It’s early. Very early. For the past several weeks, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night thinking about a variety of things. Mostly my past. Sometimes the distant past and sometimes the recent past, but the past just the same.
What is it about memories that they always seem to pop up at the most inopportune times?
I’ve been thinking about the past a lot. Things I’ve done, things that have been done to me, etc. No, not really ‘etcetera’, it has really just been just those two things.
What is it about the middle of the night that makes it so easy to lose yourself in reminiscing and regret and recriminations? The silence? The lack of other things to occupy your mind? I think it’s both, but I also think that there is something about the darkness that plays a role. It’s almost like when the room goes dark when you go to the movies, you drop into a state of suspended belief and your judgement is on hold.
When I wake up, there is nothing on my mind, at least nothing I’m aware of. But before my eyes are even open, I’m thinking about my past. Wondering why things happened the way they did, what I could have done differently, or considering what the consequences of my decisions were. Often, I find myself thinking about the people who have come and gone from my life. Sometimes it’s friends, former or current, sometimes it’s family who are no longer with us, but usually it’s my past relationships. Some were long, and some were short, some were fun and some were not, some were good memories and some were bad. I remembered times I was petulant and childish. Thankfully, I outgrew my youth and left those moments behind. I also remembered times someone had hurt me so badly I never thought I would recover, and I certainly never thought I would trust again. Then there were times I had been supremely happy, until I wasn’t. Some of those endings were someone else’s fault, and some were mine.
The people that keep coming up are ones I have regrets over. Of course, I mean, why else would you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about your past? Sometimes it is a regret over something someone did that ruined something precious, and sometimes it is a regret over something I did that ended something precious. I’m either angry or filled with regret, but the unifying factor is that someone ruined a ‘good thing’. Now, whether that is just my perception of things, I couldn’t tell you. Our memories are our own, and so everything is from your own perspective. Maybe things weren’t going as well as I thought they were and so the end was coming when someone did the unforgiveable thing that ended our relationship or maybe they were tired of our relationship and they gave up so it was a lack of attention to detail or a general carelessness that ended things between us. Either way, it ended and now I think about them in the middle of the night. Short or tall, old or young, steady check or broke, faithful or faithless, I think of them and wonder what happened.
Inside my memories I try to peel back the layers of behavior and the word choices and the facial expressions and the body language to see if there is some kind of thread I can pull that will give me insight. There really isn’t of course, but I try.
The only conclusion I’ve come to so far is that to stop and think about the past is slightly addictive and not at all productive. Thinking about your memories leads you down some lonely paths in the dark silence of early morning when the rest of the world is asleep. So how do I stop? I do not know. I’ve tried going to bed earlier and later. I’ve tried drinking warm drinks, eating earlier, eating later, melatonin, meditation, listening to music or an audiobook, weighted blankets, and everything else imaginable.
Despite all of that, 3:30am rolls around and I’m lying there in the dark, thinking about my memories and wondering why I can’t let go of the past.