Sheep, Steep, and Sleep

Sleep fails me this evening. My eyes and thoughts wander around and up and down like I’ve trapped myself into a virtual amusement ride. All of my senses stray from rest. My nose smells skunk, my ears hear street lights, my fingers feel the itchy air prick at what should be smooth slumbering heaven, and my tongue tastes old onions from a nasty I’m-working-too-hard-too-late-again nacho pile.

Every move or sound I make, my trusty white dog acknowledges. When I threw myself out of bed and stumbled for my robe, he uncurled himself and stuck to my side on the way down the stairs to the couch, where he rests his head in the curl of my ankles. Maybe he sees sheep behind his closed lids. I don’t.

Are sheep supposed to bring us to our happy place? Soft stupid white sheep with soothing baaaaaaa sounds? When I try to think of sheep, I see that they are dirty and need brushing or bathing or both, they need clipping or shaving, and some have gaudy plastic identity tags punched through their fleshy ears. They don’t float in a nice round curve over my head, instead these silly sheep bump into each other, nose to bump, and stumble and fall all out of order. Some startle and skip off into a muddy field and I have to go get them and try to organize them all into one calm line so I can count them. One steps on my foot and it hurts like a…

So I throw my arms up in the air, let the sheep wander happily into a grazing scatter, and I wander off into a misty low range mossy hill, which leads me to a forest of cedar. I inhale the cedar and my mind relaxes. Yet the air is just cold and damp enough my nose hurts and my back shivers violently. I find my shoulders up by my ears and my arms curled into strange contortions I suppose in an ineffective way to stretch my thin long sleeve grey t-shirt over more of my exposed skin? My teeth clench and it invokes temple pulsing, which leads to headaches. I can’t sleep. I still smell skunk.

My friends are so far away. One is hurting beyond medicine, one is weary, another is selfish, another is pretty much not a friend anymore, and the best ones are simply far far out of reach, smiling at me and quietly cheering me on from too far away. But just the thought of them wrings tears from my eyes and squeezes my heart in that hurts-so-good kind of way.

If I just stay still and listen, I think two of the best women on the planet, make that three, advise me to make some tea. One insists with boiled milk and honey, the other shakes her head and offers an herbal blend, while the third just stares at me like, “What’s your problem? You’re an adult now, just pick a tea and drink it. In fact, don’t drink it, sip it, and hold the mug in your hands until the warmth is gone.” I love her. “You need your rest,” she scolds me, “You have a big day tomorrow. You can’t make Career with no sleep, Little Sister, so get your tea on and breathe in the steam.”

Once I get my tea, another of the best women in the planet smiles like a magical goddess and brings me a fragrant bouquet from her land. Roses, cedar, lavender, and lemon balm. She sits near me and tells me to sip my tea while she reads me a story about women finding their strength and courage for whatever path they find themselves taking.

The peace will come, and it starts from within, with a little help from the best of friends far far away, tea, and eventually sleep.


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