What really matters and why are we doing this to ourselves?

It’s 3:30 in the morning. Actually it was 3:30 in the morning. Now it’s 4:30. I’ve been lying in bed (laying? in bed- I can never keep those straight… I’m not a chicken, so I’m going with lying) with my thoughts going in circles for an hour now.

I’ve mentioned before that when I can’t sleep my husband suggests I clear my mind and visualize a white room, and I’ve mentioned that I stink at doing that. So, my thoughts just spiral on. This morning as I’m in bed (lying or laying), here are the thoughts keeping me from the white room.

A few days ago my son, Spencer (who I will now refer to as I see others do when they write about their kids, by only his first initial- it feels so Dostoevskyan)… Anyway, S asked me if life got more complicated as an adult or less complicated. He said “it just feels like it’s so complicated.” That really bothered me; I don’t want my child who is still in elementary school to feel his life is complicated. I want to help him create a simple life.

Although my response to him was that things change due to transitions in responsibility blah blah blah and a lot of other stuff we talked about involving the dog (you’ll see…), my first thought when he said it was actually three thoughts at once. I first thought, 1. I need to protect him from whatever makes an 11 year old feel his life is complicated, 2. We need to change something, 3. We bring “complicated” on ourselves.

As we were talking I was watching the dog make multiple little circles and shuffle around to different spots on my son’s bed and then making more little turns before finally laying (lying? ughhh) down back pretty much where he started. All the dog needed to do was curl up where he was, but instead he had added in a 45 second process that complicated the whole thing. I told S that I think we do that. I think we add in a lot of unnecessary circles and pacing. Our lives get filled with clutter that really doesn’t matter.

This year I’ve been very intentionally simplifying by getting rid of one item a day. That’s been good for getting rid of physical stuff around my house. Thinking about it now, though, I believe we need to do more decluttering. We need to continue organizing and clearing out in our house, but more importantly in our focus. I want us to be intentional in our lives. I don’t want us to get to the end of our day and feel like we just used it up. Starting today, we’re going to begin talking about what that means and making a plan to focus and simplify. I’ll let you know where our circling and pacing leaves us curled up.

So, that was part of what was whirling in my thoughts. Next…

As I was thinking about “complicated,” I was praying for my son and my family and me. It’s okay, God knows me and that my prayers are more like the dog’s circles with a lot of random stuff stuck in and lots of coming back to the same place. He knows what parts are directed at Him and which parts are just me all over the place. So, as I was thinking about making stuff less complicated, I started really trying to push it all back to the basics. What really matters? What can not be eliminated on the path to a simpler life? Can we get to that and then start building from there?

I think that spot is our faith. Easter is coming and that always increases my awareness of how little we have God in our day to day life. We believe in Jesus. We believe in God. We go to church. We say grace at meals. I pray with the boys before bedtime. Those are all good things, but is that all there is to it? Are we really doing all we should? Do people know God because of us? Do we know God the way we should? It’s a big deal. There’s a song that talks about how you might be right that God is just a fairytale, etc. etc. (I stink at song lyrics), but “what if you’re wrong?” These are things I think about.

Next thoughts…

What all should I pack to take with us to S’s Math Counts competition this weekend? I know, not nearly as philosophical, but still a thought sucker at 3:30 in the morning. I got my cool new Epiphanie camera bag, so I’m definitely taking my camera. Plus, I’m hugely behind in my 365 photo project and this will be a good chance to take some pictures. I’m also finally starting on my Churchmouse Linen Scarf, so I will be taking that project. It’s supposed to be almost 70 degrees one of the places we’ll be going along the way, so I need to wear something for being warm (yay!!!) and then it’s supposed to be rainy, so I need to grab an umbrella and clothes for that. Plus, we need to stop by the school and get the fancy pants calculator S is supposed to take. There’s more, but I can’t imagine you need to know it all.

And more thoughts…

I’m hungry (remember, I’ve been awake for an hour). I really want to get up and start my coffee (very favorite part of my day). And, lots of random swirling thoughts that don’t make a paragraph. You can thank me now for not going ahead and writing them down anyway.

There you have it. All that and more is what was in my head from 3:30-4:00 (from 4:00-4:30 I just kept thinking those same things and trying to decide whether to get up or not).

So, oh husband of mine, how the heck do I go from all that to a white room?

20 thoughts on “What really matters and why are we doing this to ourselves?

  1. You are not alone. Not “in the universe” kind of not alone, in the “I understand how you feel, because that sometimes swirls in my head at 3:30 in the morning” kind of not alone.

    It’s posts like this that make me wish there was a kitchen table we could sit at together and share a cup of coffee, a hug, a nod of agreement about the challenges of parenthood, adulthood, marriage, and the rest of “life”. We would ponder God’s plan for our lives and our reliance on mercy, patience, faithfulness, forgiveness, and grace. We would smile knowingly, maybe even shed tears when walls really fell away. We’d laugh, reassure, offer advice, and when we reached the end of our telling it and sorting it out, we’d pray for one another. We would part facing the same concerns, but with renewed faith and reassurance we aren’t the only one up at 3:30 a.m. trying to sort out the meaning of life.

    The coffee would be good, the time well spent, life would be better. May the peace of God be draped around your shoulders like a warm blanket today. 🙂

  2. You know I’m not one to offer advice publicly or put our private conversations on display for all to see (can you “see” a conversation?) but my advice is to use “lying” instead of “laying” but only because the first thing that came to mind was the lyrics from the Eagles song “Every night I’m lying in bed.” And maybe that’s your solution for sleeping- listen to music. I realize it doesn’t help you shut off your thinking but maybe you need to be open to band-aiding the problem (pun intended) instead of fixing it. I’ll give it some more thought and we can talk more when my self-induced complications bring me home. Q.

  3. It’s such an inspiring post. My son asked us this week something similar:
    Is it more fun to be an adult, or to be a kid?
    It was not an easy one to answer, so we punished him.
    No, we didn’t. I tried explaining to him through a very long soliloquy that there are advantages in being an adult as there are in being a kid, and blah blah blah, and my son drifted away, looking out the window, with a “Shut up, papa” expression in his eyes.
    My beautiful and wonderful wife simply said: “Have fun being a kid, kiddo”, and that was enough. He smiled, and moved on to better things, like settings the cats on fire.

    • I love your statement, “so we punished him.” Ha! I occasionally suggest to my kids when one of them is irritated with the other that maybe we should just beat them and that would solve everything. So, your punishment for asking non one word answer questions is right in line with our parenting. 🙂
      Thanks for the comment. It’s good to know there are other parents with kids who hassle them with the tricky questions.

  4. You are such high quality! I’m convinced that we stumble through life, regardless of how sincerely we try, and the only measuring stick that matters is the direction we stumble. Your stumbles are different from mine so I can’t fault you or even compare us because I can’t know what pressures you are experiencing. I see you circling before lying down again but I don’t know what question you solved in that act.

    I’ve played tennis for many years and learn more each time I play, but I’m still not as good a player as I want to be. But I’m liking it and doing as well as I can with each stroke…and that’s life.

    • I don’t know that I’m unhappy with my circling thoughts either. I think it’s just that I will always be a thinker. I don’t coast easily and I think I’m okay with that and even like it about myself…it’s just not very conducive to sleep. You get that.

  5. I’m with you. I’ve tried meditation, I can’t visualize for the life of me. I’ve tried medication, it all stops working after a while. I’ve tried sound machines, they just keep me awake listening for the patterns. What I’ve found is good when I can’t sleep is getting out of bed. I do something productive, usually a bit of reading or knitting. Never fails, about 20 minutes after I’ve stopped focusing on my swirling thoughts and the fact that I’m not sleeping yet again, I’m ready to go back to sleep.

    • Yep. It’s hard to know when that point is that I should get up. I think I’m usually optimistic that I’ll fall back asleep, so don’t get up until I’ve already been lying (thank you, Jason, for the Eagles grammar lesson) there for an hour. Luckily I seem to go in phases with the sleeping and it’s not an always thing for me.

  6. I’m going to lay this one on ya, and not lie. Ha! I do understand the occasional night awakenings and swirling thoughts. Your musings made me think of Harry Chapin’s “All my life’s a circle.” Great song. Sometimes music can soothe and settle down one’s thoughts. Sometimes silence is best. Regarding S, I think discussing how one approaches life with kids is important, and it’s important to leave things open ended. It seems to me that, in some ways, life has become simpler in middle age. From where I sit now, I expend much less energy caring about how other’s perceive me, or worrying about the innumerable things I cannot control. I have an acute awareness of how little is in our control. Here is where the God part, or faith component comes in. I like the adage: “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” There’s so much wisdom in that.

    I believe in goal setting and working hard to achieve physical and mental goals. But leave some room for serendipity, for others and outside forces in the world colliding with your plans. Saying that is all fine and good, but really accepting it is harder. What happens when the proverbial plane crashes, either literal, or figurative. How will you get up in the debri field and deal with what is. Maybe someone, or thing, or both was at fault. So what. The plane still crashed and there you are in the debri field. Are you praying? Are you praying and helping someone else brush themselves off? Are you angry? Grateful to be alive? Hurting or focusing on how to deal with the hurt? Sometimes we can’t stop “crashes.” Sometimes ya can’t fall back to sleep. But, you can keep the conversation with God, and friends and J, and J and S going. I appreciate your honest and thoughful observations.

    Almost a year ago, one of our dear friends, V’s, world shattered, as her husband died suddenly. I have been honored to see innumerable moments of grace and love in this family, during an incredibly difficult year. It’s been a privilege to see the hands of God extended by so many people in this community. Those helping hands are sometimes attached to folks who would no sooner attribute them to God, then to Kismet, or a cosmic whatever. But, I think, forever, always God is with us, with this family. During our sleep challenged nights, and our busy task filled days. Sometimes that grace, just creeps in, surprises us.

    I also thought of “What if God were one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus, trying to find his way home?” song. By Joan Osborn, maybe? Anyway, you’ve been blessed with some amazing sensitivity, insights and gifts of expression, Kelly.

    Stay open to grace seeping in and the voices, like S’s, and others, who might guide you to new understanding. Love peeking in our your journey. Muse away…but not too often in the middle of the night. Sleep is important. You’ve got some pretty cool folks going on this pondering journey with you. Love on em’ and enjoy the ride!

  7. I love to read all the thoughtful insights your post has created. I am not going to offer any deep thoughts here, as I have not slept more than 4 hours each night in a week. I am going to tell you that I have tried the “white room”, counting down from 20, 50, and 100. I use to be able to count backwards by 3’s from 300 and wear down my brain, but have over used that one and can do it by rote (maybe I’m saving my brain from dementia this way?!) . Curtis says to do a “brain dump”before bed and write everything down so you can leave it for tomorrow. My response is “I don’t know what is going to wake me and cause me sleeplessness each night, so how can I write it down???” So I continue to struggle with sleep and do lots of praying that I can function and make good decisions each day. Maybe more exercise ??

    • Ugh, sorry Kendra! The boys do the counting hung too, but they start at 1 and keep doubling it. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc…gets pretty high pretty fast. You could be here at MathCounts with us!

      • I tried counting down by 7’s from 700, but got so frustrated I kept forgetting what I was doing ! Haha- I did the state math competitions in school, but hated story problems so much I didn’t do well. Ah, I’ll leave it to the more thoughtful and analytical kids like S!! Tell him good luck!

  8. Oh, how I can relate to lying awake and swirling thoughts. I’ve been waking up between 3 and 4am for the past week. My daughter is struggling at school (3rd grade) mainly because she is bored and she’s been labeled and kind of pushed “out of the way.” That in and of itself is frustrating, but we are trying (her dad and I) to figure out the best way to help her without messing things up even more. Thus, the waking and swirling thoughts. I guess maybe there is always so much to give our attention to during the day that the middle of the night is the only time it’s quiet enough to think. 🙂

  9. Hey, thanks for sharing so openly. Yes, life needs to be less complicated and that could happen in a white room… I guess. I’d have made the coffee at 3:30 though… and I’m with you on the laying and the lying…

    But more importantly, life is complicated, and your comments about God are the most important. My love to you, dear one!


  10. Since I have Fibromyalgia, I take pills to help me fall asleep and stay asleep (nice – not going to the bathroom in the middle of the night). Usually I sleep well but there are some nights that sleep doesn’t want to come. My remedies are (in order of their effectiveness): I relive a favorite memory in detail – such as weddings, special occasions, days spent with children and grandchildren, hugs from children and grandchildren, and birthdays. Next I try praying for loved ones and whoever God lays on my heart to pray for. This sometimes takes a while because I keep adding to my already long list. Finally, I get up and have a bowl of cereal or toast. My favorite is Cheerios and toast with raspberry jam. Now, I know that it can be a health issue to LAY back down after eating. Well, I figure people in the hospital do it all the time and it usually helps them.
    Now as far as laying or lying goes, I don’t quite agree with my son. When making the bed we lay the sheets and pillows down so if we crawl in we are laying with them. I also think of the children’s prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep”.
    Now, as far as life”s complications go, I’ve had my share. Because of past events, I have had to find a way to make life easier for myself. So, here are some thoughts. I prioritize my day by doing the absolute most necessary thing. Singular thing. Some days that just means feeding the cats! Then I go on to what must be done so I can keep feeding the cats which is usually called work. This too has become minimal but it keeps the blood circulating. Next, I ask God to give me a little more energy so I really can love my neighbor and help them in whatever they need.
    But, when all is said and done and reflections of the day abound, what really really matters is my relationship with Jesus and with my children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and dear friends. If I circle anything in my thoughts, it is of them and their happiness and safety. I wish for them to have a life simplified, but sometimes it is the complications that help us grow and learn and trust God.

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