I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately. For various reasons, I find myself waking in the early morning and staring into the darkness for hours before my alarm sounds and sends me off to work. Lately, I've been trying to embrace it rather than fight it. And a few mornings ago, these words by Theodore Roethke tiptoed into my mind like a mantra.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
--Theodore Roethke, "The Waking"
"The Waking" is a villanelle. It's a difficult poetic form to use skillfully, and I'm not usually drawn to poems that stick to a strict rhyming pattern. But this stanza has stuck with me since college, enough to appear in the half-light of my early morning musings. While scholars will say that the poem is about the interaction of life and death, it most reminds me of the power of cycles, of steady growth and a connection to the earth. Even more than that, I feel the importance of the calm discovery (and acceptance) of personal purpose.
And therein lies my problem as of late: I've been on a search for personal purpose, but my search has been frantic and forced. I have been making choices with a desperate need for control, which has only led me to anxiety and chaos. I learn by going where I have to go, Roethke says, and it reminds me to learn from the journey, instead of always trying to dictate my next steps. I have time. I can wake slowly. I can go where I have to go.
I used to believe very strongly in fate, in the idea of things happening for a reason. I let go of that for a while, but I think it's time to return to middle ground. I still believe I have choices, but I think I need to start letting those choices breathe--instead of always watching for the moment that will prove I made the wrong decision. I learn by going where I have to go.
I am finally starting to listen to my inner rhythm, and understand what I need in my professional life to achieve the balance I crave in my personal life. It's about listening to my body and nurturing my mind, and letting go of the things I can't control.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. Roethke reminds me to take it easy--that even when I wake, I will return to sleep before long, and in the mean time, I should move slowly and deliberately. I feel my fate in what I cannot fear. It is easy to be afraid of the future, but if I want to move forward, I cannot fear it. If I "wake slowly," if I embrace the path I'm on and loosen my grip on its direction, I just may be able to find the inner rhythm I've been looking for.
And maybe then, I'll remember how to sleep.