Do you happen to remember the very last thought you had last night before you fell asleep?
But what about the moments leading up to it? I'm guessing if you're at all like me, many of the your last conscious moments are spent thinking about what you have to do the next day. It's human nature to mentally prepare for what we know lies ahead. Yet, oftentimes this mental exercise can lead to stress, anxiety and difficulty falling asleep.
What if we flipped it? What if, instead of thinking about what we have to do the next day, we try to think about what we want to do the next day? Or the next week? Or the next year? In a sense, we'd be dreaming before we even fell asleep.
I have been trying. I'm not always successful. But I am getting better. One of my dreams is to one day publish a book that many people value and find pleasure in reading. So as I begin to drift off, I imagine all that needs to be done to accomplish this goal. I know that it will take much hard work, effort and support. And I am able to picture what that will look like. I am also able to picture what it will look when I have accomplished my goal.
I am not naive enough to think that other thoughts won't creep into my head and interrupt my reverie. They do. They will. They have. But, if I stack my dreams high enough, thoughts of obligation and worry will have a much more difficult time breaking through.
Let me tell you, it is a much more pleasant way to fall asleep. As educators, we have a lot on our plates. And they are increasingly becoming more and more full. We spend a lot of time second guessing ourselves and thinking of ways we can be better tomorrow. And there is nothing wrong with trying to be better each day.
Yet, there comes a point when we must accept that we are doing the best that we can. Constantly aiming to get better does not mean that we are currently not good enough. It simply means we are are where we are. And that's okay.
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
We must afford ourselves some time to feel good. Because it is too damn easy to feel bad. That is why I am suggesting we attempt to fall asleep differently. Try it tonight. Start small. But each day add on to your stack of dreams. Until eventually, they become so high, that worries don't even stand a chance. At least not until the next day.
The cool thing about this approach is that the conditions are usually just right. It is quiet. It is dark. And it is still. No matter what we have going on in our lives, we all have at least a few sacred minutes before we fall asleep to build our castle of dreams.
I think of my son who is only four years old. And I wonder what he must think about as he is drifting off. The other day he slept in bed with us. And with the lights out and the room still, he asked my wife and I questions that I would have never thought crossed his mind.
So who made Jesus?
God, we said.
Well then if God made Jesus, who made God?
My son is four and this was what was going through his mind as he was drifting off to sleep?
Clearly my son was not worried about the next day and he was not dwelling on the day that he had just had. Magnificent!
Oh to be four again. Maybe we can be. If just for a small portion of our day. Maybe we can spend our last waking moments dreaming and thinking and pondering. But not worrying or stressing. Not mentally going through our to-do lists. There will be plenty of time for that when we wake up.
And once we learn to do this. Once we become master architects and are able to stack dreams skillfully. Then maybe we can teach our students to do the same. Because I know many of them go to bed like us. Filled with worry and anxiety. But maybe, just maybe. We can earn our wings together. And give ourselves the gift that is long since overdue. I think it's worth a try. What do we have to lose? Sleep?
So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!
J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Fairy Tales