Tag Archives: Birthdays

Thinking in Bed

I recently celebrated a birthday and gifts from my family included three wonderful children’s books.  It is no secret that I love reading children’s literature (possibly more than I enjoy reading “grown-up” books) and these three books have been great additions to my collection.  Among them is a book of poetry for children entitled Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee.  While I usually enjoy the simplicity of lessons presented in children’s books, I found one poem in this collection to be particularly compelling as a lesson for people of all ages:

Thinking in Bed

I’m thinking in bed,
‘Cause I can’t get out
Till I learn how to think
What I’m thinking about;
What I’m thinking about
Is a person to be—
A sort of a person
Who feels like me.

I might still be Alice,
Excepting I’m not.
And Snoopy is super,
But not when it’s hot;
I couldn’t be Piglet,
I don’t think I’m Pooh,
I know I’m not Daddy
And I can’t be you.

My breakfast is waiting.
My clothes are all out,
But what was that thing
I was thinking about?
I’ll never get up
If I lie here all day;
But I still haven’t thought,
So I’ll just have to stay.

If I was a Grinch
I expect I would know.
I might have been Batman,
But I don’t think so.
There’s so many people
I don’t seem to be—
I guess I’ll just have to
Get up and be me.

Now, we all tend to take things from literature that we can most relate to in our own lives and we find comfort in words that describe our personal experiences in ways that we are unable to.  In the words of this poem, I find a powerful image of someone being stuck as a result of spending too much time thinking about where to start.  I sense feelings of wanting to have it all figured out and wanting to get it right.  And with that being said, I certainly understand why this poem has resonated so strongly with me.

It was not long ago that I wrote about graduating Teacher’s College and the uncertainty that was sure to follow.  A lot has changed since then, but the uncertainty is still there and it is sometimes easy to feel like I am running out of time to figure things out.  Anytime that I sarcastically comment that turning 26 somehow qualifies me for seniors discounts or that I should start considering my retirement options, my friends and family are quick to sweep in with reassuring narratives about their own lives that inevitably end with statements like “you have your whole life ahead of you” or “I had no idea what I was doing when I was your age”.  While I could sarcastically argue that it is impossible for a 26-year-old to have their whole life ahead of them, I certainly do not dispute their claims.  Deep down, I know that there is no external standard that should define the person that I am or the things that I do at any given point in my life.  I also know that I am not and never will be a completely finished person.

But, every once in a while, I let my own sarcasm get the best of me.  I know that I am not the only person who struggles with the challenge of defending myself against constant feelings that I am somehow supposed to have it all figured out by now.  We inadvertently create these narratives for ourselves in the way that we talk about the future.  If you had asked 13-year-old Nicole what she would be doing when she was 26, the answer would have involved some combination of being a journalist, researcher, philanthropist, wife, physiotherapist, police officer, teacher, and mother.  I grew up being told that I could be and would be the best at whatever I wanted to do.  It was great.  I had the world at my feet.  I felt empowered.

But with that empowerment and those big dreams comes a lot of pressure.  And it is sometimes easier to hide in the safety of doing nothing than walk out into the world and take a risk.  Personally, I tend to paralyze myself by feeling like I need to know exactly where I want to end up before trying something.  But, in the meantime, I stop taking chances because I fear that I may miss out on the one thing that I am supposed to be doing.  I realize that this may sound convoluted because, well, it is a pretty convoluted thought.  But simply put, it is sometimes just easier to stay in bed thinking about all of the people that I could be or the things that I could do than challenging myself to risk being or doing any of those things.

A friend once told me that the best way to deal with uncertainty is to embrace it and just allow your future to feel like a black hole.  And he was right.  But there is an important next step that is sometimes easy to forget about…

You eventually have to start moving.

Thinking in bed or staring at a black hole can only last for so long.  It is one thing to allow the future to be uncertain, but when that alarm goes off or you reach the edge of the black hole, it does not accomplish much to stare at the future in fear.  There comes a point when you need to take that next step.  And it might not be easy.  And you might go in the wrong direction for a while.  And you might just learn that there is more than one right answer.  But maybe focusing less on needing to have it all figured out is what allows us to open ourselves to learning from experience and discovering what it means to live meaningful lives surrounded by the people, places, and things that we care most about.

So, here is a challenge to myself and anyone else who might be feeling a little bit stuck in any aspect of life right now:  As childish as it may sound, listen to the words of this poem.  Take the time that you need to embrace the idea of uncertainty and think things through.  But don’t forget to get up, get out of bed, and put your feet on the ground.  You may not know exactly what you are doing or where you are going, but failing to start moving will only ensure that you never figure it out.  And you might just be missing out on a great adventure.