At one time or another, I know we have all felt this way:
I mentioned in last week’s blog that I’ve not been sleeping well. Some nights are better than others, but overall, I guess you’d say I’m suffering from insomnia.
I honestly believe the more I think about it, the worse it gets even though I’m doing all the classic, text-book things to try to overcome this irritating and relentless malady: I’m winding down my mind early. Staying off technology in the evening. Taking a bath (with Dr. Teal’s special blend of melatonin and lavender). I cover my body with Aveeno lavender soothing lotion. I sip on Chamomile tea before bedtime, and I’ve prayed about it. In fact, that’s what I do throughout the night as I lie there counting the hours until the alarm rudely goes off.
I’ve heard it said that when you can’t sleep, you should pray. (And not just pray that you will finally go to sleep). I pray about everything, and as the hours tick by, I add to my prayer. It ends up being one long, jumbled mess of a prayer, but God doesn’t mind one bit.
It seems this past week, so many of my friends have needed prayers. Maybe that’s why I’m pulling these unintended all-nighters. Maybe in addition to trying to pull me closer, God is using me to intercede for those who are lost, lonely, heartbroken, and exhausted. And you know what? It’s that solitary thought that gets me through those long days-after when I contemplate diving into a vat full of caffeinated beverages, knowing that will only exasperate the issue. But being aware that others need my prayers makes me feel like I’m going to battle for them. It helps me realize that there is a reason for this “Sleepless in East Texas,” experience.
Last year, I tried a high-powered melatonin supplement, and boy, did it do a number on me! I did fall into a very deep slumber, but when I tried to wake up, it was like I was having to fight myself out of sleep. It was a bit terrifying and definitely something I didn’t want to repeat. Obviously, I don’t take much medication. (In fact, a Tylenol or Advil here or there, and an Excedrin Migraine now and then, and that’s it).
Many people say that drinking a glass of red wine before going to bed helps, too. I do this occasionally, but overall, it doesn’t really help, and I end up traipsing to the facilities all night long. But at this point, I’m about ready to try any kind of wine: red, white, rose, or sparkling. Heck, I’d even drink the watermelon wine mentioned in Tom T. Hall’s hit.
I’m desperate for sleep, and maybe for the reason behind my not sleeping…
I honestly already know what it is. I’m worried about the world, and life, and all the things I can’t control. It’s my subconscious and it manifests during those calm, quiet hours, when my mind starts to wander, and wonder (I’ve self-diagnosed myself as ADD, because my mind seems to never shut down)…
I don’t intentionally spend hours dwelling on all the nonsense happening in our country, as well as serious issues, but I know it’s all stuffed inside my head, and it comes out at night, and haunts me. And God is right there, fighting off these thoughts and worries—telling me to let go, and trust in Him.
There are other factors that don’t help my inability to slumber, and they all have four legs. These precious family members interrupt me throughout the night, as they have their own needs that I’m supposed to take care of.
So you can get a better idea, here’s the host of animals who have been in and out of our house for the last several years:
(Thanks to Kaitlyn Keith for designing this cute photo)
(Top Left: Maisie, Top Right: Lorelai, Middle Left: Ace, Middle Right: Sister, Bottom Left: Boone, Bottom Middle: Marlie, Bottom Right: Scout)
Marlie, Sister, and Boone live with Charles and Kaitlyn, and currently residing in our house are Lorelai, Scout, and Maisie. We have shared custody of Ace, (Christopher’s dog), during basketball season, and he’s with us right now. Hence, a small factor in my sleep issues.
This is how my night usually goes. I go to bed fairly early because I get up every day at 4:15. Maisie, the cat formerly belonging to Charles, has little to do with me during the day, but night is her time to come alive. Without fail, not long after I lie down, Maisie jumps on the bed and heads straight for me. She stands on my chest and kneads her claws into my neck and collarbone, and sometimes, even my face. I push her away, but she comes back. When I finally relax and decide to pet her and give her some attention, she retreats. You see, she’s like most cats. Everything is on her terms.
As she scampers off, I almost hear Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice proclaiming, “I’ll be back!” because at some point in the night, she will return. And then together we will Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Lorelai bounces onto the mattress whenever Brian comes to bed. She runs over and licks me. And then she begins digging. She likes to be under the covers. Some nights she’s by me, other nights she’s burrowed under the sheet and blanket by my husband. Most nights, I spend several minutes worrying about her. Is she going to suffocate? Do I need to provide an air hole in which she can breathe? I must say that Lorelai is a considerate sleeper, as she stays in one spot, and rarely has nightmares or bouts of snoring.
And then there’s Ace, God love him. He’s a big, overgrown puppy, who thinks he’s smaller than he is. If I get up at any point during the night, he has to join me. Sometimes he races out of the bedroom, and I end up letting him out for a potty-break. Of course, once he’s up, Lorelai comes out of hibernation and joins him. As soon as I round them back up, and we pile back into bed, Maisie makes her rounds again, tip-toeing around the top of the bed, giving me a slight lick on the nose, and a couple of kneads. And then she’s off again until Brian’s alarm goes off. She actually stands on his phone as it plays a wake-up song. A couple of weeks ago, she turned the alarm off rather than letting it snooze like Brian does.
As I mentioned, I get up early and first. If I’m not up by my usual time, I have to contend with Scout, who basically terrorizes me (I believe she’s on a watchlist somewhere). In the wee hours of the morning, Scout jumps up on my nightstand, and if I am asleep, I am jarred awake as I feel her eyes searing into my skull. When I carefully open my eyes, I see her glaring at me. If I don’t immediately get up, Scout will slap my face and hiss at me. And she’s not playing. She means business. Sometimes I hide under the covers, and that’s usually when she runs across me, slaps me on the side of the face, and then waits for me to get up and wait on her, hand and foot.
As disturbing as these interactions with our four-legged friends might seem, it’s also comforting feeling their unconditional love. They are consistent, and loyal, and loving, and they bring so much joy into our lives. Yep, we’re animal people, living in an animal house, and as needy, and attention-seeking as these creatures are, they provide much needed stress relief and many moments of happiness. They are a scattering of simple blessings in our busy lives.
When the idea to write about my sleeplessness came to me, so did the song, “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine.” I thought it was a bit odd, but hoped that I could find a way to intertwine the two ideas.
I listened to the song, and was immediately reminded of my parents, especially my dad and his love for country music. And then I was reminded of my childhood, and my own dogs, and my love for watermelon. Simpler times.
And I started thinking about the simple joys in my life now. Dogs, and children, and maybe a relaxing glass of wine, or a good book, or time spent with friends, and time with our grandson— precious moments Brian and I savor.
And all this reflection reminded me that life is good, and crazy, and hectic, and overwhelming, and wonderful. And I am abundantly blessed.
You see, it all comes back to gratitude, and acknowledging the abundance in my life, and giving thanks for all I’ve been given.
After analyzing these things, and writing about them, I am happy to report, that my catharsis and discoveries have led to sleep.
Good. Deep. Abundant sleep.
I have learned and re-learned that whenever stress comes knocking at the door, don’t answer. Instead, pray your way through it, be grateful for all you have, and thankful to God for these blessings. Although sleep can’t be guaranteed because of other outside factors and interruptions, your soul will be peaceful, and your burdens lightened.
Of old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”
Today, and everyday, I’m thankful for the idea and reality of old dogs, and children, and watermelon wine.
(Song and Backstory…)
I’d like to close with the lyrics of “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine,” along with the story behind this song. I love when I learn something new as a result of my writing. This is a wonderful story, as well as a slice of life and Americana. Tom T. Hall is known as a great story-teller; his thoughts simple, clear, and real.
In my opinion, this is one of the best songs Tom T Hall ever wrote. It’s a true life story that was basically written down from an experience Hall had in Florida.
“How old do you think I am?” he said.
He said, “I turned 65 about 11 months ago.”
When this old gray black gentleman was cleanin’ up the lounge.
The guy who ran the bar was watchin’ “Ironsides” on tv.
Uninvited, he sat down and opened up his mind
On old dogs and children and watermelon wine.
He told me all about it, though I didn’t answer back.
“Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime—
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”
And friends are hard to find when they discover that you’re down.”
He said, “I tried it all when I was young and in my natural prime.
Now it’s old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”
God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate.”
When he moved away I found my pen and copied down that line
‘Bout old dogs and children and watermelon wine.
As I left for my room I saw him pickin’ up my change.
That night I dreamed in peaceful sleep of shady summertime,
Of old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”