The other night I woke up at 2:40 am wondering if the pellet stove at my vacant listing was out of pellets… that the motor would keep running, burn out and catch on fire. I contemplated getting out of bed to drive over there to check, but thought my husband would think it was irrational and decided against having to see his expression in case he caught me sneaking out. Of course it was irrational. Although entirely possible that the hopper would be empty, but the house was not going to burn down. How is it that I was having this solo conversation with myself in the middle of the night? It wasn’t the first time that I had awakened to an irrational or startling thought that had my heart racing. Why? Why does this even happen? So, out of bed I go to the couch to watch a couple episodes of Kids Baking Championship. I eventually fall asleep, only to wake up and plan my trip to the listing after a cup of coffee. As I drove around the corner of the road, I could clearly see that the house was intact. Inside, the pellet stove hopper was full and I was finally at peace.
Surprisingly, a couple days later, a friend shares her horrific nightmare about Dan Akroyd, a coworker, and a death by piano fiasco. Another sleepless night brought on by stress or anxiety from the previous day. Over lunch we shared our stories, we felt a sense of relief in knowing we weren’t the only “crazy ladies” (my term, not hers): women who wake in the middle of the night (maybe a little symptom of menopause) with irrational and panicked thoughts about our jobs/people/life.
This isn’t the first time that a friend has shared a personal and private experience with me in which they were a little uncomfortable sharing, either because of the level of irrationality or their feeling of inadequacy. And yet, they shared. I am thankful that they did, because it’s how I learn as a mother, as a woman and as a person. Together we learn that trying to meditate, count sheep, taking Tylenol PM or a shot of Fireball doesn’t always help to put your mind at ease.
In all honesty, it may not be possible to stop these night terrors or sleepless nights, but I think there is comfort in sharing with a friend. Can you think of all the times that you struggled with something, only to have a friend share a similar experience and suddenly you are at ease, or better yet—normal? I remember being a young mother of a 2-year-old and one of my friends adopted a 2-year-old girl. My friend was discouraged about the behavior of her daughter, and after observing her, I informed my friend that her daughter was behaving just as most 2-year-olds do. Hopefully this was a comfort to my friend and, in the long run, a gift to a child that had a parent with appropriate expectations of a 2-year-old. This friend of mine is incredibly talented and smart, and like most people, she is confident in what she knows and not so much in areas that are not natural to her. It’s not a personality flaw that she doesn’t know what’s appropriate for a child—it’s just a lack of information. It would be a powerful mindset shift if we could adjust our expectations of ourselves and our perspective.
If we could change our perspective, and the perspective of our children, that growing up is more about learning about ourselves and the world than becoming a perfect person—we might be able to sleep through the night (guess I still have some learning to do). I love the quote by Brene Brown, “Have the courage to be imperfect.” It makes me think of my mother and her courage to live a better life; to have a better life for herself after she divorced my father. It took me a couple years to grow up and understand the difficult choices she had to make. She cried, she confided in her friends and she made choices to leave when she didn’t know if she was doing the right thing. In knowing her story, it has helped me to take action in my life when I was scared or unsure of the result. The point is to be courageous enough to take chances in life when you don’t know the end result. Because the happiness you seek could be greater than the pain you live with today.
To everyone reading this, I wish you the courage to share your story with others. You have no idea who needs to hear your story today; it could change their life, even in a simple way. You don’t have to be a counselor or therapist to be a good friend or listener. It’s as easy as asking to write an article in Colorado Serenity, sharing your thoughts and hoping that one person reads your story. Thanks Mom!