Happy People

Last night I woke up around 4AM with one of those damning sinky stomach feelings that only come to visit me in the middle of the night when I am least equipped to deal with them in a rational way. I noticed it was raining outside and this spun me into a tizzy because we had laundry drying on the porch balcony. Despite the fact that it was only a duvet cover – an item that we won’t need for at least another couple of weeks because I just put the clean one on our bed – I panicked.

Everything was wrong, and the wet duvet was emblematic of the chaos I create in my mind and the worry I can’t keep down.

I started worrying about, well, pretty much everything. Money. My ability to parent or to turn the stupid TV off. My ability to be a decent spouse who actually tells my husband what’s bothering me rather than bottling it all up and shaking it vigorously. My desire to contribute financially to my family but my lack of skills to do so by writing. I tossed and turned and very near barfed. Being awake in the middle of the night with things on my mind is by far my least favorite circumstance. In the middle of the night, Life should just leave me alone.

Before we went to bed last night, B and I watched “Happy People”, a documentary by Werner Herzog that chronicles fur trappers in Siberia. We started watching it fairly late so we only intended to make it halfway through, but it was so fascinating that we finished it. As you might imagine, the life of a trapper is not an easy one. He is essentially on his own in the wilderness for several months of the year, only coming back to visit his family for the Christmas holiday. But these trappers would have it no other way. They are in tune with the pulse of life and have learned to trust in their self-reliance. (Or at least fake it.)

These trappers have a predictable rhythm to their lives that I covet. They see themselves in their profession and even if they do worry about their survival (which they must, right?), they seem to know that they’ll be OK because they trust themselves and God.

Last night when I woke up, trust was the furthest thing from my mind. I felt naked and hot. I felt like I will never be enough or do enough. I felt like a failure.

But here’s the thing: against all odds, I fell back asleep after only an hour or so. And it’s still raining, but I have left the duvet cover on the porch. I told B what was bothering me, and he didn’t hold my worry against me like I always fear he will.

I am learning to put more stock in the love that surrounds me. I have a long way to go, but I’m trying. This love that I’ve found in my family and parenthood are my trapping skills. They will help me survive the winter.


  1. This is so…timely. Must be something in the air. Last night I couldn’t sleep, so instead I stayed awake beating myself up for being unable to provide any sort of monetary support for my family and how incredibly helpless that feels. And if it’s anything I dislike, it’s feeling helpless. I beat myself up over a myriad of other things relating to my marriage and my parenting. I just went to town on my own self last night. So this is very timely. Something in the air, or something in the stars…

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only person who feels this way. I know that’s such a cliche, but it really is very consoling to know that these feelings of worry and doubt are universal. I see you as a very strong, put-together person, so to know that you have moments of brokenness and helplessness means a lot to me. xo

      1. That you think so highly of me is such a compliment. There really are no words. And I’m a mess. Such a mess. Related: I meant to mention it before, but it was so encouraging to read that you too were struggling. It IS nice to know you’re not alone…cliche or not.

  2. beautifully written. It’s very difficult to stay in the moment and not worry, but it will be your saving grace. your tribe will get you thru the coldest of winters….

    1. Truly spoken from the heart. Love you.

  3. Sidney Austin · · Reply

    Emily, This is amazing writing ~~~

    Sidney AustinLead Advocate Heroes in Recoverywww.heroesinrecovery.com” believe in magic & always stay connected ”

    >________________________________ >From: The Waiting >To: sidga31@yahoo.com >Sent: Monday, August 19, 2013 11:04 AM >Subject: [New post] Happy People > >The Waiting posted: “Last night I woke up around 4AM with one of those damning sinky stomach feelings that only come to visit me in the middle of the night when I am least equipped to deal with them in a rational way. I noticed it was raining outside and this spun me into a t” >

  4. they seem to know that they’ll be OK because they trust themselves and God

    I was just thinking along the same lines recently. Worrying seems to be a natural thing for me, but the good thing is, I can learn to not worry so much with time and practice. For me it all boils down to a personal choice: will I choose love or fear? What will I let guide me in life? I’d much rather choose love any day.

    1. I have actually gotten a lot better about the worrying. I think parenting (and age) does that to you; when you see how resilient kids are, you begin to realize that you are about a millions times less vulnerable than they are. But yeah, I still have a long, long way to go. I chose love every time though. Sometimes that’s so hard to do, but it’s always the BEST thing to do. Thanks, Darla.

  5. Oh, Besfrinn. I hate that for you. But I am so glad you are finding hope. There are so many people who who love you and know that you are a deeply talented and loving person and a wonderful wife and mother. I love you. You just give me a call if you need reminding:)

    1. Thank you. I wuv you.

  6. Emily, I woke 4 am this morning! Ha, funny to read about this today. I get your business with worrying. Sometimes, when I am alone with my thoughts, they can eat me up. Of course, getting back to sleep is useless. Today, I happened to be productive with my alone time, although I imagine it will hit around 3 this afternoon. Good for you for reaching out. Hugs, miss! Sometimes it’s good to let someone else hold the ball for awhile.

    1. That last line hit me like a ton of bricks in a good way. Holding the ball. Yep. Sometimes I hog that ball a little too much, and then I drop it on my nose in the middle of the night! Sweet dreams for us both tonight, Amy! ;D

      1. Oh Em, I was delighted it was meaningful to you. If that ball gets too heavy, pass it! You can’t be expected to manage all the plays by yourself. Why am I talking sports? I’m not even sports-minded, Em! So long as you’re on the same team, you can pass that ball. I know that’s easier said than done,trust me. I think sometimes people just need to know they’re needed and then they step up.

        Sweet dreams to you, too! I didn’t even get in a nap. I hope that means I sleep better!

  7. First, I have a magic talking stick hanging on the wall in the guest bedroom. So, awesome.
    How beautifully you wrote about the late night worries. I also wish life would leave me alone in the middle of the night. I’m hoping that I become a more veteran mom that I just grow out of it.

    1. Yessssss! Everyone needs a talking stick. It makes life so much better ;D

      I think the good thing about parenting is that when you are engaged in it, those worries tend to be put in their place eventually. I mean, I’ve only been doing this for 16 months, but it seems like the times between these intense worry episodes are getting further apart. We’ll both become veterans together ;D

  8. (Plus, you know how to do baby trapping!)

    I wake up with some of the same fears.
    What can you do, eh? Just keep on keepin’ on…

    1. Yessssss. I am getting to be really good at baby trapping! (I lie; she is getting better by the day at cornering me and making me do her will)

  9. javaj240 · · Reply

    Glad you got back to sleep. Glad you left the duvet cover where it was. Glad you’re feeling more confident today. And happiness? It’s all relative. I doubt that you’d make a good fur trapper!

    1. I tend to agree. I don’t know how to tie a square knot, and that’s the least of my worries.

  10. Usually my anxiety keeps me up until 4AM. I think your fears are normal because you care so much. I also think that the day is nearing when your writing will be contributing to the family coffers. I truly think you’re that talented Emily. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

    1. Thanks, V. I am trying really hard. Sometimes I think I am insane or delusional for trying to pursue the writing thing.

      1. I think in your case, Emily, that eventually persistence will pay off.

  11. I so get this. I think for a while the desperate need to feel like I was making a contribution was driving me into straight up depression. Being a stay-at-home parent feels very helpless sometimes, especially when there are so many things going on that feel outside of your control. Your anxieties and stress are totally normal, even when it doesn’t feel that way. You are such a good mom, wife, and friend, and you are so talented. You’ll figure out what the next step is.

    1. It can get sooooo depressing. B always tells me that the contributions I make at home are priceless and that the place would fall apart if it weren’t for me, but there is nothing like going out in the world and making the kill (ie, bringing home some moolah.) It does a lot for one’s self esteem.

      1. That’s so funny. Zach says the exact same things to me. Good ones: we got ’em.

        1. We are lucky.

          But I still want a pony ;)

  12. I, too, have been kept up at night, thinking about trivial things I have no control over. It’s not a pleasant feeling. I hope you find peace soon, and get restful sleep again.

    1. Thanks, TD. May we all have sweet dreams so we don’t lose what slim grasp we already have on our sanity.

      1. I here insanity is more fun anyhow…

  13. I feel like I should say “Winter is Coming,” but you might hit me. And I’d deserve it.

    I wake up with the same nightmarish thoughts that you do. We need to synchronize our terrors. You are not alone.

    1. If that is a literal winter you speak of, I would likely hug you. It’s my favorite season. Summer can kindly go pooh-pooh, as far as I’m concerned.

  14. What a beautiful post! What you are describing is to me skill that we earn over a lifetime. Sometimes though we might want to contribute more, we are doing all we can. And how can we expect more of ourselves than that?

    1. I am really trying to teach myself that I am maxed-out as it is. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

  15. O no. Are you feeling ok now? I hate when your thoughts run away and you can’t get control of them :-(

    1. I am feeling a lot better. Not 100%, but I’m getting there. Thanks, Laura ;D

  16. southernfriedinvegas · · Reply

    I’m glad that you are learning to trust in the love that surrounds you. I agree with Ashley so much in this..you’ll find your way and the next step will come to you. I have yet to write about how my going back to work has benefitted me and made me sad all at the same time. I need to soon or it’s going to just disappear and I’ll never get it out.

    1. Please DO write about it! I need some reassurance that if I do indeed have to go back to work that it won’t be the end of the world.

      1. southernfriedinvegas · · Reply

        It’s not! And I will :)

      2. southernfriedinvegas · · Reply

        I swear I replied to this, but my app says otherwise :(
        I will write about it! It is not the end of the world, I promise!

  17. I’ve been feeling like a bit of a failure myself lately, and just generally not feeling like myself. Must be that time of year. I think the most important thing you mentioned is that you spoke up about how you felt. I’m a bottler myself, and maybe letting some of it trickle out would help.

    1. I was never really a bottler until I started getting older and began equating talking with my husband about my problems with weakness and immaturity. That is so wrong and it needs to stop. Hashing out problems in a civil ways is actually the opposite of weakness.

  18. I have those nights, too. Those are my “busy brain” nights. Sometimes, apparently, my brain doesn’t get enough worrying done during daylight hours, so it decides to work overtime. THANKS, BRAIN!

    I have no advice, because I haven’t figured out how to turn mine off, either…other than to reiterate what Ashley said. You ARE such a good mom, wife, and friend, and so talented. Tell your brain to shush. You need your sleep so you can continue your awesomeness while the sun shines.

    1. Awwww thanks. Our brains have an admirable work ethic, but they can and should take breaks occasionally.

      You are the best and your words are so encouraging ;D

      1. So are you. I have never spoken to you where I didn’t leave the conversation feeling so much better about myself, and life, and all of this. You’re fantastic, lady. Tell your brain THAT when it won’t stop running on the hamster-wheel at 2am!

  19. My husband and I just watched “Happy People” last week too! I was struck by the simplicity of their lives. I’m quite certain that the remedy to our (you are definitely not alone) inability to sleep can be found in walking a hundred miles per day through 5 feet of snow. Though, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to wake up the next day…so in the end…I’m screwed either way. : ) P.S. I ALWAYS feel one hundred times better when I talk about my worries with my hubby. It seems like those night time worries are a lot like a scary dream…when you recount what happened it doesn’t seem so scary after all. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes! I am so glad someone else has seen this documentary! I have been thinking about it a lot and I feel like I watched it at just the right time. I would also liken these midnight panic sessions with bad dreams. They are so ephemeral; there’s a kernel of reality to them, but once the light of the morning comes, they start to seem a lot less daunting.

  20. I join you in the periodic nightly panics that result in sleep loss. Bless you, Ms. Em. Thank goodness we women always have a fabulous excuse at any given time of the day, week, month, year or season of life.

    E.g. puberty, pms, ovulation, pregnancy, post-partum, nursing, post-lactation hormonal adjustments, rinse & repeat and, by gosh, perimenopause, menopause, post-menopause – it’s all enough to give any man a pause, eh?

    Say, why don’t they call it “womenopause?”

    1. That is an excellent question! I had never thought of that.

    2. These bad thoughts I had may or may not have coincided with the approach of Aunt Flo (they totally did). ;D

  21. Just gorgeous writing. If I had the money I would pay you to write. Do not get your hopes up. I am happy pay in goldfish crackers. I have a lifetime supply.
    Good job for sharing your worrying.

    1. I will take your goldfish crackers. I would say that I’d work for peanuts but I am a bigger fan of cheesy carbs.

    1. Hmmmm. This wasn’t one of my funnier pieces so……

  22. There is something about the middle of the night that can feel so….unsettling, and it freaks me out sometimes. I remember Weebs writing about this recently, too.

    1. It’s a really lonely, isolating time. I don’t like it at all. :P

  23. nannypology · · Reply

    I really love this. It is so so each to forget what support we have around us, especially in the middle of the night! I do the same thing and it seems like nothing will fix it. But kudos to you for leaving the duvet outside… aka leaving the worry out.

    1. Thanks! Believe it or not, it actually got dry ;D

  24. It’s when I can’t fall asleep that I feel most unsettled. Sometimes when I wake in the middle of the night, I try to just enjoy the solitude and silence. A therapist I love, tells me: sometimes you just have to hold your feet in the fire, until you get past the burn. It’s true for me… sit with the things that unsettle me, and like wee Cee or my babes, learn to self-soothe and breathe calmly. Learning to hand it over to those you love, that, my friend, is progress. xo

  25. I need to add… having read your post right before bed… I had a terrible night’s sleep! Was up until 1, and woke before 7. I think this post is to blame. I refuse to accept that it’s my aging! Damn you Emily… damn you for engaging me right before bed, and sending my thoughts off in disruptive directions. Stop writing so well!

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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