Awakening The Why
It started with losing sleep and later, a series of nightmares, mostly involving death.
The first time this happened, I was sure it was a one-off. It was a typical weekday night. The time on my phone read 9.30pm which meant I had half an hour to catch up on my favourite book at the time. I grabbed my kindle from the bedside table, slid under the covers and with my index finger tapped on Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime. The kids were fast asleep and the mister too as he had an early flight to catch. At 10.00pm, I sat up and said my prayers then slid back in and shut my eyes, ready to drift away. Except that I didn’t.
For someone who has always been a heavy sleeper, the inability to naturally nod off when I get into bed is as rare an occurrence as the blossoming of Talipot Palms. Did you know this plant blooms once in 60 years and dies right after exploding into millions of tiny flowers? My lack of sleep was a no brainer that something was amiss. I remember growing up, my mum was always so irked by my need to sleep past midday during school holidays. I was a lazy child, no doubt, but I chose to hide behind my slumber and call myself a sleepy child. Some days she would let me get away with it but on Saturdays when we had “general cleaning” it was a NO. There’s once she was utterly fed up of trying to get me out of bed so she stormed into my room with a bucket of ice-cold water and splashed it on my bed, jolting me to reality and reminding me I was not royalty.
So on this particular night, I tossed and turned and when some semblance of sleep finally hit me, I found myself thinking (not dreaming as I was still half awake) of death. I imagined myself dead from a ghastly road accident and immediately thought of my younger daughter Xia who had a fever when I put her to bed what now felt like many moons ago.
I sprung out of bed and bolted to the kids’ room, pulled off the mosquito net and picked up Xia who was unflustered by my interruption. I peeked at the top bunker to the sight of my older daughter Xena curled into a ball, her bedding kicked into a pile below her feet. I then headed back to my room, clutching Xia in a tight embrace then placed her in the middle of my bed. The mister was snoring, oblivious to my restlessness and what was soon going to become the norm.
It was now midnight and I was frustrated. How did insomniacs fill up their time in the middle of the night when the rest of the world had retired? I wished I could go for a run but that would only be possible if I lived in Beverly Hills. It was 3am when sleep finally decided to visit me which meant that I was not going to wake up for my 5am morning run, much less have the energy for it.
The struggle for sleep carried on and so did the weird dreams. Some days I would dream I was killed by a lone bull. I would be taking a stroll upcountry and this angry bull would charge from the bushes and gore me to death. This, by the way, was a bull I had outran all my life (in my dreams that is).
I thought about my disturbing dreams. I figured the universe was telling me something, that I was alive on the outside, but dead on the inside. The problem was I didn’t know what needed fixing. So I carried on riding the motions of life, like an empty shell. I stopped finding Joy in everything I used to love. I was too exhausted to run in the mornings, so I halted my runs. I struggled to find inspiration in writing, so I paused the blog. The only thing that remained constant was my 8-5 job which had started to feel like 8-12.
A few months later on a Sunday morning at 8.45am, as we were driving to church, Xena launched her barrage of questions. I was staring outside the window, envious of this lanky guy in a luminous green jersey and swanky red headphones running on the sidewalk.
“Mama, you know we are currently learning about professions in school.” She stated.
“My daddy is a banker. What are you?”
I was at pains to explain what I did for a living to my five-year old. I was still in the investment world but my role had evolved so much in the past year and was confusing and frustrating to me in equal measure.
“What do you think is my profession?” I threw the ball back in her court.
“Ehhhhhh, a writer?” She guessed.
“Well, that’s a good shot. We can work with that.”
That evening I thought about my job. I struggled to remember the last time I was upbeat about getting up to go to work, about working on a new project or introducing a new concept. I envied the mister who took calls even at 11pm from his clients, or woke up at 3am to jot down ideas he had involving his work. The problem was right there, glaring at me yet I couldn’t place a finger to it. Or maybe I could, but I was afraid to admit it.
For another month, I resentfully dragged myself to work. I hated everything about my workplace and constantly hid behind my laptop, typing away to avoid making conversation. I was now only doing it for the money, to afford the life I had carved for myself and my family. I was bitter and irritable and constantly screamed at my kids.
I tossed and turned in the dead of the night for another month. Then one day, on an otherwise beautiful and sunny day, I got to work with every intention of being productive. I flipped my HP Spectre laptop open and instead of working on a Powerpoint presentation that was due, I found myself launching a word document and drafting my resignation letter. Right there, I pulled the plug.
It was an unsettling decision no doubt, but entirely liberating and long overdue.
In the past one month, I have had so much sleep to the extent of dosing off at the dining table while sucking at a chicken bone. I have read four books and found a new love, biking. I am more accommodative to my kids, though helping Xena with her school assignments is still the ultimate test of a mother’s patience.
I have tweaked the blog and I hope you love the new look. The characters are still the same, but the script has changed, albeit slightly. Every first Tuesday of the month we kick off with an inspiring interview with the hope of drawing insights from ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Thereafter we talk about raising well balanced kids and having fun while at it and we close the month with a travel post.
Truth be told, the corporate fire still burns strongly in my heart and I am merely changing the direction of the sails. I just won’t allow myself to die while still alive.