This wee babe was a sweet weight in my arms every night as he drifted to sleep, often with tiny fingers wrapped around mine. And when he slept, he slept like an angel.
His baby brain would settle into a deep, restorative, growth-focused sleep. And why wouldn’t it? To the outside perspective, his day had been completely basic: Eat, sleep, poop, repeat. But if we looked closer, we’d see all the new knowledge he had accumulated in his fresh-as-snow brain: Learning to smile, learning to laugh, learning to turn over, learning to say Da-Da. They seem like such simple tasks, but imagine the truly monumental process of learning how to form words by listening to a heady stream of sound and deciphering the breaks, the pauses, and–at last–the words, and learning how to associate those words with objects and–more imporantly!–getting what you want.
At night, his sleep cycle would refresh all that knowledge and log it away into his growing sense of the world, to pull out and practice again the next day. Sleep helped his brain grow and his body make growth hormones so that he could multiply in size like a weed in springtime.
Sleep is one of the most important things we do every day: It helps us wake up with a spring in our step, ideas in our head, and hopefully even a song in our heart.
Adults in our country don’t get enough sleep. We are often frazzled and over-tired. Not to paint an overly-dismal picture, because there are certainly a lot of people who don’t fall into this trap, but at our collective worst, we survive on caffeine, don’t eat enough of the right foods, don’t get enough exercise, don’t get enough laughter, and don’t focus enough time on growing our personal connections with the people who love us. And that is why loneliness is an epidemic of its own proportions–we are too frazzled and too tired to do much else beyond dragging ourselves into bed at night, so we retreat behind the TV or our computers and phones, and then try to zonk out for a restless, nightmarish sleep before starting the cycle all over again.
The other night I lost all kinds of sleep–an entire night, in fact–because of an encounter I had with what I will call A Bad Person during the day. The encounter flooded me with adrenaline and shoved me into fight or flight mode, and that night, despite all the Trader Joe’s Well-Rested tea in the world and all the positive affirmations and journaling and reading of a good book, I simply could not sleep. I tossed and turned and got up a million times and finally gave up when I heard the birds singing in the morning.
Thank God for my Good Man who stayed home that day to let me sleep and help me get through to the other side because we’ve learned by now that there’s always another day.
So, if there is a way to start the day that sets us up for success, then I have decided to add a simple self-care goal to my life: How to live the sweetest life for me every day, and how to finish the day in a way that sets me up for the restorative, deep, angelic sleep of a baby. The kind of sleep where you travel and dream and compile and regenerate, where the answers are not always clear but somehow you keep traveling through it.
But that’s a pretty tall order, isn’t it? The idea sounds perfectly fabulous but I realized I needed to break it down a bit into the essentials. Trying to live “the sweetest life for me” sounds so lovely, but also a bit overly perfect, right? Like, does every day have to be a perfect example of self-care and sweet living?
Nope. That won’t work. I have to live the sweetest life for me because I so want to, because I have filled myself with the energy to do it, because I have only this one little tiny bit of time on earth and I don’t want to miss out on any of the good living I came here to do. Right? I want the big life filled with all the big and wonderful things.
But it won’t always be perfect. It won’t always work. Sometimes it will just be a day in the middle of a series of days when nothing seems to happen. (Just like when I used to look at my garden and think nothing was happening until ta-da! an entire garden sprouted overnight.)
How’s that for a synopsis?
I met with a friend who is also an incredibly talented leader and life coach full of magic and feeling who knows how to make people live their best life. Her name is Jenn Gallucci and she is pure loveliness wrapped up into one beautiful human being. I wanted to write down all my goals for self-care and “good living.” She told me to focus on these five things:
- Sleep. ( I know, I know, that’s the whole point. But more on that later.)
So those are the things I am focusing on to add to my sweet life. Want to join me?
Drink enough water so that your body is detoxifying all day long.
Move your body–walk around the yard, go to a class, go for a beautiful hike, do something that sounds fun, and maybe something else will follow–maybe later you’ll feel so energized you’ll want to go for a run or bike casually down a boardwalk or swim a mile–anyway, you might want to do something more strenuous. Or not. Either way, you are moving your body, because that’s what we were designed to do.
Eat a good breakfast. I fail at this nearly every day because I love my cup of coffee so much that I savor it completely. And then I am not hungry. But I need to eat a great protein-filled meal like eggs and greens and fruit. No skimping on the first meal of the day.
And as for stillness, maybe I need a bit more of that, too–time to let my thoughts wander, to rise and fall and escape with my breath. Maybe I do need to try to meditate and take time to dream and visualize and do all those small things that end up having big impacts. I especially need it at night before I try to sleep…
Which brings me full circle to this whole big business of sleep in the first place.
Our lives are inherently busy during the day. They allow little time to summarize concepts and unwind new notions. Nighttime needs to be a balance to all that action and chaos. Night, as they say, is the yin to the day’s yang. Nighttime should be a moment to snatch quiet and stillness, to summarize the day, to be thankful for another day lived.
It’s a time to do your most favorite hobby or quiet craft or be quietly reflective. It’s a time to read, flip through a magazine, write in a journal, take a bath, or do something for you.
I have become totally addicted to hot showers and the pile of books at the side of my bed, to journaling, to my soft pajamas, big wool socks, and to turning down the sheets of my perfectly well-made bed. Also to writing down all the things I am most grateful for in a journal that I keep on my nightstand.
Brian has become so literal about carving out soulful time that he’s taken to whittling spoons. He wanders through our yard and finds beautiful, old discarded pieces of wood from our trees, and after removing all the bark and using fancy tools and spending an evening in front of a roaring fire, he has learned how to carve them into these kinds of sleek things:
Which, honestly, is totally apropos for this whole post. Be like Brian’s spoon. Live your best life. Live your sweetest life. Carve out time for yourself and your loved ones. Shed the bumps and bruises of the day and add them to the burn pile.
And then, in all your quiet and efforts to find gratitude for even the tiniest things you can exhume from the rubble of even the worst of days, try to find a place in your mind that is the place you want to be.
Maybe, just maybe, the morning that greets us tomorrow will be as beautiful as this one. At least, that’s what I am hoping for tonight.