After a long phase of insomnia, I’m finally sleeping very well. The trouble isn’t with sleeping, it’s with getting up in the morning! I wake slowly, still melted by sleepiness, still brimming with dreams. As the cold realization that it is time to get up begins to creep over me, I resist mightily.
First there’s denial: “Maybe I’ll check the clock and it will really be 2:00 AM….” Then anger: “Why should I have to get up? I don’t want to get up! I won’t get up!” Then bargaining: “Maybe I can sleep late this morning, then get up a couple hours earlier tomorrow?” Then depression: “What if I never get up? What if I just stay here until I die?” Then, finally, reluctant acceptance: “Okay, here we go. Push back the covers. Feet on the floor. Up, up, up!”
Sound familiar? Well, eventually, it dawned on me that I could make things a lot easier on myself. I realized that although I do need to get up, I don’t necessarily have to leave my delicious dreamy drowsiness behind. I can move slowly, savoring the sleep sensations and dream impressions as I begin my day. This is a revelation! Even if I have to get busy immediately, I can still smooth the transition by imagining this is all part of a dream…
I greet our three cats sleepily in the hall, and feel that they are strange, soft creatures of the night, coming to bring me gifts or messages. When Toby hollers a loud hello, it’s a wild cry of joy that makes my nerves tingle. When Fern nudges my ankle with her wet nose, and Annie bustles past me into the bedroom, I feel myself surrounded by impulsive, encouraging energies. Sounds and smells of alchemical experiments emanate from the kitchen, where Holly is making coffee. In the bathroom mirror, I look like someone else. Washing my hair, I feel the slippery suds and it seems that my mind is being soaped and rinsed along with my oddly heavy head.
The minutes go by, I go from room to room, and each time I turn on a light, the scene changes. For a little while, things are wonderfully strange, and then, gradually, I’m awake and it’s just the usual morning routine.
Although this is how I manage to get going in the morning without jarring myself too violently out of sleep, it’s a good practice for other reasons as well. Smoothing the transition between sleeping and waking can be a great way to remember more dreams. Often, during those first ten minutes after getting up, I’m replaying a dream in my mind as I sleepwalk through the usual tasks. By the time I’ve woken up fully, I’ve got the feeling of the dream associated with ordinary activities, so later, when I want to write it down, I find it’s more readily available to my waking mind.
Lingering in bed before jumping up is also helpful for remembering dreams. We set the heat to come on about an hour before we need to get up, and the blowing of the vent usually half-wakes us and begins to prepare us for the alarm. Sleeping lightly during the interval, brushed by the warm breeze, my dreams tend to be vivid, and close enough to the surface to remember.
We experimented with different sounds for an alarm. I startle easily, and most wake-up sounds are a shock that sets my heart racing and chases all dreams immediately. Even the sounds of crickets or tree-frogs were too startling. But the pulse of a heartbeat works well: even though the thudding is loud enough to really wake us up, it tends to sync with my own heartbeat and wake me gently.
The real luxury is that Holly usually gets up half an hour before I do, and I get to “lie in” for a while longer (like having a long snooze button). Sometimes, I just go back into a deep sleep, but more often I hover in-between, and can enjoy the memory of the dreams I was having, so the experience of continued half-dreaming and the experience of being awake blend in a very relaxed way. Then, if I get up and drift into that sleep-walking state for a while… the transition can be very smooth.
I heartily recommend starting the day this way! The only tricky thing is knowing at what point you really are awake. Even now, at 11:30 AM, I might still be dreaming as I write… The words keep marching across the page in their proper order, but suppose I try to read back over what I’ve written? Will the same words still be there? Or, as if in a dream, will there be a recipe for cheese dumplings or a list of telephone numbers or a picture of an elephant instead? You never know!