Throw Out Fifty Things


I haven’t slept really well since the fourth grade. That’s when my teacher, Mrs. Williams, said sternly to our class, you children need to be in bed by nine. That means no television after 8:30. I guarantee you that you won’t do well in school if you don’t get enough sleep!” “Not do well in school?! That would be terrible,” I thought. Listen, I’m the one who said in her little prayers after God blessing everyone in my family including all the animals we ever had (which were a lot..) “And please help me be a good girl and do really well in school!” I’m also the one who did her homework for Monday...on Friday afternoon. (“What a loser!” my younger daughter, Abigail, said..)

So not surprisingly not getting enough sleep became an ever present fear of mine. I’d lie there in my little bed, eyes wide open, worried sick that my not sleeping would make me mess up tomorrow’s dreaded story problems or I’d name the wrong state when Mrs. Williams pointed her pointer at the map she yanked down from the ceiling. (The only one I knew cold was Florida, because it looked funny...) “Okay,” you’re probably thinking, “don’t tell me you’re still like that!” Yeah, the old fear is still there. “Doing well” - whatever that means in the adult version of “school” - is what still keeps a lot of us awake, right? It’s about 2:30 in the morning and you roll over and say to the sound asleep person next to you, “You awake??” “I am now..thanks a lot,” is a typical response. (Even Willa, our Golden Retriever who sleeps on our bed, groans...)

So what do we do? I mean, you can only take so much Tylenol PM. There has to be another way. Here’s what I do: I keep one of those “Keep Calm and Carry On” books and a pen next to the bed. Without turning on a light,  I write down things (just barely legible)  that usually fit into two simple categories: "Follow Up” and “ New Ideas." Here’s what I’m not allowed to write down: anything that has to do with the past, like the times I messed up (named the wrong state) old fears, or nasty regrets. It’s all about moving forward - with energy and optimism; being creative and focused on what I can influence in a positive way.. Negative “what if’s” are absolutely verboten.  And once I write it down, I let it go. I don’t worry about it or  brood over it... or look at it until the next day.

- “Follow up’s” is a rich category. I’m always amazed at the incredibly obvious things I think of in the middle of the night that I completely missed during a chaotic day. An encouraging phone call I could make to ensure a project is moving forward with velocity, an email to a friend I adore who’d never know it given my lack of communication... “Wow,” what if I hadn’t wakened up?” I sometimes say out loud.. (which is a mistake, given the “others” in the bed..)

- “New Ideas” is my favorite. This is where an idea for a  “Monday Morning Motivator” will pop into my mind. This is also where “new patterns” emerge. I might assemble old concepts into a different framework that takes on a whole new meaning. “Maybe the ‘Motivators’ should be a book?” or “How about using my double bi-pass experience to inspire other women save their lives?” Or... well, you get the picture. The point with “New Ideas” is to let ‘er rip.

So listen, don’t get worked up about waking up. Don’t fight it; go with it.Get out your little book and your pen and write stuff down. Oh, and here’s another category: “Good Stuff.” Write down the nice things, the funny things that happen; the compliments you get “Hey, I like your hair! I mean, it’s better than it was..” No, seriously, it’s important to wrap your arms around the good things - as you tuck yourself back into bed. You’ll sleep like a baby. Oh, here’s something I remembered last night: Some of the kids in the fourth grade said Mrs.Williams “liked” Bill, the bus driver. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. Made me laugh (out loud, unfortunately..)

Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns©2012 All Rights Reserved

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