Getting sufficient sleep has been an issue with me for about ten years now, leaving me with a nominal two to four hours of broken sleep most evenings. Occasionally, I’ll be able to stretch that to as high as six, although almost never for two nights in a row. That’s okay, I’m pretty much used to it.
Recently, my winter darkness sleep habits have shifted with the 4:30 pm sunset, leaving me to nod off as early as 7:00 pm and getting up for good several hours later. Last night started no differently, but perhaps due to a largely vegetarian diet and abstaining from caffeine and alcohol for several weeks – strategies I had tried to counter Parkinson’s sleep problems with no luck in the past – I was able to sleep solidly until one am. After a short meditation, I made tea and went downstairs to work on my latest writing project. About three hours of positive results later, I was riding pretty high in reflection of how far I’d come in my journey of self-awareness.
By mid-morning, I walked out of the grocery store still in a great mood, cart filled with organic, fresh vegetables, feeling buoyant and full of life. Stepping lively into the parking lot, I heard a soft “whoosh,” and it felt like I’d been puddle sprayed by a passing car. There was no car. I looked up to see the receding business end of a seagull, soaring victoriously away from the scene of his crime.
Now, I will admit, a thought passed immediately through my mind: I should be feeling angry now, shouldn’t I? Old habits of reverting to how I’m “supposed to think and feel” still come to me all the time, but it took only a fraction of a second for it to pass. Instead, I laughed honestly at the seagull’s devastating accuracy (I was a Navy bomber pilot at one time, after all), at my hubris in believing that I actually understood anything about life, at the juxtaposition of how nature’s quiet beauty sometimes presents itself, but mostly I laughed at me, just because it felt good.
Simple silliness is oft underrated for use as a tool, in combination with humility, gratitude, and compassion, to break through the self-erected barriers to our shared, human experience. I’m strangely reminded of the old TV series, “Kung Fu,” when an imaginary Master might say to his student:
“Grasshopper, when you can laugh at the seagull shitting on your shoulder, it will be time for you to leave.”