That early morning time between the first threads of consciousness and the reality of awareness. Wisps of ideas seep up between the remaining pebbles of sleep. Some dissipate on contact with the morning, others linger, forming clouds of thought. As the gray lifts, I reach out to grab the thought clouds hoping they rain into puddles of colorful words before they evaporate with the day’s busyness.
I didn’t always have the gray. For a long time, particularly when stressed or operating in survival mode, my brain went from the black of unconsciousness to the blaring red of my alarm, and the dull white of things that needed to get done. I woke up everyday feeling like I was late for something, that I had missed something important, that I was letting someone down – and I hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet.
Some of that comes from my family of origin; the idea that the early bird gets the worm no matter how tired that little bird is. That you always had to be productive to be of value. And some was self-induced. As the bird got older, she was up early for long days of work while her FOMO had her staying out late on the other side of the day. The aftereffects of the night’s activities often resulted in fitfull sleep and usually a sizeable headache followed by subsequent and repeated assaults of the snooze button.
My brain could not rest, recover, rebuild, or create in stress or survival mode. The thoughts were tamped down, superseded by the most essential functions: get up, shower, get dressed, go to work, overachieve, go home, eat, anesthetize, sleep, lather, rinse, repeat. My anesthetic was TV, food, alcohol, iPad. I was not a total recluse and had an engaged social life; theatre, bowling, softball – but most of these involved alcohol. The action made the alcohol okay. It became the undercurrent of my activities. It also resulted in loss of self, damaged and severed relationships, and withdrawal from the beauty and color of the world.
The last of those days were in black and white. Awake and asleep praying that the pain and emptiness would end. And they finally did when I made a decision to change how I was living. It has been a gradual process, adding white pigment to the black, and colored hues to the white so life is polychromatic and mostly beautiful.
I’ll admit that the TV and iPad are still where I sometimes go for comfort. I have also been known to watch the Food Network excessively but I’m okay with that. Because I’m watching in color. And when the day retreats, I can slip into a restful sleep of warm browns and deep purples, and wake up in the gray.