Sleep is over-rated, but I do love to dream. Between the head-shelf shuffle of five different pillows, the pain in every position, the snoring, and a pair of bed-hogging cats I managed to drift off for a little while last night.
The adventure began in an old western town theater hosting a talent show. The audience members in the first row of each section were unexpectedly required to display a talent. (Conveniently, I’ve blocked out what talent I shared.) After my turn, I ran next door to a used bookstore for my friend a few seats down. He found me holding an armful of books; I was too late to deliver. In the street a 1950’s cop car chased me down the dirt road. In a way that can happen only in dreams, the cop reached out a stretchy arm, and pulled my steering wheel just in time to help me avoid a crash. He dropped a check on my front seat, payment for the talent show, and his arm snapped back into his own car. I stomped on the brakes in disbelief. He pulled next to me and yelled, “Get off the tracks!” The warning bells at the train crossing began to clang, and I sped off into silence.
It’s been over 13 years since I’ve slept through the night, and I treasure every one of my dreams, including the bad, the sweet, the high, and the simply weird. The doctors say I have an alpha-delta wave abnormality. Basically when I go into delta-wave sleep, where the body repairs itself, alpha waves from pain signals intrude. Like a fire alarm repeatedly going off inside a factory, it makes it tough for the workers to do their job. A long time ago, I asked my doctor for long acting pain medication to help me sleep through the night. He said it would interfere with dreaming. Less pain and no dreams? Or pain and dreams? For me the choice was easy. No amount of pain would make me willingly give up the ability to dream.
Living with that choice is not always easy. When I lay there in the middle of the night with the body screaming and hypersensitive to every tiny sound, the mind swirls around the edge of a pit. This pit is filled with self-pity, anger, and sorrow. It takes some power to resist the pit, and I don’t always succeed.
Over the years, I learned to reframe sleep. For me, it’s not a refreshing deep slumber. Rather, it’s a mandatory eight-hour rest period. Last night after turning and tossing and tossing and turning, I finally let myself look at the clock and ask: How long do I need to lay here? 3:43 AM. Another three hours at least. So I made myself as comfortable as possible and waited and rested.
Resting requires the conscious relaxing of the body and mind. Some nights, I focus on each muscle melting. Other times, I silently chant a mantra. Once in a while, like very early this morning, I simply listen to all the sounds. I do my best to practice patience with all aspects of being. And if I’m lucky, I drift off into a dream adventure.