I have a habit of reading before bed. The word ‘habit’ feels misused, as if I know it should be something else, but what started out as a childhood hobby has become a bit of a necessity. If I want to properly shut down my brain and prepare my body for a restful sleep, I need to read, even if it’s just a few pages. I need to immerse myself in someone else’s story before closing my eyes; one that is not my own. Only then do I feel my brain quiet and settle enough for sleep.
Wow, that sounds horribly escapist, but rest assured that I do actually love my life. I just have a tendency to spend too much time thinking about it.
It’s not like I can’t sleep if I don’t read, I just have a harder time getting there. This is how my brain has always operated. It doesn’t stop analyzing again and again what I need to do, what I have done, where I could improve, what I should have done better, how I could have created a different outcome, what my future decisions should be based on my options, how each move will be perceived by myself and others, and what could be the cascading effects from any and all possible outcomes derived from my initial actions. This could be from something as simple as what to make for dinner the next night, to life changing decisions that concern my career, family relations, friendships, and the well being and growth of my children.
So that’s a lot to think about as I stare wide-eyed into the darkness. Yes, I often find it is better to not dwell on these things and to read a little instead. And it works for me. While I often finish a chapter and shut the light, I cannot tell you how many times my husband has had a good laugh when finds me asleep in bed still holding onto my book.
I love to read. I have always been ‘a reader’, pretty much since I first learned how. When I was a child I often read at night before bed. My parents got me one of those reading lamps that clip onto furniture. I used to clip it on the headboard of my bed behind my right shoulder. I’d read for hours, often propping my head up by making my favorite and most beloved stuffed animal into a pillow.
Then one night this happened:
That right there on my old best friend’s leg is a heat burn from the bulb of my reading lamp. As I lay there with my head propped on his big tummy like I used to love to do, my mind soaking in every word of something like No Flying in the House or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I had his not so little stuffed leg too close to the bulb. I still remember the smell of something burning and crying out when I jolted up and saw the damage that it had done.
If I may, who puts red innards inside a stuffed animal? Seriously, people. You want to talk about shit that dug deep into my 10 year old psyche? That right there was enough to send a lasting chill through my tiny bones.
Oh, that’s Pot, by the way, as in pot belly bear. Yes, I still have him, and no, I did not understand until much later why adults thought his short name was funny. Or that in creating that burn I had actually created a perfect hiding spot for its namesake (not that I did that sort of thing).
So, why I am telling you all this? Recently I came to discover that after I put my daughter to bed, she’s been turning on her closet light so she can read at night. She’s picked up on the fact mommy reads in bed too, always asking about the books or my Nook on my nightstand. I went to check in on her when I noticed the dim light shining through the cracks of her closed door and found her asleep, book still in hand; so much like her mommy.
Unfortunately, her closet light with its soft lighting from several feet away was not producing enough reading light, and I cringe to think of the strain she has been putting on her already troubled eyes. To rectify this we set out over the weekend and bought her a reading lamp. I was petrified about it. I had horrible images of her repeating my mistake or somehow knocking it over and setting fire to the rug.
Lucky for us, apparently technology has improved over the past 30 years. Now they have light bulbs that stay cool! Who knew? So we set her up and when we kissed her goodnight she was already nose deep in her book, her mind somewhere else. Later we found that she had already put her glasses and book on her nightstand and shut the light. When I asked her how she did the next morning she said, “I only read a few pages and went to sleep”.
I smile because she is so much like me, and yet worry, because my God she is so much like me!!! I know I could spend hours tonight and for many nights to come thinking about whether or not she will someday have a hard time quieting her brain, and turn to books to cope. Yes, I could add that to the list of the many things that I could spends hours thinking about. The great news is, I’m in the middle of a really good book…