Every night, my head comfortably rests on my pillow, my body stretches out from a busy day, and I look forward to drifting off into pleasant dreamland. But some nights my eyes remain wide open, my brain accelerates to sixty miles and hour, and I can’t go to sleep, regardless of how my body feels about it.
Last night was one of those nights.
What is it that kept me awake last night, as it does on other nights? I hate to admit it, but it is fear. And what am I afraid of? Again, I hate to admit it, but it is often something silly or trivial – something that grabs hold of my thought processes and refuses to let go, no matter how badly I need to rest.
And last night – what was it that kept me awake into the wee hours of the morning? It began yesterday evening with my new neighbor who greeted me at our shared porch when I returned home, asking a dozen questions as I walked past her, her cigarette in hand and exhaled smoke forming a small cloud around her head, an astray filled with crushed butts, her cell phone at her ear, and her can of beer on the little table next to her chair, all welcoming me at the entrance to my apartment. After a long day, all I wanted to do was go inside, be alone and quiet, and unwind. I wasn’t ready for 20 Questions. She has been living here a week, and this is the greeting I get almost every day since she moved in whenever I enter or leave my home. She seldom leaves her apartment, and spends countless hours outside our entrance, sitting and smoking, ready to engage in conversation whenever I should walk past her. Even if she is not sitting on the porch, that blasted ashtray is there, overflowing with the leftovers of her habit. As an introvert and a protector of my personal space, this can be excruciating for me, and I am beginning to feel like a prisoner in my own home. I find myself peeking around the corner of the house when I come home to prepare myself is she is sitting there. And when I am in my apartment, I can’t see the porch, so I have to take my chances every time I open my door to go out.
So, where does fear come in to play in all of this? Last night, after I got into bed, I began searching online for rentals in this area of Georgia. I’m thinking that I may need to get away from here and rent another place to live. As I browsed the possibilities, the price tag on these potential habitats pushed the fear button, causing me to reach for my calculator and begin punching in numbers to see what I can afford and what is beyond my ability to pay. And that’s when it took over, overwhelming me with anxiety about my future, growing older, becoming poorer, and everything in general concerning my personal finances.
I am beginning to gear down as far as working for a living goes. Every time I go to work at the kennel, I feel like I am one dog closer to a torn rotator cuff, a nasty fall involving broken bones, or some other work-ending mishap. At 67 years old, I still believe I am physically fit, but I know that one strong-willed, determined dog could send me flying. With a reduction in my work hours comes a smaller paycheck, less money to work with each month, and my old friend, Fear. It is making me look at my future very seriously, with my calculator and checkbook balance close by to remind me that my future may not be all that bright, as far as my finances go.
I try to look on the bright side, as my mother used to remind me when I became overwhelmed with life and the darts and arrows it sometimes flung at me. I am looking forward to more “me” time for writing, walking, exercising, and doing something different with my life. I am beginning a new part-time job later this month that I am really looking forward to, and I have the prospect of another part-time job that I would love to sink my teeth into if possible.
“I can do this,” I say to myself during the day. But when I get into my bed, turn out the lights, and begin thinking about things, the doubts and fears creep in, holding me captive until I simply can’t stay awake any longer, and my body’s need for sleep overcomes my nighttime brain exercises.
I wish I had better resources, I wish I had a pension, I wish I had a paid-off mortgage on a home, I wish I had more stability in my life. I wish, I wish, I wish. Now, in the brightness of the morning, I can sit here at my window, count my many blessings as I write, and feel encouraged to make this a great day. But at night, when the darkness settles in, I don’t know how to chase the fears away. I pray, I meditate, I think positive thoughts, I count sheep, I do mental math, I recite memorized scripture and poetry – anything to keep the fear monster from racing around the track inside my head. But it is so strong and so real, nothing I do seems to be able to derail it until sheer exhaustion takes the wheel.
As for my neighbor, there’s really not much I can do about her and my situation with her. She isn’t a bad person. But she has managed to invade the tiny bit of personal space I have, playing a part in setting my nighttime insomnia into full gear. I’m not sure if moving will be the solution to my nocturnal fear problem, either. But today, sleep deprived and with puffy bags under my eyes, I am looking for anything that may present a solution.
How do you turn off the fear monster lurking in the dark? I wish I knew!