Every once in a while, I just. Can’t. Sleep.
Peace tends to turn to chaos on the morning after Thanksgiving, when the people of our country wake from their relaxed, food-induced stupors to fight each other for low-priced merchandise all across America. And even though I never had any intention last Friday of rising at 4:00am to shop, I soon found myself wide awake in the middle of the night, my good mood from the previous few days giving way to anxiety. Yes, while millions of Americans ripped and clawed for best deal on the latest iPad touch (that’s a thing, right?) I felt my own brand of stress without ever having to leave my bedroom.
Jolted awake by a scary dream, I decided to sabotage myself from ever falling asleep again, by thinking of all the things I had to cram into the four-day Thanksgiving weekend: copywriting, blog writing, grading, Christmas decorating, house cleaning in preparation for said decorating, etc. American psychologist and philosopher, William James, once said, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” You’d think he had met me.
The mere thought of a long to-do list is exhausting. Not exhausting in a way that actually helps one fall asleep in the middle of the night, but exhausting in a heart-pounding, stomach-hurting kind of way. Yup, at 4:00am that morning, in walked the fear I like to talk so much about.
And can you blame me? Thoughts are scary.
Around 4:30am, I began toying with the idea of actually getting up and getting something done. I know many folks deal with insomnia by actually getting out of bed (judging from the many Facebook posts that say, “Can’t sleep…” or “Ugh! Insomnia sucks!”) but that’s never been my modus operandi. No, I’ve always been one to follow the rules, and at 4:30am, the rules say that I should be sleeping. In other words, when I can’t sleep, I stay in bed telling myself that I should be sleeping. I don’t like to rock the boat.
I hate to admit that I’ve spent a great deal of life this way: worrying about all the things I have to do and should be doing, while only occasionally doing some of them. My writing career has been the epitome of this. I can spend hours worrying that I won’t be able to accomplish whatever writing task is at hand because I won’t be good enough. In reality, I wind up not completing the writing task at hand because I never actually start. I would have started, but come on, thoughts are scary. And thoughts of writing are the scariest of all.
On that particular Black Friday morning, however, I decided not to waste one more moment of precious time. Around 5:00am I got out of bed, sat down in front of my computer, and started pounding out exactly what was on my mind: “…copywriting, blog writing, grading, Christmas decorating, house cleaning in preparation for said decorating, etc.”
Slowly, that tight feeling in my stomach began to loosen.
Probably because thoughts of things are rarely as scary as the things themselves.
Writer and educator Sara Goas is a graduate of Lycoming College, and she specializes in creating content for the web. Her site saragoas.com has more examples of her work.