Twenty-Two-And-A-Half Winks

I have a friend who routinely sleeps her way through flights from Honolulu to Washington DC.  I am in awe of her.

It isn’t that I get nervous flying or anything like that.  It is just that I’ve always been a terrible sleeper.  For as long as I can remember, sleep was hard work.  For something that is supposed to be an automatic physiological process, it certainly alludes me. Even when I was a little girl, I couldn’t just close my eyes and sail sleepily off to the Land of Nod. My mother used to dose me with Tylenol the night before the first day of school on a regular basis.  I am not aware that Tylenol has any anti-anxiety or sleep-inducing properties, but she swore by it.  I never had the heart to tell her that it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference.   

What my mother did get right, though, was her intuition that I had trouble sleeping because my brain just wouldn’t shut off.  My mind often manufactured strange sights and sounds emanating from my closet.  I reran the activities, anxieties, and mistakes of the day until the soundtrack screamed inside my head.  Even when I did sleep, my brain tended to stay half alert.  That half alert portion of my mind would entertain itself by telling itself stories… usually not very pleasant stories.  Hence, it was common for me to wake from any slumber I did get, completely convinced that the dreams I had been dreaming were real.  As a child, I sometimes had night terrors. I would awake screaming and crying hysterically without knowing why.  Once in a while, I would even sleep walk.  Even when I grew up, I would sometimes wake to find myself curled up on the floor with no memory of how I got there.   

Understandably, the night terrors started training me to not sleep.  I would be awake all night with some regularity. As anyone with even occasional insomnia knows, the worst possible thing you can do is to lie there in the dark thinking.  I knew that instinctively, even as a child.  I tried counting sheep like in the cartoons, but those sheep always seemed to live more interesting lives than I did.  My imaginary sheep, instead of just leaping the imaginary fence as I counted them, would talk and wander off on adventures.  I tried praying, but this would often end up with me thinking a great deal more than was conducive to sleep.   I tried reading with a flashlight under the covers until my parents confiscated the flashlight.   

Neither of my parents ever had a difficult time with sleep, so they were a bit perplexed when I tried to explain what I experienced.  My mother employed two strategies when she found me awake at some inappropriate hour.  First, she would simply tell me to “stop thinking and go to sleep.”  When that didn’t work, she would haul out the Tylenol.  At least dosing me with acetaminophen made my mother feel better, even if it didn’t get me any more shut-eye.  

As an adult, my sleep never really improved.  I came to accept that there were no monsters in my closet, but the real-life monsters in my head were still there.  In times of particular stress, I stopped sleeping completely.  I remember once, after my ex-husband left me, I didn’t sleep for five nights in a row.  After some persuasion, I allowed my doctor to prescribe some sleeping medication.  I then accused her of giving me placebos because the sleeping pills didn’t seem to help.  Sleep deprivation does tend to make one a bit irrational. She swore up and down that the medication was real, but I still am not sure I believe her.   

I did eventually start sleeping again, of course.  The overall problem continued, however.  When an interaction with a customer did not go well at work, I could pretty much count on spending the night trying to retool the conversation instead of sleeping.  There were lots of times when a simple phone message from a difficult person was enough to bar the door to Zzzzville for me.  When my mother was ill, it was rare that I ever slept more than 3 or 4 hours a night.  I tried all the home remedies.  I tried to go to bed and get up at the same time each night. I tried turning my clock around so I couldn’t see the time.  I tried relaxation exercises.  I tried getting up and doing something calming for awhile when I did not fall asleep after twenty minutes or so.  Given that criteria, I was up doing “something calming” for most of the night.  I took over-the-counter sleeping pills.  What I didn’t do was put my phone in another room so it wouldn’t have been as easy for me to maniacally google every thought that came to my mind, in a vain attempt to find the answers to unanswerable problems.  Again, sleep deprivation does tend to make one a bit irrational. 

Since my mother’s death, my sleep and lack thereof has pretty much returned to my “normal.” Towards the end of my mom’s illness, my doctor prescribed a new kind of sleep medication.   Its formula is designed specifically to shut down the “awakeness” of the brain.  It is wildly expensive.  Also, the pharmacist acted like I was asking him for heroin when he filled the prescription.  I took the hint and only take it when I have gone several nights in a row with no sleep.  It helps a lot. I am also finding that my recent journey of self-happiness is helping.  As my brain gets more practice at living in the moment and saying “yes” to things I want to try even if they are outside my comfort zone, I seem to be able to say “yes” to sleep a little better. 

I will probably never be a talented sleeper.  When most people get their forty winks, I only get twenty-two-and-a-half.  But I’m trying not to let that fact keep me up at night!

What helps you sleep?  What techniques can you share that may help me increase my wink production?  Did you notice a change in your sleeping patterns when you retired? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@@gmail.com.  

Have a restful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

Rising Above

All of you who know me IRL (and, by now, probably most of you who know me only through the blog) know that flexibility and rolling with the punches are not exactly my strong suit. I really prefer a life where things are planned and scheduled. I like to know what will happen and when it will happen. Uncertainty causes me great anxiety. When things don’t go as I expect, I can go off the rails pretty easily. I can think of numerous times in my life when plans went awry and I was left, gob smacked and paralyzed because I couldn’t figure out what to do next.

On my recent trip to New England, life wasn’t playing by my rules. In fact, it might have been the most troublesome trip of my life.

We were delayed for 4 and a half hours trying to get out of the Orlando airport. There were three different mechanical issues that delayed us… each discovered right after the previous one was resolved. Not only did our plane experience multiple problems, those problems could not even have the goodness to happen concurrently. We “almost” left about four times before we actually did make it off the ground. We loaded and unloaded the plane multiple times.

When we finally got the second (or was it third?) safety check, apparently poised to actually get the airplane into the air, there was a further problem. One of the disgruntled passengers was on the phone to the airline headquarters, negotiating at the top of his lungs to get a travel voucher for his trouble. He refused to stop yelling long enough to listen to the safety instructions or hang up his cell phone for take-off. The rest of us were ready to pounce on him. If he had not finally shut up and apologized to the flight attendant, I think we would have had to go back to the gate AGAIN to have him removed from the flight. Had that occurred, I doubt he would have made it to the parking lot without serious injury.

By the time we got to Boston, I had put aside this sketchy beginning to our trip. I was ready to have a good time.

Unfortunately, the travel gremlins did not get that particular memo.

During our sojourn, I tripped over a step in Bar Harbor breakfast room (take note, all you who objected when I said I am an exceedingly clutzy individual.) I remained upright, but a bottle of milk on the buffet table did not. I managed to spill the entire serving carafe of milk on the (carpeted) floor. The food on my plate went flying across the room, with considerable less delay than our plane from Orlando. The bus we originally boarded in Boston did not have a working microphone system, so the poor tour director had to wend her way down the aisle repeating her spiel every few seats until we got a new bus a few days later. We were two hours late getting to New Hampshire because of traffic related to a small-town fair that is apparently attended by the entire population of Maine. Our bus driver nearly missed a stoplight in Massachusetts and slammed on the brakes, sending people and water bottles tobogganing down the aisle of the vehicle. In one hotel, a fire alarm went off at 4:15am, requiring us to evacuate and stand around in the cold in our jammies for an hour. We arrived back in Boston to the city’s first ever hotel strike and the resultant picketing and catcalling. Finally, on the last morning of our trip, as we were packing to leave, the fire alarm squawked. It was a sign from God to go to the airport, even though it was a couple of hours before we intended to leave.

Yes, this certainly qualifies as a candidate for the most troublesome trip ever.

And yet….

It might also have been the most wonderful trip ever.

How could this be? Simply put, I fell in love with New England. And maybe, just maybe, I am learning that a beautiful gift packaged in bedraggled gift wrap is still a beautiful gift. And New England was a mind-expanding, life-enhancing, oh-so-beautiful gift. Everything bad that happened was just the bedraggled gift wrap. I rose above it. I chose to live in loveliness and lovingliness.

I loved the fall foliage bursting with color and warmth and magic. I remember my mother once saying “when you see one tree, you’ve seen them all,” when I asked her how she enjoyed one of the tours she and my father took. For me, it was more like- “if I see one tree, I want to see them all.” I rode, hour after hour, drinking in the landscape as I stared, mesmerized, out the window. I didn’t even blink very often, for fear of missing even a slight smidgeon of miracle. I developed a sort of involuntary gurgling noise that became Max’s “exceptionally beautiful fall foliage early warning alarm.” Whenever he heard me emit my gurgle, he knew to turn to see what was delighting me.

I loved the rocky coastline of Maine- wild, free, and powerful. I loved the food- the lobster and the popovers and the gingerbread and the cheese and the apple cider donuts. I loved the ever-present autumn decorations- pumpkins and mums and cornstalks. I loved the beautiful paths to nowhere- except more beauty- that swirled around the rivers and meadows and forests.

I also loved the serendipity. I loved the way the air smelled and tasted. I loved the quiet, dignified sunrise over Bar Harbor. I loved that Max tried to ring the church bell in New Hampshire by swinging on the rope. I loved meeting a “local” artist who, before living in New Hampshire for about 10 years, had lived about a mile from where Max and I lived in California. He had been the illustrator for the California newspaper that both of us had read most of our lives. I loved the whimsical statues of bears and moose we saw at nearly every stop. I loved the soothing jacuzzi in the ski lodge in Vermont. I loved meeting the little welsh corgi “saleslady” in a souvenir shop in Newport.

Yes, it was a wonderful trip and I am still smitten by New England. I know I will likely never move there. I don’t really want to rebuild my life again. As Max kept reminding me, within a couple of months, the many colors I so fancied in the fall forests will be replaced by one color- white, white, and more white. While I think I could do better with cold than with the Florida summer heat, I don’t have any experience with managing snow and ice. I know I get antsy if I have to go more than a day or two without getting out of the house here in Florida. Winter in New England might give me terminal cabin fever. I have a great life in Florida. I am sure my life is easier than it would be in New England. I have an active life, with plenty of fun things to do. I have wonderful friends who I don’t want to leave.

Still, when the time comes for God to bring me Home, I hope we make a brief detour for a few decades in New England. In the scheme of eternity, it wouldn’t be much of a delay and I think my soul was meant to have a New England life.

I have to apologize for the pictures.  I wanted to share some, but they don’t do justice to nature’s beauty.  Also, I can’t figure out how to get them to line up the way I want them to, so you might have to tilt your head a bit!  Please don’t throw your neck out!  

What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a beautiful day!!!!  🙂

And Now… A Word From Our Sponsor

I’ve wandered off the grid this week, so there won’t be any new Terri Tales today. I know you are disappointed, but I’m sure you can withstand the loss. I have faith in you.

To help you cope with a week without me, I wanted to leave you with a little public service announcement to ponder while I am gone.

I’m sure most of you know by now that I have written a book based on this blog. The book is called Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. I’ve published it under my “real” name, Dorry Curran. The book has been out for about six months now and has been well reviewed by those who have read it. For those of you who have not read it, why haven’t you?

I’d like to help remedy that sad state of affairs by reminding you how to purchase the book. I’d also like to suggest that the book (besides being entertaining, helpful, and thought-provoking) is pretty darn nifty-looking. You probably don’t want to hear this, but we are entering the Christmas shopping season. Also, many people retire at the end of the year and it is sometimes hard to think of a retirement present on top of all those Christmas presents you have to select. Changing My Mind is a suitable gift for every occasion.

You can order as many copies of the book as you like by visiting my direct-to-reader page at: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076 If you use the promo code terri, you will get a 15% discount on paperback copies. You can also get the book in electronic form, compatible with either Kindle or Nook.

If you prefer, you can also get the book at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com in both paperback and electronic formats. The discount code will not apply to those order sites, however.

So, please consider buying a copy or several copies of Changing My Mind. If you enjoy the blog, I know you will enjoy the book. Remember…. I have faith in you!

So, for those of you who have read the book, what can you say about it that might help someone else decide whether or not to buy a copy? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Sending me an email might not really have the desired effect of tempting others to buy the book. Still, if you aren’t comfortable leaving a comment and would still like to say something about the book, I’m happy to get your feedback by email.

Change Your Mind today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂