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July 8, 2013

Lisa Madras: Here’s a bedtime story with a hoppy ending

NEW CASTLE — What do you think about when you lie awake in bed?

I have a really hard time falling asleep at night. I've have this problem since I was fairly young, and remember constructing vivid stories in my head as I'd wait for sleep to come. I'd picture my life as a successful grown woman, bringing home huge paychecks, surrounded by my loving children and a doting husband.

During my college years, the wishful fantasies gave way to the recitation of math facts and developmental theories for the next day's exams.  Flash forward another 10 years, and I would find myself drowsily recalling the sweet, milky scent of my baby's head, planning tomorrow's outing, and reveling in the blessing of being this magnificent creature's mom.

Then my world unraveled. And unraveled again. And just for good measure, unraveled a third time. And as swiftly as my world fell apart, so did my night-time musings. The place that had once housed fanciful, sunny thoughts, had now become a landscape of horror — the destruction of a baby's innocence, the betrayal of already tenuous trust, and a single, ever-echoing gunshot.

Instead of protecting me from these things, my mind became an even greater monster in and of itself: You should have done this, you could have said that, you did everything wrong, you made all the wrong choices, you deserve no better than you got, your children will pay forever for your ridiculous, juvenile assumptions that the people who tell you they love you actually do. Trust no one again, let no one in again, love no one again.

These thoughts continue to plague me, without fail, every single night.

I let them have control for a very long time. Too long a time, really. It's frustrating to know there's nothing you can do to keep them from knocking at your door. But the real power lies in whether you let them in or not.

I don't know if any of you have had similar problems, but at the very least, I know that when you lie in bed at night, you're thinking about the bills you can't seem to get caught up on, or that fight you had with your boss, or your teen breaking curfew for the second time this month. These are monsters that hide in our bushes and peek into our windows regardless of our desire to have them disappear. But we don't have have to invite them in, and we sure as heck don't have to make them comfortable and offer them a beer.

Making them go away is as simple as not allowing them in. As trite as it sounds, you have to replace them with thoughts of hope, and light, and all the things sweet dreams are made of. I tell my daughter, who is plagued by nightmares, to think about a field full of bunnies.

"But what if they have big, sharp teeth?” she asks in typical 8-year old fashion.

"Then give them some carrots to munch on," I tell her. "But make sure the kittens don't find out, or they'll show up too, with cases of Pepsi, and want to have a party. Then things'll get completely out of control and they'll be blasting Maroon 5 songs on the stereo and dancing on the tables."

This is usually enough to dissolve her into a pool of giggles, and her worries along with it.

It's generally not quite this simple when you're an adult, but you get my point. Monsters fear to tread where happiness and sunlight live.

Wishing you sweet dreams, my friend.

 

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