Quilts ~ Inspiration ~ Lifestyle ~ with Nancy Kirk
February 11, 2008
SLEEPING WITH A NIGHT LIGHT
I was talking to another heart by-pass survivor recently and she mentioned that she likes sleeping with a night light. Later when her husband comes to bed he turns it off and if she wakes in the night she feels afraid.
Now this was a woman of "a certain age" as I am myself. She was embarrassed about her need for the light and her fear. But I understood completely. One of the things that happens if you survive a life-threatening surgery, event, or illness, is that you feel fragile.
For all the years of your adolescence and adulthood, you felt strong and capable and only afraid of real terrors - like the first time your teenager stays out all night, or ice on the streets. Then all of a sudden, you feel fragile and that almost any pain or unexplained twitch becomes a "oh no, am I going to have another heart attack?"
And at night, you look for comfort and reassurance. The thing I reminded my friend, is that in the hospital - the last place she felt "safe" - there was always a light on at night. And people moving around. And a call button in case anything really went wrong. I also was very tuned into the fact that there were always people talking - in low voices, but still talking all night.
So when I got out of the hospital, I started going to sleep with the TV on - poker tournaments, re-runs of old shows, and DVDs of The West Wing with four episodes in a row. The thing is, I usually fall asleep in the first five minutes.
It was well into 2007 before I knew who won the 2006 World Series of Poker. I saw the beginning of the final table about 30 times, but never the end. But falling asleep with hundreds of people milling around a casino in Las Vegas and commentators in the background, makes me feel safe.
Other nights, I listen to the end of season 3 of West Wing. Josh brings Donna moose meat from Helsinki. I don't really know what happens at the end of the episode. I saw it many years ago when it was first on the air, but these days I hit the seven minute mark and fall asleep with the busting sounds of an imaginary White House substituting for the safety of the cardiac ward.
Safety is all an illusion, obviously. Night lights don't make us safe. Neither does television, or a special pillow or a stuffed animal - even a real one for that matter.
But we surround ourselves with illusions of safety, because there really are some monsters in the closet.
I turn my television on each morning and make sure they are showing ads on the Today Show. I used to watch reruns of one of my old favorite shows, "Murder She Wrote." Then one day, my son called from college and said "Mom, are you watching TV?" I said "Yes, why."
"Mom!!!" he said "They just flew a plane into the World Trade Center." We all learned that morning that if they are not showing ads on the national news, something major, and probably awful, has happened.
So now I turn on the TV first thing in the morning tuned to The Today Show or another news show. As soon as an ad comes on, I know it's safe to get on with my day.
Of course that's an illusion, too. Because awful things can happen any time of the day, not just first thing in the morning, but I like the illusion and it lets me get on with my day.
Fear is a funny thing. Sometimes it is a real emotion, in reaction to real dangers. But most of the time it's a fake feeling, brought on by our overactive imaginations.
Safety, real safety, comes from facing life as it comes. The only resolution for fear is to do it anyway - whatever it is you are afraid of. It's almost certainly not going to be as bad as you think, and if it turns out to be that bad, worrying about it ahead of time will only make it worse.
In the meantime, if a night light makes you feel safer, plug it in. If nothing else, it will help you get to the bathroom safely.
This is Nancy Kirk, with your Monday Minute.