subtle signals

I am noticing that my body gives me some very subtle signals when it wants to go to bed. I am so magnificently skilled in ignoring them that I can understand why they might be subtle, but for the last several nights I’ve been going to bed on cue. I’ve fallen asleep immediately and wake with a readiness that typically eludes me. Last night I pushed to get just a couple of extra things done after the cue. Big mistake. Not huge, but trouble falling asleep, weird sleeping, weird waking… I’m SUPER EXCITED to make this my next laboratory. ¬†As I listen for and heed that “bedtime” set of physical cues – I don’t even know how to describe it, but its a signal that says “time for bed” – as I listen to it, I’ll bet it becomes less subtle.

I really have had 40+ years of willfully ignoring it and valuing literally everything and anything I might fancy about staying awake longer – because grownups get to set their own bedtime, thankyouverymuch, and I am a grownup and will NOT be told what to do. What an idiot program I’ve been running (in the name of autonomy and independence – even if it’s wildly personally destructive; hence: idiot). After all these years, it’s amazing it gives me any signal at all.

I should note that at a certain time of night, if i am still up, my body begins to ache so profoundly I cannot but go to bed. If I wait until that point, my very brief bedtime routine is extremely painful and i have a lot of difficulty going to sleep, difficulty in the night, and difficulty waking/being able to get up. Sadly, I’ve let that happen quite a bit. I’m really a lot better than, say, three years ago, but why on earth would I let it get to that point at all? I am going to say this pain begins a minimum of 3 hours after that first, sweet, subtle “bedtime” signal.

This reminds me of the Dunstan Baby Method, which is truly amazing and distinguishes the 5 sounds every human baby makes in the first 3 months of life. Hungry, Tired, Upper gas, Lower gas and Uncomfortable (diaper/temperature). I did not have this knowledge with my first child, and employing it with my second was miraculous. Often we could tend to my son after just a little vocalization, whereas with my daughter she could be in full-steam crying and we were running through our imaginary checklist of what it might be. After 3 months, though, all bets are off and babies have a lot more to communicate. Because of the diversity in how people respond during those first 3 months, they haven’t been able to quantify the “step 2” sounds, because they’re not universal. But, those early sounds are. How many people do you know that have any idea how to listen to a baby?

Times Square or Picadilly Circus are so replete with sights and sounds and signals, it’s virtually impossible to take them all in. We’re being badgered by so many requests for our attention, many of us have difficulty even noticing a sign that is not neon, blinking and blaring. I have been part of that culture, often valuing the exciting over the obvious or the soothing. Maybe it was a time-of-life thing, or maybe it was simply because I didn’t understand the value of myself as a being, interacting with the world and its unfolding in the present moment; instead always valuing some imagined future that I would then try to shake heaven and earth to achieve. That just sounds exhausting. Just writing it makes me feel ready for bed…