By Thomas Brady
Stacy couldn’t sleep. She knew and employed all the good sleep habits and practices as needed over the last couple of years, but sometime her brain simply refused to go along with the plan. Why is it, she often wondered, that we are wired to try to solve the challenges and fears that haunt us most when we are supposed to be lost and fully relaxed in blissful sleep. This conflict seemed like a breakdown in evolutionary development, but she knew there was a reason why we functioned this way. She didn’t like it though.
Some nights she slept great, falling asleep and staying asleep till dawn. She occasionally even had good dreams that were still with her upon awakening. Most dreams were washed away in the outgoing tide of morning, though. There were remnants of them left in her brain, and they indicated something pleasant or awful had been washed up and into the crevices and wrinkled texture of her being, and that she had been the one to create these incoming waves. How strange it all is, she thought as she kneaded her pillow and rolled from her right side to her left, a semi-automatic response, like shifting weight from one foot to the other while impatiently standing in line.
She tossed and turned, unable to sleep because she had been involved in an unusual and uncomfortable interaction that day and was later ashamed at how she had unexpectedly lashed out at another person. She had driven to the grocery store and was pulling into a parking spot when she noticed another car coming from the opposite direction had also started to angle toward the space, but had to stop as Stacy had already begun pulling in.
Stacy didn’t give it a second thought until she was out of the car, and a woman walking by her said “Hey, thanks for barging into the spot I’d been waiting for with my turn signal on. Was it really that important to you to be rude?”
Without even thinking, Stacy snapped back that she also had her signal on and clearly it wasn’t a big deal as the other woman was able to park a few spaces away in the same row, so maybe she should just chill and let it go. What was her problem?
The other woman snapped back at Stacy as they both headed to the store and Stacy felt her anger rising and it led to her calling the woman childish. With that, both women seemed to realize that emotions were rising to a dangerous and foolish level, and although they glared at each other and had to restrain themselves, neither said anything more. They separated, walking in angry silence to the door.
The interaction upset Stacy enough that she had to keep checking her shopping list as her mind kept going over the interaction and she became upset with herself for being upset and for striking out at the other woman rather than simply saying “I’m sorry, I was distracted and didn’t even see you.” That response may have settled the event and even opened a door to a light exchange about crowded parking and traffic.
She couldn’t sleep as she realized that she lived a quiet, conflict-free life, and this brief run-in had completely knocked her off balance. It caused her to question everything about herself and her interactions with others. Why had so much anger rushed out over such a simple misunderstanding? What was really behind the pent-up rage?
Now, lying in bed, when she should be fading into semi-consciousness, she was tense, angry at herself and the other woman, and confronted with an examination of her life. She got up, made some chamomile tea, and sat on her living room sofa to sort it out. She took deep breaths and felt calmness slowly creep back in, and with it, a detached review of the day and event. The conflict was silly, and avoidable, but apparently necessary. A lesson. A reminder. A dashboard warning light that something needed attention.
It’s true she thought. I haven’t been very happy, and I’ve been angry at the world. More deep breaths came with this thought and they came naturally, breathing in awareness. She had acted in a way she disapproved of. Now, sitting on the sofa, she committed to being more aware of herself, and to act in a way that reflected her values. She still felt bad about the interaction, but realized it happened for a reason, and she for one, would learn from it. She thought of the other woman and wondered what life stresses caused her to be so upset.
She finished her tea and hoped the other woman was not lying awake or sitting on her couch in the middle of the night. She decided that if she ever saw her again, she would apologize and wish her a good day.
With that, she went back to bed, rearranged the pillow, and the tide slowly flowed in, immersing her in sleep.