I think; therefore, I do not sleep

Against all conventional wisdom, and some that's unconventional, I do most of my deep thinking at night, just after the lights go out. It's good I'm capable of thinking deeply - considering I was born blonde - but starting an internal dialogue about philosophical issues isn't something you should start as you're trying to fall asleep. Too much thinking gets all those pesky neurons firing, the squeak of the rusty gears engaging, and puffs of steam bursting forth from the ears, revving the mind into action. The result is hours' spent tossing and turning, my mind unable to switch off and let me go to sleep. And, when I do drift off to sleep, inevitably my husband will turn over in his sleep and snort directly in my ear, startling me awake, activating my fight or flight instinct. Adrenaline pumping, eyes popping out of their sockets, it takes me at least an hour to slow my breathing enough to even get close to falling back asleep.

Yesterday my doctor gave me an asssignment that's basically a philosophical exercise. She also ordered me – in no uncertain terms – NOT to work on it right before sleep. The assignment? Think of at least one purpose I have in life, i.e., one reason the Universe, God or whatever creative force thought it behooved him/her/it to plunk me down on this planet. When she asked me that question in my last session it went something like this:

Doctor:  Why does your life have value, no matter what human mistakes you make, however you think you don't measure up, etc.? Why do you think you're here?

Lisa:  To be used by other people.

Doctor: (pauses, raises eyebrows) Ummm… That's not what I was thinking. Try again.

Lisa: To be God's whipping girl? To be the plaything of a malignant force? To be a cog in the stationary wheel going nowhere, like a hamster in a cage?

Doctor: (eyes popping out in disbelief, eyebrow twitching) Seriously?

Lisa: Seriously.

Doctor: Well … Let's make that your homework. Come back with at least one answer that doesn't make me want to burn my diplomas.

What does she expect from me, that's my question. I'm not here to solve any of life's great problems. Maybe I'm here to give birth to the person who does that or something else that's great, but that egg could have belonged to anyone. Me, not even a speck of dirt in the whole, vast Universe? How can I have meaning? Unless I'm really missing something, my one, little life doesn't mean a damn thing.

I don't say this to evoke feelings of pity. Rather, to say I think it's rather selfish to imagine one's life as having this huge MEANING, that one is indispensible, that without me anyone's life would have suffered such a disruption as to change the course of humanity. I will grant I make a mean meatloaf, but is that reason enough for my creation?

I believe it's good to spend a life in service to others, to live a kind, gentle Christ-like life. And that's all well and good, though of course we can't achieve that standard of perfection. And anyway, that's not me, either. That's not to say I don't do good deeds, or don't care, but I spend most of my energy trying to escape people, as I've come to associate them with using and brutalizing me. I've looked in the mirror to investigate whether there's some coded message there to those who enjoy being douchebags, saying, "Convenient Victim!" So far no luck, but next I'll try an infrared light like those they use to find bodily fluids.

If I had it my way I'd be a hermit, or some version of a cloistered nun, so long as it's okay to have serious doubts about a deity. Of course, I'm not cloistered. I live in a world populated by actual people, but no matter how hard I try I draw a blank as to what significance my single life has, why my one life has any MEANING attached to it. What purpose do I serve that someone else couldn't?

Overthink much?

And this would be one reason I'm an insomniac. If anyone out there has a thought on why individual lives have a purpose, an importance, a MEANING, let me know. And, P.S., I hope this doesn't make anyone jump off a bridge.

10 thoughts on “I think; therefore, I do not sleep

  1. As to the big question about why any of us is here – folk have been asking that for millennia and still haven’t come up with a provable answer!
    So, it may be only tiny in the scheme of things but your blogging has meaning for me! Therefore you have meaning for me. If you weren’t there when I switch on my computer I’d miss you and I’d be the poorer. Think how many times that is multiplied for people who actually know you and are close to you. Therefore, whether you feel it or not, your life has meaning.


  2. Your new “letterhead” is attractive!
    We’re here to enjoy everything we can as best we can and obliged to try to help others do the same.
    That seems too simple but ….


  3. I think your life needs to have meaning for you – not everyone else.
    The problems arise when we measure the meaning of our life with what society/culture/advertising says is meaningful.
    Do things that make you happy. Take pictures, blog, learn, write, explore! Switching on your inner light has HUGE meaning, then when you start living your life according to your inner light, you impact those around you. That’s it. Simple. Content. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad – but that’s life. It’s not as complicated as we all try to make it be.
    And, BTW – you have kept your family safe, loved and alive all these years. You have provided a (im)perfect companion to your husband, you have inspired friends along the way with things you’ve said or done and you started the AAWG! That has impacted me a great deal!
    Just pursue the things that make you feel good. The meaning will follow.


  4. I agree with you that we should not make things easy for our therapists. They love a challenge.
    When I started counseling some years ago, to deal with the failure of my marriage, I went to the same counselor that my mother had used previously. When I introduced myself, I said, “You’ve already met the reason I’m fucked up.”


  5. I’m a night thinker too sometimes, and I read once that the answer is to set aside some period of time *during the day* – that’s the important part- to do that thinking, worrying, whatever. Say, for example 2-3 pm. Then when 3 o’clock comes around tell yourself, that’s it for today. When you find yourself awake, say to yourself, oh I’ll save this for 2 pm tomorrow. Sounds silly (maybe) but I think it works. The idea is to allow yourself time to think those thoughts. I think maybe we think best (worst) at night because we’ve gone full tilt all day and this is the first quiet time.
    And as far as a purpose, I guess the Jimmy Stewart movie really says it as well as any great philosophical texts. The idea that we are all interconnected. And that our seemingly simple, unimportant acts may touch another person more than we know.
    I’ll close with a youtube address. It is very short- under a minute but it features one of my favorite people in the world, Lilias Folan, talking about acceptance.
    I hope this link works – if it doesn’t, try going to google and type in Lilias Folan youtube.


  6. Nan, thank you. That’s exactly the sort of thing my doctor told me, to promise myself I’d get back to an issue at a set time, then keep that promise to myself. I try that and it often does work. I just forget it in the heat of the moment.
    Thank you for the link! Am heading over to see it shortly.


  7. G.B., now THAT is a good line!
    My therapist despises my parents, though she’s never met them. And with good reason. I walk in with a lot of parental updates – and remember, I don’t even speak to them anymore, I hear things secondhand – that make my doctor’s hair stand on end. I think if she met them she’d jump on their backs and take them down. Hmmm. Idea.


  8. Liz, I like what you say about life having meaning for oneself. Women, especially, tend to forget that since it’s engrained in so many of us to take care of others first.


  9. George, sometimes the simple things are closest to the truth, as they say.
    I think once I work through more of my life issues I’ll be able to see things more optimistically. Or I hope so.


  10. S.S., you are unfailingly sweet! And what you said about people asking themselves that for nearly forever, my husband had the same initial reaction. I just hope someday we find out what it all meant. That would be a satisfying conclusion.


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