When I was younger, someone told me that “only bad things happen after 3 am”. Alcohol induced car accidents or closing time bar fights. Middle of the night phone calls with bad news and crying babies and exhausted parents. Loneliness, isolation and laying in bed with your mind racing thirty miles an hour. Darkness and fear and those bumps in the night.
They call it the “witching hour” for a reason. Most of the time when we are awake at 3 am, we are either fighting insomnia, stressing out about what’s happening tomorrow or endless laying staring at the ceiling wishing we could fall back asleep. Even if our minds are settled, we are still usually annoyed, irritated and exhausted. We don’t want to be awake and we start calculating how much more sleep we would get if we were able to just go back to bed.
Now, I agree with all of the frustrating parts of 3 AM. But, have you ever considered that sometimes good things happen after 3 AM too?
Some of life’s simplest and easiest things happen in the middle of the night. Intimate conversations that are not hindered by the harsh light of day. The satisfaction of a book so good that you can’t put it down even as the hours become later and later. The desire to grab your journal or notepad and write down those thoughts that you don’t want to forget before you get up in the morning. The emptiness of a street as you may your way home after a late-night shift or an evening out with friends. Or the sweet milk laden smell of an infant child after they have been fed and you have finally managed to get them back to sleep. All these things, when considered, although usually not in the moment, are what makes a life a life. The small, unnoticed events during the late hours of night. When there is not an endless list of distractions that stop of you from being able to consider what you are doing and how you are living. However, to me, the biggest and most satisfying piece of after the 3 AM hour is the silence.
Imagine this. You wake up in the middle of the night, roll over to look at the clock and notice the red light is blinking 4:02. You can’t sleep. You have been tossing and turning for most of the night and can’t seem to get comfortable. Defeated, you get up out of bed. Fumbling in the dark, you throw on your pajamas and grab a pair of socks. Sneaking out to the kitchen, you turn on the light above the stove and start the kettle. The house is silent. You take a moment to look out the kitchen window and notice it is snowing. It is so quiet you can almost hear the snowflakes as they drop to the ground. As they slowly graze past the window, you you’re your attention back to the kettle and turning it off before the whistle goes off.
You may live alone and don’t want the loud noise to pierce the quiet you are savoring. You may have kids or a spouse that you do not want to wake as it is very rare that you are truly alone in the quiet. Either way, you quickly pour the water into your mug, throw in a tea bag and make your way to the couch. You flick on the lamp beside the couch and grab the throw blanket from the back of the sofa to place onto your lap. Sitting cross legged with the mug in your hands, you sit quietly. It is so quiet. There is no noise besides the sound of your breathing as you inhale the steam rising off the water in your mug. Your hangs are wrapped around the mug and the warmth is radiating down your wrists and into your arms. As you sip the hot liquid, you feel the heat makes it way into your belly and calming the restlessness you felt as you crawled out of bed.
Your mind is not racing. For whatever reason, as you sit and drink your tea, you are only focusing on the feeling of the warmth as it runs down your throat. It has been weeks, months or for some of you, even years since you were up in the middle of the night with no one around. You savor the quiet and consider that this is what meditation must feel like. A habit that you are constantly telling yourself you are going to try but never get around to doing it. You tip up the mug and finish off the last drops of tea. Sitting there holding the empty mug, you notice that you no longer feel restless. You notice that your eyes are starting to sting and you think to yourself that you should probably go back to bed.
Setting the mug on the end table, you turn off the lamp. Rising from the couch, you throw the blanket off you and make your way quietly back to bed. Stripping off your pajamas, you crawl back under the covers. You notice the sheets feel cool against your skin now that you have been out of them for a bit. You notice the clock says 4:23 and you smile to yourself thinking you were up a lot longer. Rolling over, you snuggle into your pillow, take notice of how quiet your room is and eventually fall back to sleep.
That is the best part of the middle of the night. The absolute silence that encompasses not only the room that you find yourself in, but the entire house. This is rare. We do not do this enough. Sit alone in the silence with just our thoughts as we enjoy a hot drink and a cozy blanket.
So, consider it. Don’t wait until the middle of the night to take those small moments. Notice them when and where you can, especially as we move into the holiday season. Busyness, endless to-do lists and ongoing responsibilities continue to take up most of our days, so take the time to stop. Stop to slowly drink that cup of hot chocolate. Stop to watch the snow fall as you wait for your car to warm up in the moment. Be silent in order to quiet the mind long enough to notice the small, good parts of life.