A glance at the clock tells me it's 5:30am.
I've been lying awake here for a while now, my mind a racing stream of thoughts. Yesterday was not a good day, and I went to bed early last night, just to have the day over with, with hope in my heart that the dawn would bring fresh perspective, and perhaps a few answers.
The stampede pounds rudely through my mind, thoughts pinging effortlessly from the profound to the ridiculous: Finn needs to take money to school to buy lunch I don't know how to deal with the hurt I feel Greta has to wear a raincoat today I think maybe I'm overreacting where did I leave that permission slip.
The hyperactive squirrel in my brain is on full tilt, burrowing madly for little acorns of anger, hurt and fear.
I try to bring in the voice of reason, my Gentle Observer, the one who pulls me up and out of these hateful little ruts. But, as usual, she cannot be summoned at will, so I lie there blinking at the ceiling in frozen frustration.
Is back-to-school night Wednesday or Thursday I can't believe they said that about me did Greta do her homework last night am I making a mountain out of a molehill the septic inspector is coming at 9am God I'm angry the kids need to wear raincoats today WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?
This last thought causes my teeth to clench, every muscle to tighten. It's been awhile since I've gone there, to that self-deprecating space, the one that makes me want to curl up in a ball and sleep for days.
Finally, she shows up, my Gentle Observer, and she whispers softly to me: Breathe.
I breathe deeply: in. out. In. Out. IN. OUT. Gradually, my body unclenches and my mind clears.
Stop thinking, Ellie. Find your center. Are you there? Good. Now lean into it, my friend. Lean into the discomfort, anger and pain.
But their words hurt me, the squirrel butts in, madly waving a nasty little thought acorn.
Get back to center. Breathe. Listen to your heartbeat. Thump. Thump. Thump.
You don't get to control people's reaction to you, to what you say, what you do. The squirrel pauses, ears pricked up and alert, but remains blissfully silent.
Let it go. Drop the anger and hurt, and listen to your heart. It won't lead you astray. Find the message in the hurt; what is it trying to tell you? Don't think. Just listen.
I close my eyes and listen to my steady, strong heartbeat, feel the rise and fall of my breaths.
Some time later I'm jarred awake by a little voice. "Mom? Can I have breakfast?"