I Haven’t Slept Well in Years
My therapist told me to develop a healthy denial of life’s vulnerabilities and randomness— or I will never sleep soundly again.
My daughter is back in the United States. Last night, before I went to bed, I spoke to her from her apartment on campus. I said goodnight and then turned off the light. M husband and I went out of town for two nights. I picked up my phone and checked the Find My Friends app, which I refer to as the Find My Kids app. I could see the kids were all tucked away at home — within 3000 miles of me. I turned on my white noise app, plugged in the phone, and closed my eyes.
I have been sleepless for months. Years, if I am honest. I stopped sleeping around the time my mom started losing her vision. With her frequent trips to the bathroom at night, I was worried she would fall. When I went to bed, I kept the ringer on. And she did fall. Three times. Each time, my husband and I jumped up and ran to the ER to check on her bruised and purple face.
When my mom’s health was failing rapidly, I couldn’t sleep because I worried the Board & Care would call to tell me she needed me. After my mom died, I laid awake thinking about everything and anything I could have done differently to change the outcome and make my mom still be alive. Of course, there was nothing I could have done but my brain turned it over again and again and sleep eluded me.
When I did sleep, I dreamed that my mother was alive and that she was wondering why I had given away her clothes, her jewelry, the lease on her beloved apartment. I dreamed that she was alive but no one told me, as if it was a secret everyone was keeping from me. I dreamed she was alive and driving a horse-drawn carriage full of her belongings but she wouldn’t tell me where she was going.
Nearly eight months after her death, I still dream of my mother. But in my lastest dream, she was helping me slice and serve a chocolate birthday cake. It was my son’s 18th birthday and she was handing out cake slices on red paper plates. My grief counselor says this is progress. In the birthday cake dream, I threw my arms around my mom and squeezed her and smelled her and rubbed her cheek against mine. I believe this is progress.
But I still don’t sleep well.
My daughter is back in the United States. She tested negative for Covid. She is on campus entering her 14-day quarantine and, hopefully, she will return to hybrid learning soon. My teenagers are at home, in bed, with the dog, safely tucked into our house, at least that’s what Find My Kids tells me.
My therapist says that in order to live life as a parent, we must develop some form of healthy denial of our human vulnerabilities and life’s randomness or will never sleep again after giving birth. I find this to be true, now more than ever.
My anxiety dances in circles around the front lawn, waving ribbons like a Maypole dancer. But, right now, my kids are at home. Right now, my oldest is on campus. Right now, I will close the CNN, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, and Fox News apps. I will turn on the white noise, fluff my pillows, and tell myself, you are going to have a great sleep tonight. But I leave the ringer on, just in case.