If I’ve managed to convey one thing in my little series about insomnia, I hope you know this: insomnia is hard … but also, it can be pretty special.
Few words capture this better than the ones below, which I wrote just after the night of my ninth wedding anniversary. It’s one of my favorite posts … I guess because it reminds me that sometimes, the hard things give us our most beautiful moments.
And somehow, that seems like a good place to end.
A week ago…
It’s three a.m. and I’m lying in bed, feeling the slow wash of the oscillating fan stirring the sheets. I settle closer against my husband, stare at the ceiling and wonder — a familiar question — if I’m the only one awake.
I’ve spent my life as an insomniac, and I can tell you: there’s no loneliness as deep and existential as the one that comes when you lie sleepless in the dark — especially beside someone you love. You lean into him, letting his breath tickle your neck, his heartbeat drum against your spine.
Still: while he sleeps, he doesn’t even know you exist.
But on this night, instead of the usual ache of his absence, I sense T’s presence — his breath conscious, shallow. With me, somehow.
“Are you awake?” I whisper, and in a moment there’s his hum of affirmation.
“Me too,” I say.
It’s the night of our wedding anniversary, and outside, the Perseids are falling: shooting stars streaking the black, like they do every year on August 12.
Suddenly it just feels wrong: us, asleep. The universe, awake.
“Do you want to go see the stars?” I say.
We go in our pajamas: bundle ourselves into the Volvo with extra coats and two cups of iced coffee.
T drives us into the mountains, away from the city lights. We drive, and drive, through one empty street and then another, climbing the hills until the black bowl above us is twinkling clear.
And then we stop.
T switches off the engine.
The sudden silence shocks us, until our ears adjust to all the other sounds of the night.
In the cicada-hum and cricket-song we open the sunroof and wriggle halfway through, leaning back with our elbows on the car’s cold roof, our bare feet on tiptoe on the leather seats below.
Somehow it feels like we’re standing side-by-side in waist-deep water. The black sheet-metal shines, reflecting stars.
Time passes, slow as a single drop of water easing down the lip of the faucet. The stars twinkle but seem otherwise unmoved.
And then, the first streak of light tears across the sky.
“Did you see that?” T almost shouts.
We wait longer. Time passes — five minutes? ten? — and more meteorites flash earthward. Some are just tiny dashes of light; others look like small comets, with long tails that leave a smoldering afterglow.
“Did you see that one?”
“Look — over there!”
We watch until our necks hurt from craning them back. Until our eyes feel owlishly wide: unblinking in the starry dark.
And now here I sit at my keyboard, a week later, pondering the way it works:
The way we must put ourselves in the path of wonder, whether that’s the wonder of human love or natural beauty, the wonder of grace or God or goodness.
And I know — there are moments when we stumble over the magic like it’s a tripwire. We skin our knees on the glory and raise our hands in hallelujah. In those moments, the Mystery chooses us.
But those moments are few. And — my God — I don’t want to go through life asleep, hoping and dreaming of the next one.
So I get up in the middle of the night. (Are you with me?) I push back the bedsheets and stumble into the dark like a sleepwalker, hearing that voice at my back, still and small as my Sunday-school teacher told me it would be:
Open your eyes, love.
Open your eyes.
And I walk out into a world where stars fall like rain.
I crane my head back and stand very still, my eyes wide-open.
Maybe you’re standing here, too. ❤