I’m not sleeping.
Over the holiday a friend asked how well I compartmentalize things, a fairly common question given the work I do. I get paid to think about (and react to) worse case scenarios every day, and luckily, this work has never gotten in the way of a good night’s sleep. Not even in my Army days, or maybe because of my Army days, I compartmentalize, close my eyes and sleep well. But for the first time in my life, since the election, I’m not sleeping.
America, apparently, isn’t either.
There’s a feeling of dread and fear and an unshakable belief that things are going to unravel. For the first time in living memory, too many of us are feeling like the man in the White House is an actual threat to the safety and security of the country.
Last night was another night of turning the lights off too late and finding, again, that the disciplines I’ve practiced over decades failed to fully clear my mind. And these days when I finally do fall asleep, I too often find myself waking every few hours to work on the puzzle that right now has no good answers.
America’s not sleeping, I’m not sleeping. It’s making my dog cranky and most importantly, it is getting in the way of my work. Of being able to bring my best talents and vision and clear head to the most challenging situation in my lifetime.
Last night as I lay there looking at the ceiling in the dark I thought of Benjamin Franklin. Most likely because yesterday was the anniversary of a letter he wrote suggesting it was the turkey, not the bald eagle, that should be the national bird (these are the little random bits that pop up when you’re sleepless and trying to clear your head). Somehow that thought intersected with the clear determination that in order to manage and triumph in these times, I was going to have to bring a discipline to the day. I have work I want to do, words that need to find the page. In order to do that I need rest and space. How, I thought, might I improve the chances for a good night’s sleep? And that’s when Mr. Franklin’s daily schedule popped into mind.
I need to sleep and to minimize distractions in order to have the energy for what’s important. For me that means I have to bring a greater sense of order to the day and make automatic as many things as possible. I want a rhythm I can count on without thinking and structures that are supportive. Psychic energy is finite. It’s why President Obama always wore the same suit. In times of great complexity, you have to pare down the number of decisions you are making, or you simply will not have the energy you need.
That’s where I’m at.
So I am following Mr .Franklin’s and Mr. Obama’s lead. Enough structure to serve, enough organization to include things that result in good health, an orderly home, good work and good play, enough open space to be random when the urge strikes.
Let’s find a way to sleep America. So we can keep doing good in the morning.
You can see my Daily Schedule here.