I have never awakened at four in the morning expecting my thoughts to cheer and entertain me. Never once said to myself, "Oh, good! I have waked up to have some lovely, happy thoughts." Nope.
Saturday night, I had one of those episodes where I wake at 4 a.m., pretty alert, and start thinking. Sleep is not going to come again for awhile. Sometimes, before I go back to sleep, and I usually do, I will set the alarm so I will get up when I intended, if necessary.
If I have a strenuous, hectic day ahead, not so bad. I may review my planning, tweak the routine somewhat, add things I forgot or move some task in my mind to another day. If I am anxious, I will meditate and/or pray about it. Often, I read for awhile.
This time was one of those life reviews when, at 4 a.m., my mind taps me on the shoulder and says, "Listen,you jerk, you need to wake up and think about this. I am so disappointed in you." I guess you could say that sometimes, in the dark of night, I am awakened by my hauntings.
Saturday night's waking, I know, was initially prickled by something I said I would do in two weeks and now it has been three. Which led to remembering other promises fulfilled slowly or not at all, and then the promises I should have made but never did. And at 4 a.m., for me, there are no excuses.
I don't know if these hauntings have made me a better person; certainly I will absolutely fulfill the delayed promise that woke me this time. I realize every one of us have had troubles, imperfections we struggle with, but I am sure--at 4 in the morning--that you have done better with yours.
It's just that I intended to do so much more and so much better.
I remember I was shocked when I turned 30. Thirty! Time was actually passing so much faster than I thought and I still hadn't done....x or y, or even z.
I am proud of the times when I have been relatively fearless, and so regretful for times I wasn't. I am more than 70 now, and I thought I would have grown up a long time ago, but I have learned life doesn't work that way. I see persons my age who seem finished. Content. Pleased. I enjoy them, but I still have so far to go. If every life is a kind of mountain we climb, I expected to have been so much further along the hillside by now. No summit in sight. (In site also works.)
I thought I knew a lot about love, and acceptance, and listening. I did know some. I've learned a lot more in the last year.
Philosophically, some one asked me recently, "Who are the people in your life you cannot forgive?"
That is a tough question. Everyone I have ever known personally I can, and have, forgiven. Faceless terrorists, greedy conscience-less capitalists who will harm the very earth as well as people...that's harder. That is more about causes.
The one person I have not yet been able to forgive is myself. So many hours and days wasted. So much more I could have done. Even better books I could have read and learned from. That time can't be changed or altered. It is past. Which is why the serenity prayer begins,"Give me the serenity to accept what I cannot change." It's hard to do.
The paradox is, I waste more energy better spent on the present and future if I fight the past.
So I will continue to struggle, and work to stop struggling and just do what comes next, and accept myself. No Pulitzer. No best-seller. No world tour for the kids, or trip to New Zealand and Australia for me...will I ever get to Boston, even? I'll never marry brilliantly, or hire a chauffer for my old age. I regret that I took the work I loved to do instead of being responsible enough to take at least one of the work opportunities that would have left me, now, with more money. And I sigh. If I don't want to do something, I am awfully bad at it. And that is self-indulgent.
I did read something recently that may help, and I will start journaling these stark 4 a.m. reviews.
I do know I enjoy my life overall, and that I believe my struggles make me a better human being. I am not hopeful of ever becoming such a good human being, though, that I think I shall ever have a time when my self doesn't tap me wide awake at 4 a.m. in the morning to tell me yet again, "We need to talk. You have really screwed up."
I do hope I get better at looking in a mirror and saying with sincerity, "I'm here for you."
I am glad I am hopeful again. And I regret, yes, that I let myself stop being so for a while.
Helen Hayes was one of the people who said, "It doesn't matter how many times you fall down. It's how many times you get up."