I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night. Even if it’s not Vera or one of the cats waking me up, I’m just in that stage of pregnancy where sleeping for long periods of time is an impossibility. I usually have no trouble falling asleep, but if something wakes me before 7AM, I have a really hard time falling back asleep. My mind immediately starts whirring away, no matter that the digital display by my head reads 3:34, or that the house is once again quiet, Greg snoring lightly beside me.
Last night at 3:34 I was thinking about what a weird kid I used to be. I think it’s just part of being an only child; you spend an awful lot of time on your own, with way too much time to ponder the world around you. I remember spending hours and hours playing by myself in my room, or in the backyard at our house in Florida. Some afternoons when I came home from school I would immediately head out for either the woods behind our house or the bay in front of it, the last daylight hours slipping quickly by as I meandered along on my own, overturning dead horseshoe crabs under the dock or examining clumps of Spanish moss in the trees.
All this to say, that I think this kind of aloneness had an effect on the kind of person I was…er, am. Maybe I was always this person — self-aware, deeply reflective, painfully nostalgic — but regardless, a way was paved for me that was a bit different than that of my peers. By the time I was fourteen and we were living back in Atlanta, both of my parents having gone through the very first rounds of treatment for their cancer, I was beginning my first forays the world of the metaphysical. Books on lucid dreaming, wicca and self-healing were piled on my night stand, alongside a jar of lavender oil and a well-worn journal that I wrote copiously in every day.
This is what I was thinking about last night at 3:34 in the morning. My adolescent self and how open I once was to the world. Lying there last night I recalled a particular stretch of my ninth grade year when I concentrated on learning how to control my dreams, on how to wake up in the middle of them, yet still be dreaming. Lucid dreaming. I achieved it too. I still remember those dreams, the ones in which I was aware that I was dreaming. I haven’t really experienced them since that time, but I know that I probably could if I worked as hard at it as I did back then.
Around that same time, I was also practicing Wiccan love spells on the boys at school that I had a crush on. One weekend I even convinced a couple of my girlfriends to run naked through my full-moon-lit backyard with me, sprinkling rose petals, in an effort to get tenth grader Mike Huxtable to notice me. (It didn’t work.) Not long after that I was visiting the new age shop in our neighborhood on a regular basis, running my fingers across the trays of multi-colored crystals and signing up for transcendental meditation workshops.
I don’t remember when I started to move away from all of this, maybe after my mother died. She was always a little weird too, always fascinated by the occult, and generally into the alternative side of just about anything. After she died, in my grief, all of that seemed less stable than ever, and in a panic I reverted to an existential stance that felt more comforting. For a long time after she was gone I craved more walls, more boxes, more restraints around my ideas about life, and I left behind my crystals and dream books and wiccan love spells.
In truth though, I never stopped questioning or wondering, never stopped reading about alternative ways of life and feeling tempted to peek behind the veil I’d pulled around my life. I’ve been reminded of all of this more so than ever in the last year, as I’ve been working on this afterlife book. I’ve had to relearn how to open my mind to different possibilities, and I’ve been struck over and over, by memories of myself at a younger age. I know that I was filled a lot more naivete, but I know that I was also a lot braver than I am now. I was so much more confident in my abilities to transcend conventional ideas, particularly those that coming from my own mind.
So this is what I was thinking about at 3:34 in the morning last night, lying there in the dark. Namely that I was impressed that my adolescent self had something very real to teach my adult self.
p.s. Check out this interview I did with author Julianna Baggott on her website. She’s one of those writers that makes me feel all bashful and embarrassed because I’m such a fan of hers.