Photo by João Cabral from Pexels

I woke up an hour before my alarm and stared at the wall. It was too early to get up but too late to go back to sleep. I don’t understand people who hit the snooze button. How do you fall asleep so easily? And how do you sleep for ten minutes then wake up feeling refreshed?

It’s such a foreign concept to me that you might as well be speaking another language. No, I don’t understand the words coming out of your mouth. Individually, they make sense, but when you string them together to form a sentence, it sounds like your gargling. How do you do it?

I’ve never been a good sleeper. It’s doesn’t come easily, and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love sleeping, dreaming, and switching off my overactive, noisy brain. It’s the only time I feel any sense of peace, freedom, and quiet. But it takes me hours to fall asleep and, during that time, when everything is dark, all my distraction techniques have been turned off. The noise in my head? It’s amplified and deafening.

I look forward to sleep, but I dread bedtime. Those hours between laying my head down on my pillow and when my mind wears itself out are horrible. That’s when my mind gets jacked and won’t shut up. It yells about everything and nothing. It pulls me up and drags me down. It turns me inside and out. It won’t let me sleep until it has played a few games. 

My life plays back on repeat, and it’s never the good times. It’s every conversation that I was an ass or socially awkward and cringey. It’s every mistake I’ve ever made, every time I’ve failed. All of the moments that my life was a nightmare come back with a vengeance, and the noise is overwhelming.  

If it’s not the past, I play out my future or lack thereof. Again, it’s never the good that could happen if I keep going, but the outcomes I dread. The what if’s and the never’s mock and needle me with their pointy ends. I try to shake them off. Tossing and turning, burying my face in my pillow and quietly screaming.

I’m a very annoying person to share a bed with because I just can’t settle down. It takes me half the night to hit that sweet spot where my mind and body finally agree to shut it down. By then, it’s almost time to wake up and get on with the day.

And I wonder why I’m tired all the time? Go figure.

This morning I woke up before the alarm, but all I wanted to do was close my eyes and drift away. My body was heavy, and my eyes were burning. I felt the fog floating around my brain, and I shivered. I pulled the covers up and snuggled deep into my mattress. I turned my face into the pillow, hoping to block out the rising sun. Blindly, I reached for my alarm and turned it off.

I may have muttered, not today Satan, as I closed my eyes and silently begged the maestro of sleep to play its song one more time. Did it make one last curtain call? Sort of, but there was no heart or any sort of meaning. I hung between two states. I was conscious but asleep. Straddling the line, desperately wanting to fall over the edge, but perhaps my pyjamas were snagged on a rusty nail. Try as I might, I couldn’t topple over.

That didn’t stop the fog from rolling in on waves of tired sighs and mumbled curses. It felt thick and heavy. It pushed me down into my mattress and deeper under the covers. I knew that I should fight back against the encroaching mist. I should look for a light to guide me out, but I let myself sink deeper into it.

For the life of me, in this haze, I couldn’t think of one good reason to get out of bed. What’s the point? That question lives in the fog. It’s never enough, no matter what I do. That thought rides the wave. There’s no point to any of this, and I should just lay here forever. Ah, and now we’re in the thick of it.

A few years ago I would’ve fully surrendered to the fog. I would’ve laid my head back down, buried my face in the pillow, and let the pile of blankets swallow me up. My eyes would stay closed until my body caved in and let sleep take me away.

I might’ve gotten up to grab some sleeping pills to help me get lost in the fog. And I did get lost in it. Hours, days— What’s space/time when you’re living in the fog? It all bleeds together. Nothing has meaning, purpose, or function. Just lay still, let the waves carry you, and let the darkness, the sweet release of sleep, consume every thought, worry, thought or fleeting moments.

But I’m not that person anymore or, I’m trying not to be. I’ve wasted a lot of my days in the fog. Days I’ll never get back. Days lost, surrendered, or stolen? I can’t decide, but I can’t get them back. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. Wishing, praying, hoping, or begging for a do-over hasn’t gotten me anywhere. So, I suppose I’m left with a choice. 

Do I grieve the loss and move on? Do I repeat my past mistakes or, do I learn from them? I can stay in the fog, or I can search for a way out. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but there is a way out of this place. I just need a little light to find it.

But the fog is thick, and it’s heavy. It’s pressing me down. The bed’s the only thing holding me together. If I open my eyes? If I toss the blankets to the side? If I get up? It feels like I’ll fall apart, crumble into a million pieces, and who will put me back together again?

Do you ever feel like this, or am I being weird? I suppose the answer could be yes to both. I’m being weird, but I’m not the only one. This funk… This fog… This overwhelming urge to close my eyes, and dream about a different world or life, it’s so alluring. It’s so hard to resist. It’s not real, but sometimes it feels more organic than the world ever could. 

Does that make sense? I ask myself, how is this my life? How is this the way things are or how it was supposed to turn out? The dreams I have feel more solid and meaningful than my life. Not all the time, but on days like today, they sure do.

Those dreams aren’t real or solid. It’s an allusion or a trick of the fog. In those ancient myths— Greek, I think—- the sirens song drew sailors through the storm and to their death. They sang a song so beautiful that these men would throw themselves off their ships into monstrous waters. They’d drown or get consumed. They were lost to the sea. Another victim of the sirens call.

And that’s what this fog feels like or, it’s how I’ve started to see it. It might not have been the intention of those ancient storytellers, but I think it’s fitting. It’s the same sensation and the same outcome. Instead of being lured into deadly waters, I’m being tricked into wasting my days away and losing precious moments to a mirage.

I know this, and I have to resist it. For my own well-being, I need to get up and get moving. But there’s no reason to do it. No one will notice if I stay in bed all day and dream it away. It won’t matter to anyone but me. So what if I don’t write today or post tomorrow? Who cares if I stay in bed all day or lay on my sofa until I turn crusty? It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.

But I matter, and that can be good enough.

I typed that sentence and resisted the urge to vomit. It feels so unnatural and awkward. It’s the kind of thing that I know intellectually is corrected and valid, but emotionally it feels fake. It sounds like I’m putting on a mask and pretending I’m something I’m not.

A clown in a mask, that’s what I feel like when I say those words. I matter. I’m enough. I’m doing this for me because, gosh darn it, I’m worth it. Honestly, I can’t believe I typed those words with a straight face. Did I sneer? Maybe. Did my eyes roll: Imperceptibly. Do I believe anything I just said: Oo, that would be a no, but sometimes…Maybe? Mostly, saying yes would feel amazing, but right now, amidst the fog, it’s just not me.

Is it okay to lie in moments like this? Well, lie might not be the right word if there’s a chance it could be true. If you came to me and said that you were lost in the fog? If you said that you don’t believe you matter or that you aren’t enough? With my whole heart and every ounce of strength that I possess, I would tell you that you’re wrong.

You matter, and you are enough. You don’t have to be something grand or have your life together to be worthy of living it. So what if this isn’t how you thought your life should’ve turned out? Sure, it sucks, but you’re here with me, and I need you. We need you. Everyone who knows you and loves you needs you as you are because who you are is more than enough.

When I stand in front of the mirror and say those things to myself? No matter how true they are, it doesn’t feel real. It should, but the fog is obscuring my vision and turning my nightmares into perceived reality.

If this was a few years ago, I wouldn’t be here typing these words in an attempt to build a lighthouse to find my way out. I would be in bed, under those blankets, with my head buried in my pillow. I would sink as deep as could into my mattress in hopes that I would disappear.

But that’s not who I want to be anymore, and I’m trying really hard to move away from my bad habits. I’m tired of grieving for the time I’ve lost in the fog. I’m tired of fighting it. So, I’m not going to fight it, but I’m not surrendering to it either. I’m acknowledging its presence without giving into it.

It’s here, and so am I. We’ll occupy the same space for a short while and then it will go away. Acceptance but not surrender. I won’t let it drown me. I won’t let it take away today or tomorrow. I’ll create my own light to keep me warm, I’ll use it to find the path, and I won’t get lost.

And right now? I’m taking one small step and then another. I’m moving forward with my eyes on the light and the path. It will be okay. I’ll be okay. I can be in the fog, and not become a victim of it.

As unnatural as it feels, I won’t let it consume me because I deserve better. And so do you, by the way. Just in case no one has told you that in a while. Both of us deserve better.

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