From two prompts in a writing workshop. The first is a gift that changed your life and the second was based upon a participant arriving late and saying, “Waking up is hard to do,” a joke on the song “Breaking up is hard to do.”
In my marriage I have only asked for one thing. Sleep.
You may think this is a simple request, one typically found in many busy family lives, up at all hours of the night with the ills of young children, racing around between the commuter routes of workers, hobbyists, and sporting play fields. Late nights spent fighting or loving, working our way through the hills and valleys of a life loved and lived.
Alas, these are not the reasons I seek my gift of sleep. I actually don’t need much sleep. Yet I treasure every moment of shut eye I can get.
My idea of a perfect day is to rise before the sun and go to bed long after the sun sets. I live quite well on 4-6 hours a sleep, often barely getting three, though four or five is better. Gifted with the energy of a bulldozer and the enthusiasm of a hummingbird going after a feeder, I plow my way through life, awake the moment the alarm goes off, usually before, and dreading the time I have to stop for the day and lay my head down on the pillow.
My husband has other ideas on sleep. He workshops the sleep gods, and does an amazing job. For him, the best sleep comes early in the morning about two hours before the need to arise arises. It begins with the first beeps of the alarm clock. This is when his morning worship begins.
In the chill of the morning, my eyes fly open at the sound, totally awake. It is usually an hour or two before I really need to be awake, but the deed is done and my motor is running.
I watch as his arm creeps out from the warm cocoon we’ve created to bang the top of the clock. As the clock shakes with the impact, I see that it is six in the morning. I’m awake. Totally and irrevocably, no matter how hard I may try to return to a dream state.
He’s still asleep. Though the decades-long habit, he is barely conscious enough to accomplish this task. He’s started his early morning ritual of prayer to the gods of the night, sleep, and dreams.
For the next hour to two, I will watch him snore, hear the electronic beeps that go off with regularity every eight minutes. His arm slip out of the warmth to slap the clock as he sinks back into his “best” sleep of the night. I should get up, get moving, get my “go on” as my mother called it, but I’m fascinated by the ritual and determined to get just a few more minutes of my own.
Living with him, I wake up furious and impatient realizing I’ve lost those extra minutes when I could be in a mentally relaxing and healing state as the man is beside me with the quick trigger slamming arm.
Over the years I’ve tried everything to change his habit. I’ve switched from the beeping to annoying buzzers. I even tried annoying morning news radio then stopped. I don’t want the first words I hear in the morning to be reports on murder and mayhem by individuals and governments.
I put my foot down, literally, and poked and prodded him from the bed. I even hung my feet outside of the warmth of blankets to gather the cold within them before putting them to his backside to propel him from the bed.
Recently, I decided to change my attitude of battle about this denial of my rights to sleep to my appointed time to rise. Instead I lie in bed and watch my beloved morning snoozer snooze a little longer. I snuggle up against his warmth and think warm and loving thoughts. I grab my smart phone and catch up on my reading, email, or blog, wrapped in his warm embrace.
After twenty years of waking with anger and hate in my heart at the loss of a precious hour or two of sleep, I’ve found safety and comfort in these hours, listening to his soft snores and the rhythm of his deep breaths. While he snores, I realize that the greatest gift I’ve been given is time. Time to love, and time to be loved.