There is a blue pill in my pajamas. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I need help. A little something to give me an edge. A push if you will. It’s 9:15 PM, and on the next commercial, I’m going to casually slip into the kitchen, grab myself a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s dairy-free ice cream, and while I’m there, I’m going to secretly pop that baby into my mouth.
If I’m lucky—and I usually am—46 minutes later and I’ll be smiling like a teenager.
Not that smile! I’m talking about the sweet smile that comes when you’re fast asleep. You see, my blue pill has a PM on it…as in Excedrin PM. And, no that doesn’t stand for Poking Mama. It’s code for “I can’t sleep without a pill.”
Yes, I am an Excedrin PM addict, one of many I assume, considering the fact that Americans spent an estimated $41 billion on sleep aid remedies in 2015, which is expected to grow to $52 billion by 2020. Of course, Excedrin PM advertises itself as a headache remedy for when you can’t sleep. But, come on, it’s a sleeping pill. You know it, and I know it. If I have a headache, I’m going to do what any sensible person would do…I’m going to put a little peppermint on my Kleenex and do some deep breathing.
Now, as far as addictions go, mine is fairly harmless. It’s legal, won’t kill me, and makes me pleasantly drool. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that I have made Excedrin PM my “new normal” way to go to sleep. And in doing so, I have deprived myself of finding a deeper and more empowering sleep. A sleep that is a product of how I choose to live my life.
Now that might sound insignificant, but here at Oxygen Buzz, it is the whole enchilada. Because every time we do what’s easy, or what’s handed to us on a plate, or only what others are doing, we keep ourselves from living extraordinary lives.
Now, I realize there are all kinds of good reasons to take sleeping aids—illness, pain, medication side effects, stress, and sleep disorders. The fact is, I have had days in the not too distant past where the fog in my head was so unsettling that I would have given my first born to get a little sleep. I took powerful sleeping aids to get through it, and I am grateful they were there during a difficult time. By all means, we should talk to our medical professionals and seek the help we need.
But, that’s not what this is. Not now. My sleep problems didn’t come from health issues. Or age. The truth is, I didn’t want to give up coffee in the afternoon, so I let my blue pill do the work. I didn’t want to turn off my work at night, or my electronics, or my brain, so I let my blue pill do the work. I didn’t want to look for another way to live (and sleep), so I accepted the un-truth that with age comes sleeping problems.
It’s a slippery slope, my friends. Because when it comes to getting older, every day seems to be about accepting or rejecting some new normal in our lives. It could be knee caps that don’t quite bend the same, bladders that have minds of their own, backs that spasm when it starts to rain. It could be memory loss, declining agility, or muscle weakness. It could be our work life, retirement, divorce, chronic pain, loneliness, anxiety, or depression. The new normals are everywhere.
I personally have a new “driving” normal, which is poetically accompanied by my new “eyesight” normal, which blends perfectly with my new “hearing” normal. Let’s just say no one calls shotgun when I’m driving.
Of course, we all have new challenges that come with aging. No one comes out unscathed. What matters is how we react to them. It’s all that matters.
In fact, how we choose to accept and live an inspired life in spite of these new normals is at the heart of the Oxygen Buzz movement.
But, please…take it from the Excedrin PM addict, when it comes to all the new normal moments in our lives, there is a fine line between acceptance and resignation. And knowing the difference between the two is the key to a good second half of life.
Genuine acceptance of the new normal takes the vulnerability to look inside ourselves and the self-awareness to know what is truth. More than that, it takes the courage to act on that awareness. To do the work. Put it all together, and you have a new art form.
Now, back to the Excedrin PM addict, who is here to remind you that acceptance is not resignation—giving in to what is easy or expedient.
My little blue pill is the perfect symbol of that resignation. It’s a self-inflicted new normal and a by-product of my unwillingness to do the work it takes to get a good night’s sleep.
But I’m not going to beat myself up over it. We need to be kind to ourselves.
That being said, we also need to be strong and resolute that we can become a better version of ourselves tomorrow. That no matter our age, we don’t need to live our lives in the passenger seats (unless you’re me).
It’s time to put our lives under the microscope and discover for ourselves the truths that will make life infinitely more exciting and meaningful.
If we can make this our new normal, we will stay young until the day we die.
I am happy to say that as of posting this blog I am twenty-one days clean. No Excedrin PM. I have drawn my line in the sand, along with my pledge to bring a better night’s sleep back into my life.
Stay tuned for next week's The Koala Bear Experiment: Mastering The Art of Sleep After 50. It’s time to reclaim the art of the snooze. And when we do, we won’t just be reclaiming our sleep. We will be sending a powerful message to ourselves—that we will no longer take the“new normal” of aging lying down. And if we do…we’ll be fast asleep.