Its late and I should be asleep but I cannot. This dilemma is amplified throughout the anxiety cathedral that is my brain due to my keen awareness of the unfortunately small window of time between the present moment and the moment my alarm clock will sound in the morning. Approximately six hours…and counting.
Insomnia visits me less than it used to, but when it does it is a most unwelcome guest. I adore sleep. Its one of my favorite pastimes. I get to turn off my brain, I feel the warm blankets cover my body, my shoulders relax, I breath slowly and, most nights, concentrate on the dull hum of the small plastic fan on my nightstand. I got it at Wal-Mart.
I turn it to medium which is represented by the Roman Numeral for two (II) because low (I) barely does anything and High (III) feels like I’m about to be sucked into a black hole. I must have at least three pillows–one doubled up underneath my head, it’s a little too small but if I fold it right its perfect–a second pillow rests between my legs simultaneously preventing prostate cancer and future back surgeries, and then I teddy bear the fuck out of the third pillow because it makes me feel safe.
Fuck you, I know how it sounds.
Yet my nightly concoction of evening accoutrement was no match.. I tried an old fail safe: one glass of cold, two percent milk filled three quarters of the way up a pint-sized glass followed by a guided meditation played through my smart phone and found on YouTube.
I tried an old favorite: Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Years back, I had a particularly rough stretch where my ever-present anxiety got out of control. I was so far wrapped around the axle it ultimately led to a panic attack–which–if you’ve never had one–is about as awesome as it sounds…which is to say it sucks.
It’s like that moment on a roller coaster when you almost shit yourself–like you feel your anus start to open but then you save it last second– because you are for sure going to die because there’s no way the bolts in this coaster were tightened all the way and even if they were who knows how long ago that was or how rusty they are now and so they’ve got to break down at some point–everything breaks down–if there’s one thing I know about the world its that everything breaks down! And if there was ever a person to be on the coaster when that happened it’s me–holy buckets we’re all gonna dieeeeee–AAAAHHHHHH—that was AWESOME!!!
The only difference is you get just about equally freaked out at the sound of a toaster popping up some sliced whole grain.
It’s like in movies when war vets have PTSD and a car backfires and they hit the deck because they think they’re in a war zone.
(What a bunch of dumb asses am I right? Don’t they remember the flight home?)
It’s like that, except you’ve never been in a war zone.
You’re in a Target in the suburbs and a lady is click-clacking her annoyingly long fingernails on the nauseatingly plain counter while she waits to pay for her unfathomably cute tank top and its making you’re fucking skin crawl.
(Seriously though, Target rules.)
It’s all of those things and its irrational. It’s like all the bad parts of cocaine, no high. Anxiety is the fucking devil.
But I digress.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, was recommended to me by the therapist that I saw after the aforementioned panic attack. For those of you who don’t know, Kabat-Zinn is a leader in the psychiatric community whose written and spoken a great deal about mindfulness. This is the practice and pursuit of constant awareness of one’s body and mind. I know it sounds like bull shit, but basically its a program for people who have a hard time relaxing. It also helps in a lot of other ways, for me anyway…when I actually do it right…which is almost never…but still. It increases my ability to think clearly, my capacity for keeping tabs on my emotions and makes my body feel like its sitting in the position it was meant to sit in as opposed to its normal position of “hey-you-wanna-massage?-yes-Oh-My-God-you’re-shoulders-are-so-tight-you’d-think-you’re-in-line-at-Target!”
Mindfulness, when practiced properly, would also keep one from going off on tangents. See above.
So I’m listening to Jon Kabat-Zinn–or as I like to call him Jay-Z–and I find that I’m really in tune with what he is saying, and I’m relaxed and listening to him, and that as I engage more and more, I start to hear my fan’s dull hum, and feel my breathing, and the warmth of my sheets, and my massive pillow arrangement–I feel at peace, and, remarkably…awake. Calm and focused.
Obviously, this was not the original intention, but it got my brain working and made me want to start writing which I haven’t done in a while.
So if there’s anyone still reading, that’s what this is. I’m not sure if there’s a point to the entry, this is more for me than for you. Sorry. Actually no, it’s a blog, go fuck yourself.
The feeling I discovered was a momentary glimpse at true mindfulness.
A peaceful descent into the present for a series of moments in a woken state. A comfort. A truthfulness and clarity. Zen. Nirvana. This feeling was so full. An open road to self discovery. I think this is something to be yearned for, I’ve never felt so in touch. I felt at home in my body, I was able to feel the love of those close to me, and a faint sense of interconnectedness with the world at large.
I think Wilde said, ‘to love oneself is to begin a livelong romance’–or something like that. I wonder if this is what he meant.
(probably not, I think he just wanted to get laid and drink, but still.)
Anyway, I suppose this might be uninteresting to others, but for me, managing anxiety and at times–insomnia–is a difficult task. And I needed to get it out there.