It’s what I do in the middle of the night.
January 8 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”
Not breathe. Sometimes.
The middle of the night is a loaded proposition. A time within the 24-hour cook that’s black and white. Yin and yang. Joyful and terrifying. Ripe with relaxation or riddled with insomnia and a recurring nightmare that has shadowed me for 40 years.
I won’t disclose the nature of the nightmare. It is very very personal and rooted in things of childhood that require therapy. I share only that the outcome is always the same. I awaken in the middle of the night in abject terror.
Heart thump thump thump thump thumping hard and racing, racing! Faster than you might think a little organ could accomplish. A heart blaring, fueled by a mix of terror and adrenalin, bursting out my chest — if it could.
Breath hard and fast as if I’d just crossed the finish line in an Olympic sprint. Disorientation.
Always I’m jolted awake and get up. Always. Panic. Fear. Terror. Trying to flee what’s happening in the nightmare. Awakening in the middle because the overloaded body-mind system can take no more. Always awakening. I’ve awakened on my bed, sitting upright. Awakened standing in the room. I’ve awakened across the room. Once I flung myself out of bed during the nightmare. My trajectory was stopped only by the desk beyond the edge of the bed. Some serious shin bruises the next day!
Once, when my sister and I were maybe 10 and 12, our family was traveling due to a reunion and thus we shared a hotel bed. My sister’s a peaceful sleeper. I am not. In the middle of the night, I punched her in the stomach because of whatever was happening in my dream state. I didn’t remember it the next morning but she sure did! “Why’d you punch me?!” “Uh, did I? I was dreaming. Sorry.” Fortunately for her the punch was not of the greatest force of which I’m capable! I’m much stronger than my small stature would suggest, surprising people through the years!
Not breathing. Breath held in terror. In a fight for my life. That’s what I do in the middle of the night.
I also do this. Breathe.
I’m a nocturnal creature. Always have been. Even in childhood, it was hard to get me to go to bed for school the next day. My system wouldn’t shut down without an artificial reason imposed upon it such as school and later jobs. My mother’s side’s the early birds, my dad’s the night owls. A clear distinction it is too, it’s funny.
My circadian clock rings the wake-up alarm around 2 in the afternoon. Takes a few hours to get in gear. I’m a slow waker-upper. Come 5 p.m., I’m awake, alert and ready for my day! In case you’re curious, yes, I’ve had jobs where the shift begins at 4 or 5 p.m. and finishing at 1, sometimes 2 in the morning in the case of my newspaper career. No biggie, those hours! As I’ve often said, it behooves everyone — me and employer — to have me on late shifts! Anything much before 10 a.m. and I’m pretty dead to the world and useless.
Ahhh, breath in the night when there are no nightmares to contend with. The wee hours when most people are sleeping! The silence. Quietude. A crazy world settled down, mostly. The sensualities. Night is the black velvet cape upon my shoulders. Enfolding yet liberating and empowering.
The space. Ahh. The space to breathe. I don’t get that during the day in the world’s hustle and bustle. Night is the spacious sky. Rich with stars and planets and bodies and spinning galaxies and beings that we in our earthly incarnations will never see or fully know.
Night is space and place to relax. Be alone with my thoughts, feelings, and visions. (Memories too but that’s where the nightmares enter.) Or in company of other nocturnal creatures, movies, books, worlds of imagination. Night is space and place to dream. Imagine. A time when because the general world is no longer intruding it becomes my own. Breathe.
It’s what I do in the middle of the night.
Breathe and not breathe.
Live and die, very nearly.
It’s complicated, those wee hours. Yet I would not, nee could not, trade them for the daytime glare. The stars are threaded through my system. The suns and moons of distant places in the dark sea of the universe are luminaries that remind me of home and guide me home.
And there’s one last thing that I do that I didn’t mention. I travel. In the myriad complexities and complications of it all, the breathing and not breathing, the lively nocturnal activities and traumatic nightmares, I leave here and venture there and elsewhere. It’s what I do best and joyfully in the middle of the night.
*today’s title courtesy of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”