Before kids, “Zen” was something I thought was only for bald guys in robes making circles in the sand with rakes. Calm was water without waves. Peace was a hippie symbol. And I didn’t lack any of it.
Then, having a baby made me realize what a total control freak I was (am?). My meltdowns out melted my son’s whenever he behaved in a way I didn’t like. And when I became a single mom with a toddler, terrified and alone, I couldn’t respond in my previous ways of too many substances followed by days of sleep. I had to face it head on with sobriety and find the strength I didn’t have to cope with life’s ups and downs.
After two years of therapy and joining the yoga and mindfulness movement, it became glaringly obvious how much I needed to find some Zen, and that it’s not always the Buddhist monastery picture once you get there. Once found, it’s easy to lose again. But, one way of holding onto it is to realize what steals it from us in the first place, and protect ourselves from those thieves.
For me, worst culprits are those who show up when I don’t sleep.
Sleepy & Grumpy – My Two Most Hated Dwarves
Most human beings morph into Grumpy little dwarves when we are sleep deprived, this much is obvious. What gets me most frustrated sometimes, though, isn’t the deprivation so much as the reason for it.
Before motherhood, I took hours to fall asleep. It’s a common affliction for us perfectionist, type A, control freaks to run down our to-do list as soon as our head hits the pillow and then stress about every item on it until anxiety has us almost hospital bound. Once asleep, though, I might as well have been The Bride in her coma after Bill and his serpentine team of assassins make their kill attempt. I wasn’t waking up for nobody or nothing.
Well settled into the land of motherhood, I now fall asleep easier most nights (and for this I am grateful). And I also wake up at least fifteen times a night.
It took three years for my son to sleep longer than two hours at a time and appears those years conditioned my brain to sleep in spurts. For no reason at all, I will wake up.
Other reasons for waking include my husband and child who move non-stop while they’re sleeping. If either is asleep next to me (that’s right, we let my Kindergartener sleep in our bed sometimes–he’s cute and in a few years, he won’t want to “sleep like a family” with us, so judge us all you want, we’re not kicking that kid out of bed anytime soon), I’m getting kicked, shuffled, nudged, and steamrolled all night long.
Having a baby also blessed (cursed?) me with supersonic hearing. At night in our house, the slightest noise rings through at the volume of a grenade going off. For these reasons, I remain sleep deprived despite my little one outgrowing his sleepless nights.
And I am a person who doesn’t do well with less than eight hours of sleep. My safeguard against this Zen thief: I no longer push myself on the exceptionally tired days. (I’ll bet you expected me to write, “I make sure to get a good night’s sleep every night.” Yes, in a perfect world that would be a solution, but I live in the real world where sleepless nights are par for the course and I’ve needed to learn to carry on no matter what not rely on a good nights sleep to have a good day). I used to get angry when I didn’t have the energy to run endlessly through my day, which I always overbook because I’m trying to accomplish world domination on top of taking care of myself and my family and work to help pay our bills. Now, I accept some things will not get done and the things that will get done will be at a snail’s pace.
I ask for help where I can.
I reschedule and rearrange.
I treat myself well on those days and instead of beating myself up.
Instead of sucking down cup after cup of coffee, I powernap if I can fit it in. If I can’t, I breathe revitalizing essential oils and do some energizing yoga, and I cut the day short if I need to.
If takeout must happen because the energy to cook isn’t there, I forgive myself for the grease and calories we’re eating in place of nutrition that night.
If little one falls asleep in my room because this eliminates the get-out-of-going-to-bed bedtime antics such as needing a million goodnight kisses, well then co-sleeping it is.
There are four other thieves stealing my Zen from time to time, but lack of sleep is definitely the one leaving me the most cranky. Check back for the next in the series, Zen Sneak Thieves – Negativity, and send me a note or leave a comment about your biggest Zen snatcher.
Do you have a mantra helping you be a zen mama? Contact me if you’re interested in sharing it here on Zen Mama Mantras.