Thursday, October 10, 2013

Better Than Counting Sheep

At night, I lie in bed. I used to sleep in bed, but since my mother passed away, sleep no longer comes easily.

I remember so much about my life with my mother. Memories and scenes play over in my mind, she was always just there, and the last days we had with her, leave me feeling like we did so little with her. We could have done more, I mouth to myself, my face buried in the pillow. I had a list of all I wanted to do with her before the weather shifted. The note is still up near the kitchen desk, grandparent's day at the zoo, rent a beach wheelchair and let the kids push her along Lake Michigan, a spree to Goodwill.

Hours pass in the dark, I don't look at the clock because I don't want to see how few hours there are left before the kids come in to tell me it's time for school.

Sleep doesn't come at the snap of a finger, the way it used to. I would joke that I could win the Olympics of Sleep because I'd be stone cold knocked out halfway down before my head even hit the pillow. But not anymore.

Counting sheep doesn't work, I've tried. I adjust and re-adjust, and turn to the right and then try the left, I kick off the covers and stare at the dark ceiling. I close my eyes, and tell myself, just try and sleep. Just try.  

Instead of sleep, my hearing just grows more acute. Sounds of the house settling, an owl in the tree in front of our neighbor's house, coyotes in the field near the back, a motorcycle going much too fast down the main road of our town. I hope he gets home safe, I mumble about the motorcycle rider, and that his mother isn't up waiting for him.

I turn onto my stomach, sometimes the cool sheets against my face help to bring sleep on. I think about how we are all home, all safe. How there is blissfully nothing for me to anguish or wring my hands over. I think about the good health we have and how there is always money for groceries. I  smile thinking of how I am the mother of three children who make me laugh every day. I feel grateful for how I am able to be home when my kids need me to be and for how they're thrilled when it's spaghetti and meatball night, even though it's spaghetti and meatball night more days of the week than I care for.

I think of my sturdy car, so good in the winter, and I think of the weekend ahead, busy, driving a carful of children to activities they all love doing.  My plans to work on the closets and check for things we've outgrown is going to feel productive and help me with the stifled, cluttered feeling I've had lately. My husband and I are going to have breakfast together early Sunday morning and leave the boys at home. Food always tastes better when someone else makes it.

I have no worries, I have my children within five feet of me, our house is warm and large enough, and this weekend, my middle son asked to see a movie with me and my oldest asked to go shopping, together. I have so much to think about, the thoughts of all of the good that I have all push to the front of the line, to be heard, seen, acknowledged. Yes, yes, I see you, all of you, I  keep thinking, I have so much.

I hear a soft knock on the door, then a push, my middle boy peeks in, wearing one of his new flannel shirts, one we just picked up before school started. "Mom? Mom? You need to get up -- you're still snoring, and you're usually up by now..."

I had fallen asleep, not remembering when, but remembering how, with thoughts of all the good that I have in my life. So much good, that it did what no amount of sheep in the world could do.

It carried me away, to sweet, gentle sleep.



  1. It's so wonderful, to have so much good to be thankful for. I'm so glad that you do because you deserve it. You are a wonderful, wonderful person. xo

  2. Just knowing the family is close and healthy is something really wonderful and should bring you lots of comfort to get some sleep... and your mother can visit you in your dreams.

  3. What a fabulous way to fall asleep! (Oh, that stifled cluttered feeling? I have to go find a closet as well!)

  4. I've been feeling all woe-is-me lately and this post comes along and reminds me that my blessings are plentiful and life is short. Thank you.

  5. Thank you, everyone... I was so surprised to find out I fell asleep, And grateful, natch. xo (file under: life is hard)

  6. I had a hard time falling to sleep last night, too, Alexandra. Worrying about things that are what they are. I will take a lesson from you tonight and think instead of all of the wonderful.

  7. it is nice when the thoughts that come when you put your head down are good ones that will carry you on gentle waves through the night...remember how we slept as 13 hours at times...what the heck...where did that go...smiles.

  8. I am rewinding my journey, so I can travel backwards in time and be by your side. I remember that terrible anxiety, that sense of something NOT FINISHED (which is, of course, the lives we wanted to continue to share with them), the tossing and turning. I remember doing the same thing you did: counting my blessings, remembering I was so, so lucky in a world rife with danger and horror and needs so deep. But some nights that made me feel worse, that I could not let go and be glad in the face of everything I missed. I'm so happy you got this one night; may it carry you through the others you may still face of restlessness, grief and memory. xox

  9. The bills. The bills are what keep me awake. Not hardly a comparison to the loss off your sweet mom, but something that makes my eyelids remain open until the wee hours. Trying to shut off my brain with thoughts of what good there is rather than the worry and anxiety and what ifs (OH, THE WHAT IFS! Who knew I was so imaginative?). I should not have to be reminded to think of the good things I am grateful for but thank you for doing so.

  10. This was lovely. Counting blessings instead of sheep. Will I remember this when I'm lying in bed worrying about everything? I will try. Also, having lost both of my parents, I can assure you it gets easier. The loss doesn't go away, but you get used to it.

  11. When I wake at night, there is always a worry that causes it. How I want to push that away and find sleep again. I've never been thoughtful enough to think of the blessings we have to lull me back into peace. I wonder if the next time I'm wakened by worry I'll remember to do this. I hope so.

  12. I used to "count sheep" but somehow always imagined actual sheep until I read somewhere that just counting, period, is enough to kick your brain off the worrying tract and into a rhythmic pattern that lulls you to sleep. I also make a mental list of 15 things I'm grateful for, each night. So either the counting or the list puts me out. Also, it has GOT to be cold in the room for me to sleep. Most people are kept awake because the room is too warm.

  13. So wonderful. I'm glad you got some sleep. Counting blessings is much more fun than sheep.


  14. I'm so sorry for your loss.

    Counting blessings rather than sheep sounds a lot more productive. Even without the sleeping bliss, your mindset shifted and uplifted.

    1. Thank you, Tammy, it's sad, and will stay this deeply sad for quite awhile. xo

  15. This is so beautiful. You are indeed blessed, and so are all of us who encounter you.

  16. you're very very loved you know.
    I'm glad that knowing that helps you sleep soundly and well.


  17. I'm so glad. Sleep is precious and remembering all the good things is smart. Things always look bleaker in the middle of the night. I have insomnia so I'll tell you one thing I've learned in case it helps. Anxiety is often your brain's way of telling you another emotion isn't getting out. Like grief. Are you giving yourself a chance to feel it, cry, talk to a friend (or a therapist), tell the story of your mom's death one more time? I tend to immerse myself in BUSYBUSYBUSY during the day and I think I'm fine and then night time anxiety bites me on the back side. Love you.

  18. My sweet friend, you inspire me daily with your words, your intelligence, your humor and your wit. So grateful that you are in your life. Your mother truly lived her last days, and that was because of you and your love. xoxo



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