The upside of insomnia: creative time in disguise

It started at 2am, when I bolted awake, heart racing and pounding like a man on fire inside my chest. I immediately took action, launching into my trusty Insomnia Routine, which consists of a series of mind games I use to try and trick myself into feeling very very sleepy:

2:09am: I am on a beach. Hear the waves. Feel the hot sand. Smell the coconut tanning oil. Hear the sea gulls cawing in lazy circles in blue sky. Caw caw. My running to-do list from work runs across the beach.

2:17am I am submerged in quick sand. Each part of my body floats down, down, down. I am melting into the quick sand. My arms, shoulders, neck, even my hair. That reminds me, my daughter needs a haircut, my client didn’t seem thrilled with my pitch, and I have no idea how to find my way in to that video project, let alone get it done in time.

2:34am I contemplate counting sheep. Dogs. Cats. Cigars. I have to pee. I’m hot. Hubby starts snoring. The dog (who is more like a horse at 70 pounds  and has no business being in my bed) is kicking me in the kidneys.

2:51am: I get up, grab my journal, and head for my office.

This used to go on for two or three hours, so I’ve made progress. I’ve had insomnia off and on since I was a child, so I’ve had time to fine tune. (I once went for a week without sleeping. I was afraid of me that week.) I used to squeeze my eyes shut tight and will myself to sleep, anything to stop watching the clock, counting down the minutes until my alarm went off and my day started, a day that I anticipated to be long, excruciating and exhausting. which made me angry so I squeezed my eyes shut even tighter and clenched my jaws too. SLEEP DAMMIT!

But I’m older now. Not necessarily wiser, but definitely mellower. Have you ever heard of found time? I don’t recall where I first heard of the concept, but it’s the perspective that any unexpected down time, such as waiting in a long line at the grocery store or post office, is extra time you can use however you wish. Warning: too much found time can make you just as angry as not being able to sleep (I am thinking of several long flight delays), but I usually carry a book, notebook, even my laptop wherever I go because you never know when a pocket of found time will pop up. You have to seize it when it pops.

Right now I’m sitting on my couch wrapped in a white blanket and black night and delicious silence with the freedom to write and work for as long as I am awake. No phone, no email, no interruptions. I can actually do and think about one thing at a time, rather than worry about 17 things at once while simultaneously helping one kid with fractions homework (ugh) and helping the other kid make his lunch while simultaneously feeding the dogs, paying bills and putting laundry away while simultaneously ordering a pizza and having a complete mental block when the girl asks for my phone number. (Sorry Mom for making fun of you when you used to say five other names–including the dog’s–before finally spitting out mine back in the day.)

No wonder I can’t sleep.

But multi-tasking challenges aside, I like to look at my insomnia as my pocket of uninterrupted, found reflective time in the middle of the night for writing, journaling, thinking, reading. It’s like a creative trigger, popping up when life is too busy and crazy and the world feels out of control, reminding me–forcing me–to take my little slice of creative time wherever I can get it.

Get Creative: Make found time in your day today for your creative project.

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