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Musings of an Insomniac and the Dog that Loves Her

A very special guest post by Brittany Barron Garcia

· Sleep,insomnia,guest blog,pets

I can’t sleep. This is not a statement I’m making on a night with a full moon when I’ve eaten too much pizza and the ceiling fan is making a weird noise. It’s a diagnosed medical fact.

My mom says that, even as an infant, I “had trouble letting go of my day.” But really, what does an infant have to let go of? You eat, you poop, you nap. There are no events of the day to rerun over and over, wondering how you could have handled it better. No big presentation to company leadership, no feedback from your manager, no school yard bully.

I can’t sleep. Sometimes it’s these thoughts of the day swirling around, replaying with different endings, how the outcome would be different if I’d just have said this or that. Sometimes it’s wanting to make sure that tomorrow I don’t forget that one thing that never quite made it to my to do list. And sometimes it’s nothing at all. Just blankness in the dark, but still sleep won’t come.

Now, let me stop you. Because I know you’re thinking:

· “take some benedryl”

· “why not try melatonin”

· “what about yoga?”

· Etc etc etc

Let me tell you, I’ve tried those things. So let’s move on.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve built armor around my insomnia. Extra blankets folded on my feet. A body pillow to wrap myself around. White noise from a fan or window AC. Cooler temperatures. A few years ago I even did a sleep study. The results came back diagnosing me with five different sleep disorders. Who knew there even were that many? Apparently, it took me more than four hours to reach REM sleep. And I didn’t stay in it for long. Now who knows if that was the strange environment of the sleep lab or just a regular Thursday night. But it’s something. Something I can throw when people suggest taking half a Unisom and a cup of chamomile tea will solve all my problems.

Something that does help quiet the replay of the day and the story telling in my head of what tomorrow will bring. I choose a category of things. Animals, ingredients, movie titles. And I go through them by alphabet. Ants, bats, caterpillars. Anchovies, baking soda, cumin. It helps quiet the thoughts, but sleep doesn’t always come.

But there is one thing. One thing that is more calming than anything. One thing that shuts down the world and leaves me present. His name is Moose. He’s a 70 lb Rottweiler Shepherd mix of love and devotion for which the world will never create an equal.

We have a king-sized bed and my husband works night shifts. I like to face his side of the bed with my back to the bathroom door. I lie there, thinking, worrying, counting, or alphabetizing. And without fail, just when I think there’s no hope and I might as well turn on the TV, I feel it. The oh so gentle pressure of two huge paws behind me. He’s amazingly gentle for such a big dog. I open my eyes, but otherwise don’t move, and I say “C’mon buddy.”

At this invitation, I feel his bigness leap up the rest of the way and flop down behind me. He likes to hang a front paw and a back paw over the side of the bed, so we lie there in the dark. Back to back. And I feel him breathing. This dog loves me. No matter what I did or didn’t say in a meeting today. No matter what I wear to work tomorrow. No matter anything.

And so we breathe together. And sometimes sleep comes, and sometimes it doesn’t. But at the very least, there is comfort in his back against my back. Pacing my breathing and loving me unconditionally.

Brittany Garcia is an insomniac living in Northern California with her husband and two rescue dogs. By day, she works in healthcare communications and by night, well, she does what she can to make sleep come. On weekends, she enjoys cooking, reading fiction, and watching way too much TV (but don’t worry, no screen time before bed). You can email her at brittany.b.garcia@gmail.com.

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