It’s 4:51 in the morning and I wake up, panicked, with the hamster wheel in my brain going full tilt. I am meditating. And by meditating I mean watching Law and Order, obviously.
The good thing about Law and Order is that it is always on. Somewhere, some channel – worst case scenario, On Demand – but it almost never comes to that. If you scroll long enough you are sure to find some iteration of L&O in the hinterlands of basic cable.
Favorite has become a meditator. He’s taken to it like a fish to water. It shouldn’t surprise me. Sleep is his superpower. He is one of those people who says, “I’m going to bed. Goodnight.” then he kisses me, closes his eyes, and IS ASLEEP.
It’s basically sorcery.
I say, “I’m going to sleep,” and then I stare at the ceiling wondering how I am going to handle all the things I find overwhelming, worrying about things I cannot control. Sometimes I quiet my mind by watching House Hunters. That works until I become filled with rage at the prospective homeowners at their unrealistic wish list or their gratuitous use of the word spacious. So, about 7 minutes.
Quieting my mind has always been difficult for me. Someone told me that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening. Framed that way, it makes sense that I tend to prefer prayer. I’m a little chatty. I am a good listener when I need to be. Better than I used to be. Progress, not perfection.
I’ve begun to challenge myself in little ways. I am a foot jiggler. Being still, really still, used to be impossible for me. Nowadays, when I find myself moving unnecessarily, especially in a meeting or during a conversation, I force myself to be completely still. It’s harder than it sounds.
Anyway, when I wake in the middle of the night, worried about all the things – and right now I am worried about all the things – I immediately seek out Law and Order. It’s meditative for me in the sense that it engages my brain just enough to still it. It doesn’t require anything of me. There’s no suspense. I’ve seen virtually every episode, especially of the original. Even if I don’t remember every detail of every episode, I know enough. I know if Henry Winkler or John Ritter or any other well know/beloved TV actor shows up in the first 10 minutes as a grieving spouse or a bewildered friend, they totally did it. Lock ’em up. There is an inverse relationship between an actor’s fame and their L&O character’s innocence. Dick Wolf isn’t paying Joe Piscopo dollars for a walk-on role.
Ok, maybe that was a bad example.
The best version was, of course, the Lenny Briscoe era. There is something so incredibly soothing about Jerry Orbach. For one thing, he looks an awful lot like my mom’s dad. The good grandfather. The one I am named after. Jerry’s face is just comforting. I like spending time with him. I like waiting for the terrible wisecrack at the top of the show.
Decapitated body? “Hope his parents weren’t getting him any hats for Christmas.”
Can’t help it. I love ’em. Did you know Jerry Orbach ad-libbed all of those?
It’s a procedural, so there’s a formula. That’s calming. I know it’ll start with a crime scene. They’ll investigate. It’ll go to the DA. In a perfect world, that DA is always Jack McCoy, or as my youngest calls him, The Eyebrows of Justice.
Maybe there’ll be a conviction, maybe not. It almost doesn’t matter. It so reassuring.
When my brain won’t stop, when I feel all jangly, I seek things that will help me be still. In the middle of the night, when options are limited (and now that wine is not one of them) I seek the rhythm and ritual of Lenny and Jack. I want the two-beat, vaguely metallic, “dun-dun” and the reminder that, “In the criminal justice system the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”
Maybe that’s just it. My brain is wired for story. I can either get caught up in my own, which right now is fraught and stressful, or I can relax into stories I already know, stories that aren’t in my hands. In those moments, Lenny is zenny. He’ll wisecrack, Jack will flinch in outrage. And I’ll breathe.
It’s 5:45 in the morning. Law and Order is on. Anthony Anderson is pretty upset about something.
See how that works?
Oh my goodness, Laura, that is me too!!!!
Infact that was me, watching mind numbing TV, when my phone chimed your email had come through!
Although my mind numbing TV is not neccessarly a show it’s the HGTV chanel. I love it because I think, like you, it quietens my body, brain, something so I can relax my mind and not think about the parkinson’s disease that’s in my brain…not think about the ‘what ifs’ or ‘self doubts’ or ‘saddness’ or ‘the dreaded electrical current feelings in my legs, like little ants starting to run in and out, up and down stinging, me worrying me this is going to bring me into the full blown restless legs so I will have to walk the night, literally walk and stretch my legs throughout my house, (or hotel or wherever I may be if traveling)for the rest of the night into the morning. Having this in a hotel room is the worst! Sometimes i go into the bathroom with my phone on wifi where I wont wake my husband, I dont want to wake him because he’s presenting or attending a conference so has to be sharp that morning. The pressure of/worry from wanting to sleep so I won’t wake him can’t help!
I tell my husband (and adult kidos) can’t understand this…the TV shows somehow take my mind away.
My husband tells me the light from the TV is not good for my brain that’s why I can’t sleep or I’m getting into a bad habit watching TV. He doesn’t understand it helps when I can’t fall asleep or during the night after I wake up, WIDE AWAKE.
I try to go to sleep with out it, taking an hour … 2 hours+ of miserableness or during the night desperately trying to go back to sleep. I have tried I do try.
My husband is wonderful, he’s my biggest cheerleader, my soulmate!
I know he worries about me. He is such a fixer and he cant fix this, ME, my disease as much as he wishes, as much as he prays…he can’t take my disease away.
It is so great to hear I am not alone! To he able to relate to you thinking, saying, “Yeah, me too!!”
Of course I’d rather neither of us, or anyone, have this. but or and, it’s comforting knowing I’m not alone. Hey, maybe we should call each other next time we’re both up. lol 😉
Thank you for writing this blog so people like me can say, “yeah, me too!” and not feel so alone.
Blessings friend (through a blog)
Disclaimer: if my restless legs are in full blown fits, meds not working, there is absolutely nothing, not TV, nor movies, or talking on phone, or soaking in tub, NOTHING that quietens my body, numbs my thoughts, my brain, to allows me not to think.
Deborah @ capriciousthoughts says
Boy can I ever relate to the whole hamster on the wheel… Great post!
I watch Law and Order after work ( social worker) it soothes me , my husband doesn’t get it but I love it. I also like Law and Order Criminal Intent. I don’t like NCIS, it’s too silly. I think CSI is too gruesome and the actors are ridiculously good looking. Criminal Minds is too dark and miserable so I stick with Law and Order ?
Finding a Sober Miracle says
I confess, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Law and Order episode. (Can you believe it?) I can, however, replay whatever the latest movie/show I’ve seen in my head, and watch that. Watching actual TV keeps me awake because I have to watch the whole episode, even if I’ve seen it a hundred times.
And I am a terrible foot jiggler.
Very funny post!
Finding a Sober Miracle says
Just read your book review and bought the Kindle version. I am honored to read your story. ?