9.27 Late Nights

Walking home from an event last week, I really wanted a shawarma sandwich. Like, would have died for one at that point. The problem was that the trajectory I was taking home had no shawarma place along the route. A magic coincidence occurred. I hit Queen and Bathurst and a shawarma place appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. It had a makeshift sign out front and inside was still half renovated.

I stepped up to the counter and let me tell you, the man working the cash was so happy to see me. His face opened into a wide smile and he welcomed me into his establishment. He explained that he just opened and I was one of his first customers. As he made my order, he talked excitingly about how he used to run a franchise place down the street, but decided to strike out on his own. He asked if I wanted a drink, and when I replied in the negative, he offered me a free one.

I don’t really drink pop, but hey, a free Coke is a free Coke. The rest of the way home, I actually enjoyed it. My gosh, I practically inhaled that sandwich after settling in at my place. It was good.

It would turn out to be one of those nights when my head hit the pillow and all of a sudden, I was wide awake. My mind was churning with everything going on in my life. Like, I said, Come on, brain, stop moving around up there and be quiet - we need to shut things down for a while!

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been taking classes in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). It’s a program through the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and focuses on the relationship between experiences, how you interpret these experiences, and how these thoughts about these experiences turn into feelings. Right up my alley because I am an expert at internalizing external experiences and interpreting them in all kinds of myriad ways. Good ways and bad. Well, mostly bad.

Being wide awake, I tried to remember some of the things I had been learning about. Spiralling thoughts, and how one thought begets another until I found myself in some other weird place. Untangling these thoughts and understanding their roots was interesting, but certainly not helping me sleep.

Okay, got up, walked around. It was only three in the morning. Sat out on my balcony, it was a nice night. Then a group of people, fresh from a bar or a club piled in next door and made their way to the balcony. They were the kind of loud that people don’t realize they were being. Or maybe I’m just getting old? Scratched the balcony.

Instead, I got dressed and walked the streets for an hour. There is something special about being out downtown when most people are sleeping. There’s more intentionality to it. People are only out because they have to be or have a specific end goal in mind. Walking around downtown in the early morning reveals its flaws, the dark corners are more visible, those that are usually in the shadows are on full display.

Thoughts still spiralling with each step. How did I get here? When I’m lost in thought and walking, I often will come back to reality at some point and am surprised of where I ended up. However, my feet usually know where they are going.

My feet eventually take me home. The party on the balcony had broken up. I put my head on my pillow, but the spiral returned. Funny thing when you’re supposed to be sleeping but you’re not. Thoughts get turned around, hands get numb. My normal sleeping position wasn’t working. Try a different one. Sleep on my stomach. Once I start changing position every few minutes, I knew I was in for a long night.

The last resort to when I’ve exhausted all options is to thrust my eyes open, stare at the ceiling, and push into my conscious brain whatever the hell it is that’s keeping me up. So, I threw off the covers, rolled on to my back, and laser beamed my eyes to the cracked cement ceiling.

Okay, let’s start with being a shitty person. Where was this coming from? I had been feeling good lately. The CBT had actually helped me realize the things that made me happy and the things that dragged me down. So, I had been doing more happy things and less other things. It made me realize that my negative thoughts were creations of my own brain and could be stopped, or at least minimized so they created less of an impact. I had been making decisions, good decisions, and stood by them.

I don’t think I’m a terrible person, but feel that way at times. I try to be good, like most of us do, and I’m working at focusing on the positive aspects of my behaviour, while taking responsibility for the negative ones. This is a deep seeded problem, this idea of being a terrible person, and I am uprooting it. I am listening more and more to the people around me, less and less to that internal negative voice. Behaviour reveals intention, and in evaluating this, I can tentatively report to myself that on the whole, it’s okay.

Eventually, I fell asleep with the thought that I was okay instead of the thought of being a terrible person. A good step, if I don’t say so myself.

I am okay, according to the ceiling.

Paul Dore