When sleep eludes me, I use my imagination, become a story-telling mother to my restless mind. One of my most soothing pretendings is to bring back a certain dog friend from the dead, hear him snoozing once again. Kenny was the perfect gentleman, an elderly black labrador with a gentle but resounding snore the memory of which is enough to make me feel cozy. He loved to sleep, and in his later years slept as much as a newborn baby, but with far fewer feedings. The thing was, though, that in order to find sleep and settle into his soothing snore, Kenny needed an edge.
In the living room, he'd settle himself with several spins and then sink his old backside against the front edge of the couch. In the bedroom, he'd get as close to the side of the bed as he could. Once backed by something solid, he'd place his jowly chin between his black paws and dive immediately into rest.
When I can't find sleep despite the memory of that soporific sound, I find myself contemplating what it means to need an edge to rest against. I bear witness to many stories of restless lives in need of boundaries in my practice as a therapist. Rest in relationships--with one's self or with others--with mushy, moving boundaries is as elusive as quality sleep on a sloping mattress. You cannot be sure of where you are, and so, unsettled, you will constantly be wondering if you are about to fall, steeling your muscles against rolling instead of relaxing into the release you need.
Do you have a sense of an edge for yourself? What is your stance toward the glinting sharp solidity of Yes and No? Do the people in your life know what you prefer, how you feel, and what you truly believe? Do you? You are responsible for your own sweet self and no one else. You are in charge of your own skin, your own bedtime, the depth of your own breath.
But this edge of selfhood, the internal locus of control, gets marred and bent or left to starve when we encounter childhood abuse, narcissistic parents, or rigid religious cultures, to name just a few. And we find ourselves hypervigilant , knowing exactly how everyone else in the room feels--but unaware of our own bodies and emotions. We grind our teeth and stamp out any urge to say No to yet another thing someone else wants us to do.
You are responsible for your own dear dear self. What do you know you need to say Yes to today? Which No is begging to be stated lest you suffocate on duty and guilt? The work of growing our edge--building healthy boundaries--creates for us a place to rest and to invite relationship from the center of who we really truly are, not who we think others want us to be. You very well may need someone to help you explore these questions, and this is where the space of fifty minutes once a week with someone who is there for the true you can be beautifully healing. Consider it. For the sake of your own sweet self.