Early Morning Solitude, Insomnia Re-framed

The still quiet moments of the early morning are now my favorite. I didn’t used to be this way. I love sleep. I revel in the feeling of full rejuvenation upon waking after a night of deep, unbridled sleep. Lately, finding restful sleep has been a problem. I wake earlier and earlier in the morning, and feel cheated, exhausted, and cranky. I needed that sleep to get through the full day of telehealth. The use of this new online forum in the midst of a pandemic uses up and exorbitant amount of extra energy. I needed that sleep, that store of energy to focus and track the nuances of human emotion, expression, and tone of voice. A source from which I draw compassion, empathy and connection to clients, family, friends, and self is painfully low. When that source energy dwindles, it seems everything from which flows tends to suffer. Obviously, sleep is a big deal for everyone a myriad of reasons, and for the time being, I’m learning to function with less. Maybe I can be okay with periods of time in which I function with fewer of the elements I dearly value. Inevitably I find something, another source, in the space left vacant by lack of sleep.

Here is what I’ve found. When I wake with a known sense that I will not be able to fall back to sleep, I get up, make a cup of coffee, and find a spot near an east facing window to watch the sun rise. I’ve become mindful of the sounds that arise in these early morning moments of stillness. First, the tick of the clock, the clink of my cup, the splash of poured coffee, the creek of the floorboards, the sound of my breath, the early morning symphony of birds. Cracking my window or stepping outside I hear the distant hum of freeway traffic, the subtle shift of air as it finds its way through the new spring leaves on the aspen trees, wind chimes, and even squirrel chatter (Why is it squirrels always sound like they’re yelling at somebody like a disgruntled neighbor, or maybe my inner critic?).

I’ve come to love these mornings because they allow a new window of time and space to softly let compassion into my heart. I realize now that the only way I am going to get through the day ahead, is very gently, step by step, and breath by breath. Am I at my peak performance as a human right now? No, and I’m not going to be for a while yet. My best looks different during this time, and that is okay. I can only do the next right thing, moment by moment, taking in the details. These simple yet nourishing details; the soft morning light, the cat’s purr, the sight of a new bird in the yard, the crunch of gravel underfoot, the warm sensation of sun on my face, the windchimes, catching the sound of a child’s laughter, an instrument being played in the distance.

I find a new source of quiet energy in the still, soft mornings of solitude, differing from our ongoing isolation. Solitude provides my introverted soul with a sense of solace and peace, nourishing my mind and heart in moments of exhaustion. I can choose to take these early mornings and turn them into a mindful practice of self-compassion, a comfort for the day ahead. Working from home, two kids trying to accomplish online school without being able to leave the house, and without the virtues of peer stimulation or structured exercise, is complicated business. I can’t blame the kids for their (may also my) noted regression, a neediness of sorts which often results in expression of more full contact emotions more frequently. Amid a pandemic, it can be a challenge to hold a partner’s worry, a friend’s grief, a client’s loss, children’s frustration, sadness, anguish, and fear. I am grateful to have my children with me. I am grateful for the way we have been able to show up for our little family unit with wholeheartedness. I try to embrace our imperfections as we gain more experience with this concept of circling back around to truly listen, empathize, and make amends.

And so, I circle back to the quiet moments of the morning. My respite, my gentle joy in solitude, and my thinking spot. I am tired, fatigued in a new and different way. I slow down, soften, and find my way. I soak in the sunrise, remind myself of my core values of courage and love, and renew my faith in the journey ahead.