Some days I wake up refreshed. Ready to start something new. Full of exciting ideas. Looking for ways to do better, to be better, to think differently.
Those days are rare.
Some days I wake up tired. Night is spent tossing and turning, back aching, breathing labored, senses fully alert, with deep sleep only settling in after dawn. I start the day easily frustrated by alarms, early morning light, or the jubilant bird singing outside the window.
Those days are common.
In fact, those days have always been common. I've always struggled with sleep due to an extreme sensitivity to movement, sound, and light. Even as an infant (or so my mother tells me) I could hardly sleep for any length of time. The struggle comes with my inability to nap during the day yet my complete inability to function effectively on little sleep.
When I was young I would cry. Waking up for the 10th time around 3am, I would cry hot tears of rage and frustration knowing there would be little relief in the remainder of the night. I would cry going to bed, knowing that even though I was exhausted, sleep wasn't on the agenda. As I grew into an older teen I tried to learn ways to help my mind shut down, to help my body drift into a sleep cycle, and to be able to stay asleep for longer periods of time. Eventually I came to accept the fact the my 'normal' was waking up many times throughout the night.
For someone who can't function well on little sleep, this can be a debilitating struggle.
The nights where I wake up only 4 or 5 times produce wonderfully stimulating days full of energy and drive. The nights where I wake up every half hour produce days of discouragement, frustration, and apathy.
Those are the days I struggle with self-worth. With wondering how I can be of help to anyone. With feeling like a failure in my career. With feeling like a I just can't push through another night like the one before. With fearing the future and my ability to be even remotely good at being a mother AND wife.
The point of this post isn't to garner sympathy or to find most recommended sleep aids. The point is that we all have something that can debilitate us. We all have something that we feel could or has completely handicapped our ability to function or move forward in life. Some days are worse than others. Some days we'd rather not even attempt, because we know that our attempt will probably result in a failure. Failure in itself becomes a new way to prove our handicap's presence and our inability to overcome it alone.
I've learned through my personal struggle that no amount of 'pushing through' or 'pulling myself up by the bootstraps' can get me through a week of little sleep. At some point, even this tried-and-true way of thinking crashes and burns when my body cries 'Enough!'. The only way I can get through those extremely trying weeks is to be honest with myself about my shortcomings, honest with God about my need of Him, and honest with my husband about how my body is wired.
I've learned to understand that 'this week the house may need to just stay dirty- and that's ok'. I've learned to find relief in 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest' (Matt. 11:28). I've learned to say 'I can't make dinner. I love you, but we're going to do cereal tonight'. I've learned that my strength of body isn't strong enough and my strength of mind has a limit. I'm (still) learning to be ok with knowing that failure is a regular part life and that depression or self-deprecation shouldn't be the immediate follow-up to each failure.
I've come to see that although sleep is beautiful and wonderful and satisfying (and incredibly illusive), it's not the source of ultimate happiness and joy. I've realized that my source of daily joy and inspiration only comes when I choose to start my day with thanksgiving. When, even though I may be exhausted, I choose to serve my husband by engaging with him in a conversation about his day instead of letting my mind wander. When I choose to think of ways to serve or encourage the people around me (sometimes even just through texts or emails) instead of wallowing in my feelings of tiredness. When I choose to have a cup of tea and read or write (yes, handwrite!) a letter instead of binging on Netflix.
Most days I wake up exhausted, but I've found that I can still be joyful because I know the Sustainer of joy and the One who can give my soul rest. I know the Author of grace and mercy and the Peace that I can't even fathom.
I can be exhausted yet have rest knowing that there is One who can fill me with heart-strength and deep, new joy day after day, even in the midst of weeks of dark, sleepless nights.