation, nay the necessity, being asked of me by this one within entreating my attention, begging me to acknowledge her not-enough presence )

What am I doing here? Who am I?

Each time I have sought to formulate some answer to that existential question, figure out what form I am to take in this world, understand what purpose I am to serve, what gift I have been brought into being to give, the answer slips through my fingers like sand. I can never quite seem to grasp its size or its shape. What form does my soul long to take?

Oh I have tried to add water, created a form for a brief moment in time… here a sphere, there a dome, here a tower, there a cone, a star… but always it crumbles, incomplete, before the day’s passing. Too close to the waves that come crashing tenaciously, it is chipped away at, until finally one precocious flow washes over the edge, leaving behind impressions for a time, brief remembrances of what might have been. Too far from the water, the heat and drying winds leave no moisture at all to hold it together.

I suppose it is all impermanence, after all, so why so potent, this grief? Grief, not for what WAS – well worn or well-lived or well-loved — that has perished or been washed away, but grief for something that never was and never will be, aborted before having tasted life. What does one do with a grief like that?

I realize I have been given one life (that I can be aware of in this lifetime)  and, of course, I could never have lived out every potential manifestation of its possibility.  None of us can. Why this sense of loss then, this loss that feels like less-than. Less than what was possible, inadequate for the task, not enough heart for the journey.  By what standards do I measure my worth?? I cannot say if it comes from my head or my heart, from my body or soul. It feels powerless and helpless, something akin to despair.

A dragon named despair has come visiting me. I expect she resides in each one of us somewhere, if we are honest. Give her a wide enough berth… a few sleepless nights, for instance… and she’ll escape. Now that she is up and about, past the numbing strategies I successfully (?) used to keep her at bay, I can no longer ignore that she’s here, or quite so simply put her back to sleep.  She asks me to listen, that is all… not fix her, or numb her, or chase her go away…just take her out for a walk, or to tea.

I wonder, can I begin with her to cease living a life of fear and control, cease managing, fixing, warding off, being strong enough?  The enough-ness she asks of me is simply this…is my heart vast enough to bear extent of her pain ? Can I begin with her, to grow a heart of compassion, of allowing, embracing, loving. Can I begin to live a life of being.. enough.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Melanie
    Mar 14, 2015 @ 18:40:25

    I know her! Grief. She loves to go for a walk and have tea.

    Liked by 1 person


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