We don’t go to bed angry, that’s the rule. It’s curious about rules. Rules are conceptually external to yourself and to others. Set apart from the particulars of events and situations, they stand like heavy stone pillars surrounding the tumultuous interior where emotions rein.
Irate as each of us were, my 12-year old daughter and me—and I can’t even remember the argument—she quoted the rule to me as she lay in her bed, her outgrown stuffed animals, not a one discarded, taking up room around her.
“No, we can’t,” I agreed, though it took me a moment, sitting on the edge of the bed, tense and annoyed.
The matter itself was not resolved and each of us knew it, an unfairness of some sort, which lay at the foundation of family disputes: favors extended to a sibling, a denial of privilege, a perceived refusal to understand, a broken promise. Whatever the infliction of emotional pain one on the other, the rule made it necessary to wait until the morning for further discussion. The matter ended for the night with a hug. In fairness to the truth, one probably hugged more than the other, but lumpy or limp the hug reinforced the rule.
A curious thing about hugs. The contact of bodies, embrace of arms, touch of a cool cheek on one’s own—again, the external quiets the turmoil of the inner. Never is such quietude needed more than at the transition time between day and sleep. The day has brought its own unexpected doings, excitements, angst, twists and turns requiring action and resources brought to bear. The night’s sleep brings the needed rest in which dreams can work in peace to expel in their own wildly creative ways, the trash that clutter the mind, clearing it at least enough to welcome the next day’s surprises.
The transition at bedtime between the dramatic enactments of the day and the curtain closing on night is, for all its seeming insignificance with so little happening, time well spent if spent well. Being read to before sleep in the early years and reading yourself in the forever years after is time well spent. Giving credence to the rule, we don’t go to bed angry is a mission well spent. The rule applies not only to the miss-speak or miss-deeds of others, but to anger addressed to yourself. For anger at yourself is the most vicious and least forgiving.
With a physical hug or an implied one, the rule abides, putting off until morning the anger, allowing dreams to roll in and do their work to exhume the stuff not needed and soften the biting hurts and clear the way to embrace the day.
For other educational Books by Dr. Judith Peck, visit www.iapbooks.com.