Tolerance – Emotional Pro

April 9th, 2006

I never imagined that my night of sleep would offer me so many opportunities to learn lessons! But there, in my night, were a series of impediments that kept drawing my attention to them, challenging me to fall asleep even though they were part of my scene.
The fish tank was pumping water through the filter, with the water splashing back into the tank. When I first got into bed, the bright lights of the tank were on, having been tricked into thinking it was 9:30 when, due to the recent time change, it was really 10:30. They would shine for another half hour; and my husband informed me the timer is complicated to change (which means he won’t be rushing to get it done!). And when the time changed, I reset the wall clock. Miraculously, the pendulum that hasn’t worked for 4 years is now working. I hung the clock just right, and the pendulum thumps methodically every time it hits the right side of the box which houses the clock works! I remember Misty, a sweet gray long-haired cat who is nearing 21 years old, coming up on the bed about 5 a.m. and announcing loudly (he can no longer hear) that he was quite hungry and needed our attention. I gave him two sleepy pets on the head before my husband swept him up into his arms and quieted him for the rest of the night. That’s when I noticed it was difficult to move my right foot. Not that anything was on top of the foot, but Puck, the 12 year old kitty whom we lock in at night because she loves the out of doors and we don’t want the raccoons or coyotes to devour her, was curled up at the bottom of the bed. She started to purr when I moved my foot, liking the warmth and the closeness. My husband coughed, the deep chest cough he’s been dealing with for the past week as he has struggled to triumph over small bugs and reclaim his own body. So far, I haven’t caught his cold; and I remind myself, sleepily, that I don’t want to!
So, what’s the lesson? Ever since I started writing on “Born to Learn,” I’m thinking morning, noon and now night, it seems, about the “lessons” that occur in my life. Last night was no exception. As I slowly drew to conscousness this morning, I asked myself: “What could I possibly be trying to teach myself by having all this go on during the night?” The answer that leapt into my mind was “tolerance.” Later, I also thought of “flexibility.”
The fish tank started as an experiment, many years ago, for example. My husband was very considerate. He wanted the fish tank in the bedroom so he could watch the fish as he fell asleep, yet he didn’t want to disturb me. He asked if he could “try” having it in the bedoom. I consented. The first few nights were nearly intolerable. I resisted and was intolerant of the fish tank and its noises, particularly the running water. Then one night I realized: I could walk miles, carrying a heavy backpack, and go into the wilderness, only to camp by a running stream overnight. I thought that experience was fantastic! But, I didn’t like the sound of a running stream in my own bedroom, even though all I could see out the window was trees! Ridiculous, I thought. So, I imagined myself camping next to a running stream and looked for the pleasure I felt in hearing the stream rush by. I learned not only to tolerate the fish tank, but to love it, just as I loved the stream! And the fish were delightful to watch as I fell asleep.
I’m so proud of getting that pendulum swinging on the clock, I’ll be darned if I’m going to stop it. I’ll tolerate the noise instead.
The cats will never go from my life or from my bed. I slept with a pile of cats on my bed long before I met my husband 10 years ago. The fact that the ones I brought to this house have died and those that populate the bed are his and ours now makes no difference. At night, as I watch the fish, Puck falls to sleep with her head on my shoulder. She mews at me incessantly while I brush my teeth, urging me to “hurry up” so she can snuggle in next to me as she lies on top of the covers. I love it. She moves during the night, but she is very considerate. I tolerate animals easily because I love them so much. The dog (only 21 pounds) is also on our bed at night, but I lock her into her kennel before I fall asleep (she doesn’t like to go–the bed is softer and she likes sleepng on a “pile” the way dogs do!), because otherwise she’d be running thorugh the house at night barking at the raccoons and other critters who pass our house on their nightly rounds. She’s been trained not to bark when she is in the kennel, though she will offer a muffled growl if something or somebody gets too close to her people.
And I lived alone for close to 20 years, raising my children. A husband in my bed who has a cough that wakes me up is almost a joyful noise. I would not have tolerated it well in my youth, but as I get older and realize that having someone I love near me–even making noise–is so nice, compared to nights and nights and nights alone (albeit with a load of animals on the bed!), well……not only can I tolerate this during the night, but I feel compassion for his struggle against these tiny bugs (the bacteria or virus causing his cold). When he coughs and it wakes me up, I reach out my hand and let him know I’m there and I care, before promptly falling back to sleep!
Things go “bump” in the night. Also “purr,” “trickle,” “hack, hack,” “thump, thump” and “grrrrrr.” My lesson is this: either get rid of the things and critters and people who make the noises, or learn to tolerate these noises. I choose toleration. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to learn tolerance!

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