And I could have done so many things, baby
If I could only stop my mind from wondrin’ what
I left behind and from worrying ’bout this wasted time
“Wasted Time” — Don Henley and Glenn Frey
Ah, if I could only stop my mind.
I know I’m not the only one who’s wished to stop my mind. Thinking, worrying, fretting – it’s so natural yet so counterproductive.
Almost since conception, this pregnancy’s necessitated a daily nap, just to survive the day. This nap must coincide with Rose’s afternoon nap, just after the babysitter drops her off. Rose typically sleeps for two hours. I’m grateful for her nap for many reasons, but mostly because it takes me up to an hour and a half to fall asleep, if at all. So I need two hours to take a half-hour nap. I always thought it was funny when magazines urged working people to “close the door to your office and take a ‘power nap’ for 20 minutes.” That would be impossible for me, and further, they tout this strategy as a stress buster. I find it hard to believe that someone who’s that stressed out could fall asleep in 20 minutes. But boy, more power to ‘em.
I’ve always wanted to have narcolepsy, like my dad. The idea of sleeping anytime, anywhere sounds so appealing to me. Yeah, it’s a little inconvenient to fall asleep at the dinner table, but think of all those z’s they get! Imagine sleeping on planes, trains and automobiles! Imagine falling asleep without any effort!
Sleep is not my lot in life. I’m still learning how to do it. A friend of mine told me how she’d stroked her babies’ ears as they dozed off. Her grown children still stroke their ears as they fall asleep. “You’ve got to give them something,” she said, “Otherwise, how will they learn to sleep?”
My parents didn’t know that trick, but I made it a top priority when Rose was a baby. I stroked her bangs and forehead, a gentle physical suggestion to close her eyes. It worked. We always know she’s ready to sleep when she starts playing with her hair.
But I had to learn the hard way. And needing a daily nap has taught me a lot. Sometimes it’s harder to stop my mind during the day than at night, when exhaustion can overrule an active mind. So right before my nap, I execute a brain dump. I try to capture every item swirling through my brain and neatly organize it on my smart phone or computer. Sometimes I have a to do list, a shopping list and a story idea in my head, and maybe something to tell my husband, so I create appointments and tasks so I’ll have reminders for the to do, record the shopping list separately, and add the story idea to another list. Then I’ll email my husband with the question or nag, send it, and I’m much more relaxed. But sometimes the juices flow too forcefully to stop there, so I always fall asleep with a familiar, comforting, TV show playing. Since they stopped running “The Golden Girls” during naptime, I’ve been using my “Northern Exposure” DVDs in the afternoon and “Cheers” at night. For some, the TV is too much stimulation, but for me, the television gives me something mindless and relaxing to focus on and helps to get me out of my head. If that doesn’t work, I turn on the fan for the white noise. And I’ve made many a last-ditch effort work by telling myself I would just lie there and whatever happened, happened.
But it’s been a bit more difficult since I’ve become a full-time writer. When I had a day job, I could mindlessly complete it, sign off and use all of the methods I mentioned to fall asleep. But once I focused solely on my business, I had a lot more to think about. What’s more, I care about my business much more than was necessary with my day job.
Rose is going through this TV addiction phase. God, I hope it’s a phase. She’s always watched TV while waiting for the babysitter, because I had to work. She might watch too much TV for her age, but when she first recited the alphabet to us at 18 months, Matt asked where she’d learned it. Rose said “From Elmo.” Now she’s learning to recognize letters from “Super Why.” Enough defending my parenting. I brought it up because sometimes “Sid the Science Kid” is so engrossing that she’ll refuse to get dressed in the morning. So I learned to put the TV on “pause,” explain to her that she won’t miss anything, and we can go get dressed. And she’s cool with that.
So now when I need to nap I take a cue from Rose’s TV strategy. If business ideas and “to dos” and whatnot won’t shut off as I’m lying down, I tell myself that it’s the middle of the day, and nothing will be lost. Everything is just on “pause.” I can choose to work on it later, or not. But I won’t forget it and I do not need to think about it now.
“Pause” works for other things too. My best friend’s in the midst of a family crisis right now. But she’s at a turning point in her life and wants to decide which way to go. Thing is, she’s got enough swirling around her head without worrying about where to go from here. So I told her to hit the “pause” button. She must focus on the crisis at hand, and when the stress abates, she’ll be able to think about her own big picture.
But as I give advice, I realize that I must take it as well. I need to hit the “pause” button every once in a while. Yesterday I’d planned on not working and doing something fun. It was the day after we threw a big party and I knew I’d be exhausted. But I had work to do, so I wound up working anyway. I laid down at 12:00, thinking I’d shower and pick up Rose at 12:30. I opened my eyes at 1:08. Groggy, I picked Rose up and we came home and, after some resistance, she napped so I could sleep again. We slept for four and a half hours yesterday. When I awoke, I was still concerned about completing this blog and the rest of my work, but I realized I had just needed the pause.
This morning I went back to work and completed my big project, then set out to write this post. I realized that without yesterday’s pause, I’d have had no conclusion. Now I do. So I must take those necessary pauses seriously, especially as I get closer and closer to giving birth. As the big day nears, my energy’s waning but my ambition’s not. I keep trying to convince myself that I’ll go back to work right away, because there are so many things I need to do, but I may just have to put everything on pause for a little while, and if I do, I have to accept that that’s ok too.