What keeps me awake at night

 “One of the writers on the internet who tell people what they need to do to be a proper writer recently said you should write about what keeps you awake at night…”  so starts a piece of writing by Tom Cox. 

Cox then proceeds to write beautifully about what it is that keeps him awake at night – mostly, one of his cats loudly eating mice that it has caught.

I too have cats, and they too catch mice. Fortunately, they don’t eat them within earshot, so that’s not a thing that keeps me awake at night.

In fact, I sleep pretty well most nights – but occasionally I have to get up to let our dog into the garden. He has a tricky digestion, and every now and then has the frequent need to poop.

Because letting him out means navigating the complicated set of burglar alarms and security gates that are a staple of middle-class life in South Africa, I am often wide awake by the time I get back to bed.

And then starts the long list of things that keep me awake at night.

They’re often the kind of worries that everyone has: money, struggles at work, wondering whether I remembered to lock all the doors, and also did I put out some clothes for the morning? And what was it I thought I would cook for supper?

I also worry about the future. Over which, of course, I have no control.

And sometimes I just lie there, as I have done on and off since I was about 16, wondering why it is that my heart just keeps beating.

I did biology at school to matric and loved it – particularly the sections about human anatomy. The lessons on the heart and lungs were revelatory: the complexity of everything that’s needed to keep our bodies going day after day consumed me.

I would lie awake at night, then as now, wondering if the complex system keeping me alive could just stop.

Years later, the system is still working. But the sense of the wonder of it has never left me. Or the fear and the knowledge that one day it will of course stop working.

Eventually, in the early morning hours, I fall asleep again, and get up the next day and get on with things.

I don’t have a meaningful quote to leave you with here, or a life hack, or a bit of advice.

I just have some thoughts I wrote on a hot afternoon when ideas for what to write about escaped me completely.

I leave you only with this: take care of your heart.

Main picture: Joyce Hankins, Unsplash

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