When I was eight years old I nearly slept through the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Nearly, not for the vigorous tumbling of the great earth, but instead for the violent shouting of my father, “Cassie! Cassie!” as his strong hands wrenched me from bed to join him and my small, frightened brother in the cramped “hallway” between our bedrooms, the three of us clinging to the swaying beams of the doorways, waiting in that terrible twilight for the ground to still.
I remember no fear, only the annoyance of being so roughly pulled from my sleep, the irritation at the inconsolable crying of my four-year-old brother, “No more bumpies Daddy! No more bumpies!”
But that same girl, fearless and somnolent in the face of nature’s fury, was also prone to insomnia while staying at her mother’s house. Counting sheep was just never enough to put me down. Instead, once I was sure everyone had fallen asleep, blanket and pillow in hand, I quietly, quietly tiptoed down the hall to find meager comfort on the floor outside my mother’s room, sometimes under my brother’s elevated bed. I remember clinging to my Tiger Electronics Talkboy in the dark, a tape of Raffi singing “Baby Beluga” playing just audibly under my pillow so as to not wake the others.
So which was the real little Cassie? The utterly fearless or the desperately afraid?
And now? What about now? Which is the real me? The magna cum laude graduate? The woman who upended her life three times in her twenties to find gainful employment and meaning throughout our Great Recession? Or the woman who needs the 10 milligrams of Lexapro to keep the crying at bay? The woman who has had to leave two jobs to seek help? The woman whose mind sometimes races so violently to catastrophe that yoga and meditation and seven years of therapy have been unable to rein it in, that sometimes the only answer is a 0.5 milligram tablet of Ativan?
I think too often we create these kinds of false dichotomies. We hold on to the idea of a “true” self, and set off on a grand journey to seek it out.
But both of those little girls were me. And both of those women are me. And the longer I look for my “true” self, the more I realize there is no true self to discover. The more I watch my mind work, the more I discover not the essence of my soul, but instead a dynamic being with shifting tendencies. Perhaps the more helpful search then is not for the yet discovered “true” self, but instead for the environment that best supports my tendencies toward kindness, happiness, or at the very least, toward stability.
Hefty doses of sunshine boost my optimism. Serious conversation keeps my mind positively engaged. A good breakfast (no added sugar) keeps the hangry at bay.
This, this current, stable(-ish!) me, this is the best version of myself I know how to foster with the tools I have at hand. It is work to keep her in this place.
And even after all this effort, counting sheep is still not enough to lull me to sleep. Now crocheting sheep, that is slightly more helpful, but I’ve found audio tracks of Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentaries to be my best sleep aid.
I imagine your work will be different, but hopefully no less rewarding. May you find the space, the people, the small elements of life, that help you foster the best version of the particular human being that only you can create.
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This amigurumi sheep was made using Lydia Tresselt’s Lupo the Lamb pattern. See more of her fantastic work and patterns (including this one) at lalylala.com.