My mother always told me to sleep on it. “It’ll be better in the morning,” she added.
As a child, this was easy to believe. Whatever elementary school trauma occupied my mind – a friend not wanting to play with me, a C on my history test, striking out every time during a softball game – always seemed to dissipate by morning. Maybe a special fairy came in the middle of the night and dusted my problems away, leaving only small collections of residue that connected beneath my eyes when I woke. It was easy to accept this, even more comfortable to know that somehow the morning sunshine would make everything better.
Then the morning somehow stopped taking my problems away. My mother still had cancer when I woke up. My grandfather was still dead the day after he took his last breath. No fairy was available to bring him back. It wasn’t better in the morning. But, I was better.
There is a power to sleep, a power not of potions and ferries, but of allowing the mind to relax eight hours, of allowing the mind to breathe, to explore, to create whatever it wants. There is a power to dreams, the way they twist and turn through our subconscious, finding people, places, connections we never acknowledge while we are awake. And there is a power to time, to time away.
I teach college composition and take each of my students through the steps of the writing process. I do this knowing that many of them skip the process, go straight to the final draft which they start around midnight the night before it is due. Regardless, I encourage them to put time between the first and final drafts. Write a rough draft, I say, then put it away for a day or two, free your mind of what it says, before coming back to it. When you come back, you will see things you would have missed if you edited it right away.
This is what sleep gives us. Time. A new set of eyes, pupils that are more focused.
And so I keep sleeping on it. When I considered quitting my corporate job to start teaching, when I thought of building a house an hour away from my childhood home and dying mother, when the doctors decided I was infertile, I slept. Every time hearing my mother’s adage in my mind. Every time feeling better in the morning.
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