Dancing In the Rain
All she could do was try
She jolted awake, gasping. Her heart pounded loudly in her chest.
The sheets beneath her back were wet again, her pillow soaked where her neck was resting.
She had been dreaming of dancing in the rain.
She took a long shuddering breath, held it for a moment then released it slowly between her teeth and gently pursed lips, trying not to wake her husband.
Quietly, she flipped her pillow over to expose the other cool edge to lay on. The dry side.
She took another breath. And another.
Her heart drummed out the count of her parasympathetic breathing drill.
In for 4. Hold for 7. Release for 8.
She could feel her pulse thumping in her lower lip.
She pressed hard on the pressure points on her upper arms and elbow creases in an attempt to get her heart rate to slow down again. They were tender to the touch.
Large intestine 11.
Her heart began to slow. It was still fast, but not heart-attack fast anymore.
Damn, she thought. Just that one cup of coffee; and she was awake, shivering as if she’d overdosed on some crazy street drug. Was it just the cold night air or the vasoconstriction caused by the caffeine? Or both?
She lay in her comfortable bed under the soft blue blanket, torn between berating herself for falling off the no-caffeine wagon while holding a non-judgemental space of strangely numb meta-consciousness. Self-criticism and self-compassion were strange yet oddly compatible bedfellows for her this night.
Shannon was right, she thought wryly. Self-awareness isn’t really worth shit unless it was powerful enough to change her actions.
But would she ever change? she wondered.
She had KNOWN when she walked in the door to pick up that drink that it had been a bad idea. But she did it anyway! Why?
That barista at the pizza place had been so cute when she had stopped in before her shift at the spa for her quick pick me up before work. He’d introduced himself as Jeff as she had taken her cup, in a hurry to get to work.
He looked a lot like a young Tom Hiddleston, probably back in his collegiate theater days she had thought.
She had been so tired, and he had been bragging about how much better he could make her REAL butter coffee. He was adorable. And the coffee was absolutely delicious.
Addict. The self-critical part of her flung the label inwards with spiteful and dismissive venom.
She couldn’t get away from herself.
The practical part of her wanted to go back to sleep. She knew that was the more intelligent choice.
But her brain was fully awake now.
The ghostly hoot of a barn owl in the backyard trees told her that at least she was not alone.
A tumble of words coursed through her mind like water in a river. It pulled her inexorably downstream and over the edge of the steepest waterfall. The words dragged her with them. The thumping in her chest felt like water passing over rapids in the river.
With a sigh, she quietly grabbed her phone and glasses as she got up to go to the bathroom. She had to release these words from her head before they rattled around inside of her accelerated brain and kept her awake for the rest of the night.
She checked the clock. It was only 2:43 am. She shivered harder in the cold.
Was it a gift or a curse, she wondered.
Her over-sensitivity to things like caffeine, alcohol, & weed had heightened exponentially since she had entered her 40s.
Substances she had considered fairly harmless, which had in her 20s filled her with energy and creative juices were now powerful stimuli that could send her tumbling over the edge.
It was too much!
Was she slowly killing herself with her white privilege? Or was she just an idiot? Maybe it was just the result of burning away all of her feminine energy with the hard, fiery, masculine habits of her youth.
She wondered at her strange combination of capability and fragility.
Unlike her mother who could push herself for years on end and still keep going, she was overly sensitive to the self-abuse that was caused by elevated expectations. She had to take fairly good care of herself if she planned on remaining functional amidst the unrealistic demands she tended to place on herself in life.
And she really did want to be around for her two young kids as they grew up. She loved them with all of her heart.
Responsibility to her family warred with self-indulgence in this private and shameful struggle hidden behind the facade of calm capability. It played out like a battle scene on mute.
Her lean, sculpted physique was the result of a strange combination of self-disciplined workouts, good food, and these ridiculous episodes of what you might call unintentional cardio training at night when she was supposed to be sleeping. People were always envious of how fit she appeared to be.
If they only knew the truth.
Her healthy appearance belied her strange addiction to her internal fire. A fire of misused passion and good intentions gone wrong. A fire that was devastating her inner landscape and rendering the soil of her very being fallow and frail.
It was all happening behind the scenes of her regular day to day life.
Lack of sleep causes a 70% decrease in the function of natural killer cells in the immune system, she recalled manically.
It was too much information. Not enough good common sense.
If COVID didn't eventaully knock her out, or down, which other disease of modernity would get her first? she ruminated. She was hyperconscious of her disaster-mind state, but unable to stop it. Cancer or heart disease?
STOP IT! she yelled at the thoughts inside her head. She remembered resistence was the wrong way to appraoch, but she couldn't find the space inside of her to remember anything else.
She felt like a fraud.
She was a “health expert” with obsessively large internal knowledge bases of nutrition, Chinese medicine, exercise science, and mindfulness training. A culture and systems scientist who couldn’t even manage to regulate her own vital energy.
A fool with more knowledge than sense, she scoffed at herself.
A massage therapist and integral thinker who could neither calm herself down nor pull it all together.
She took another deep breath.
Part of her wanted to unrealistically run away from everything she loved to go live in a tent, on a deck, under some trees, and near some water where she could write and move and sleep as much as she wanted with NO ONE else to care for.
The smarter part of her just wanted to go back to sleep.
We live in such interesting times she mused with a weird combination of manic and calm energy.
At least the plant-based diet experiment of the last few weeks was having some positive effects on her symptoms.
Her racing heart felt like she had been running, not drowning. It was a cleaner sort of tachycardia than she had experienced in the past. Her chest didn’t hurt and her mouth didn’t feel as much like a parched desert as it usually did when she woke up like this.
Her husband’s calm, grounded touch on her hip made her feel suddenly guilty. Or maybe it was just his scientifically proven, plant-powered hard-on making him restless in the night.
She chuckled to herself. Maybe it was the wolf moon. The light outside was so bright that it looked surreal.
The two of them were ridiculous, she thought to herself.
Could he see the light of her phone as she tapped quietly on the screen?
She was writing under the covers just like she used to when she was in junior high, staying up late to journal with a flashlight late into the night.
Now the smartphone screen on night-shift removed the need for a flashlight. But it felt so very familiar anyway.
She took another long, slow breath.
She should go to sleep and finish this piece in the morning. But she knew the words would fade from her mind.
The kids would want her attention and the hustle of the day would steal her voice from her again. Like it always did.
Morning snuggles would lead to breakfast, then driving her son to school, facing a pile of chores, feeling the pressure to work on her multiple side gigs, all while fielding her sweet little 3-year-old daughter’s constant demands for attention.
They didn’t have daycare because of a combination of fund shortage and ideological resistance to the idea of paying someone else to raise their children.
She felt like a terrible mother sometimes.
She was so tired of stressing over whether or not she had enough cash to both pay the monthly bills AND buy the organic supplies for that week’s meals.
These stolen hours while her household slept belonged to her!
They were the only time she felt like she could take to express herself, and they could be spent either sleeping or writing.
Mostly she tried to sleep. But sometimes it was simply impossible. Like tonight. It felt like an impossible choice.
With a sigh, she turned off her screen. She flipped over to the soothing extended meditation for indigestion on her Insight Timer app and turned the volume to low. Then she crawled out from under the covers. It was time to try and get some sleep.
Maybe tomorrow would be a little saner.
Maybe she would find better balance and more patience with herself in the morning. Maybe she’d be able to ride the wagon of self-discipline for a longer stretch of weeks or months into a brighter future.
Or maybe not.
It was all just experimentation anyway.
All she could do was try.
About the Creator
Kaia Maeve Tingley
Kaia Tingley is a writer, artist, podcaster, digital strategy nerd, and sometimes hot-tempered supernova with a wild, free soul.
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