Written by Linda Donnelly
I am very good at sleeping. I can go for eight hours if I don’t set my alarm and if my darling dog doesn’t need to go out. Here’s what helps me:
Teddy bear. Really? Yes. I am admitting to you that I sleep with a teddy bear. He is a black and white mohair panda. He doesn’t have a name, so feel free to offer one. I call him “Bear” and pronounce it with a weird Boston accent, like “Bay Yuh." He was meant to be a gift for my daughter several years ago. She didn’t like him. She said he looked scary. I get that. Bear can look a little spooky at first, with his black patched eyes, but once you get to know him he’s a big love. If he could stand up straight, he’d be nearly two feet tall. He can’t; he is always sitting. That’s what he did for a long time on a shelf in my armoire.
I accidentally knocked into Bear while I was rummaging around looking for a particular black turtleneck, and he tumbled out. I picked him up, looked into his darkly glowing eyes, and gave him a hug. It felt pretty good. So I took him to bed.
Let me back up a minute. I was married for fifteen years and had even lived with my ex- for a few years prior and so I grew accustomed to sharing my bed with a warm, rhythmically breathing body. When we parted ways, it turned out that my big dog, Jim, was a far better bedmate than my ex- had been. Especially since he never drank too many bee-yuhs, but that’s a whole other story. Anyway, if I ever had trouble falling asleep or woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, there was Jim, right beside me; warm, fuzzy, and with the biggest beating heart any dog ever possessed. I’m very sorry to tell you that Jim passed away a couple of years ago. He had a grand long life and was truly loved. Not that that makes his absence any easier. I miss him. And I have no one to throw my arm around in the middle of the night.
Well, that’s not altogether true. I do have Edwige. But she’s a tiny Yorkie and we are both terrified that I’m going to roll over and smother her or give her an unintentional kick and send her flying, so she tucks herself into the farthest corner at the end of our bed.
Which brings me back to Bear. By day, he sits jauntily in front of the decorative shams. At bedtime, I toss the two shams onto the chaise which is positioned at the foot of the bed to give Edwige egress should some teacup-dog emergency arise in the wee hours. Bear has three important jobs every night. I like to lie in bed and read or scroll a bit before lights out. It turns out that he is perfectly configured to hold a book or cell phone at just the right angle so that I don’t need extra pillows to elevate my head which would strain my neck. Just my one usual medium-down pillow behind my head and Bear lengthwise across my chest, his paws propping up my reading material. No pain, no stiffness, no extra pillows to throw on the sometimes less than clean floor.
When I am ready to sleep, I turn on my side, and guess who is the perfect size, shape, and density to cushion between my knees, especially when the left one flares up. What a good bear!
Lastly, if by chance I wake at 3 am with some unwanted, worrisome thoughts or images in my mind, I reach for Bear and hug him for comfort. It works. I calm down enough so that I can take a few deep breaths, and then remember to try some mindful breathing exercises which never fail to relax me. And like magic, after a few in and out breaths, I am back asleep. The next thing I feel is Edwige pawing at my head to let me know that it’s a new day.
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