S is for System

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I have a system for sleeping.

I get ready for bed, and then I read for a while. When I get v-e-r-y sleepy, I roll over and Len scratches my back mindlessly while he reads. To make this even cuter, our cat has learned to jump on the bed and head-butt my hand until I scratch her back while Len scratches mine.

The cat and I fall asleep.

After a while Len also gets sleepy, turns off his light, and crumples into his side of the bed. He sighs and then breathes slower and slower until he is asleep.

The reason I know how Len falls asleep (note that I said I have already fallen asleep …) is that when he turns off his lamp to hunker down – I wake up. Now I am sideways in the bed, brain on, eyes popped open.

When I was working I dealt with this by taking OTC sleeping pills (diphenhydramine) which usually worked. It’s pretty safe and I used it for years and I am still here. BUT -- one of my retirement goals was to sleep without a sleeping pill. Dream big, they say.

This house has three bedrooms. We set up the third as a guest room which quickly became MB’s Second Bunk. When I wake at quarter to midnight, I move to the single bed in the other room, turn on the heating pad for my toes if it’s cold – and switch on my phone to Pandora comedians (I love Kathleen Madigan) or to Ben Franklin’s World podcasts hosted by Liz Covart.
https://www.benfranklinsworld.com/. With either of these options murmuring quietly, I become intrigued enough to listen, which shuts off my monkey-brain (when one’s thoughts just won’t stop jumping) – and I fall back asleep. If I wake later, I go back to wherever in the podcast I probably fell asleep, start from there, then fall asleep again.

This is my sleep system. I am not quite sure if I invented it or it invented me. I once read that adults sleep best in about the same ambiance as their life before they were born. Len was the oldest in his family, muffled noises wake him up. I’m a third kid, I love anything that sounds as if a big brother and sister are out there somewhere pleasantly chattering while my mom tells them to finish their peas.

Do you have systems that make your life work? Are you aware of them?

One of the (many, many) interesting tidbits I have learned from the Ben Franklin podcasts is this which I learned recently when I heard most of a podcast about James Madison.

The year was 1787 and 4-year old United States was going nowhere fast. The guys we refer to as “The Founding Fathers” knew they needed to invent something better than the not-working Confederation of States. The thirteen new states were mostly arguing with and threatening each other. No one could figure out how to be a united government when there were so many damn interests to consider. In the meantime, rich and powerful people were manipulating the confusion to arrange rules and regulations to make themselves even richer.

1787. That’s what she said.

Anyway, from May to September of that year a conference/congress was held in Philadelphia to hammer out what patriots could and should do. This four month meeting was where we got our Constitution - the foundation on which our government operates (and doesn’t operate). Seriously, we are in such crazy times exactly now; google Constitutional Convention! You will recognize many of the passionate arguments among those who want to keep money and power and those who want to figure out how to best share it.

Several religious denominations rearranged their documents to help or harm emerging rules and rights of religion. George Washington, an Episcopalian, attended a Roman Catholic service in order to crack some folks’ expectations that only some religions should expect to be represented or protected. Rhode Island refused to attend at all.

• 74 deputies had been selected by the state legislatures to attend.
• 55 did attend and participate. Many were late because it was not simple to travel in spring mud season.
• Only 39 signed the resulting constitution in September. Less than 40 people, none of them saints, built and delivered our constitution.

This is what caught my attention when I awoke to podcast 107 - an interview with historian Mary Sarah Bilder about James Madison‘s role and work at the Constitutional Convention.

A guy had been appointed to be the recording secretary of the on-going meetings, but that man did a slim job of it. James Madison was a rich, educated, slave-owning plantation magnate who had been involved in the American experiment towards independence for years. He had signed the Declaration of Independence. He served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War. He stayed in political service all his life, serving as President twice in the early 1800’s.

Here’s Madison’s SYSTEM that caught my attention. At the Constitutional Convention in Philly he took notes. He paid attention to whomever was talking, what the gist of their argument or concern was. Then every Wednesday and Sunday he sat down to write out in long hand what had happened. He used his best thinking, remembering, and writing skills to clearly record the messy arguments and passions, the ideas and compromises that became our Constitution.

He took notes on what he heard and saw. He designated and reserved time slots in which to collate more fully what was happening. He preserved for all of us the drama and confusion, the ridiculous and harrowing opinions and choices made by several dozen men in attendance through that long, hot summer.

You can buy Madison’s on Kindle or get it from your library (there won’t be lots of competition). “The Journal of the Debates in the Convention which Framed the Constitution of the United States. May-December 1787.”

There are, of course, on-going observations and debates about Madison’s point of view. Nothing in real history is ever a done deal. That’s why it’s so interesting.

But when looking for what’s as truthful as possible – look to the men and women who have systems. Who listen and take notes. Who collect their notes and observations in a reasonable order, time, and place.

We are surrounded by people who have opinions. The difference between a foolishly opinionated jerk and a determined participant in the political system – of either party – is that we should respect the women and men who have systems for observation and later for reflection.

There’s more to say; I just started thinking about this today.

Systems are where humans try to turn aspects of their complicated lives into habit – so that they will have enough time and energy to pay attention to, think about, and respond to what is important.


Good read. Sighing about the falling asleep. I am like Len - I want my house dark and quiet. Comedians on the radio, would literally drive me crazy. Love ur last sentence --- systems.


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