4:00 a.m.

I woke up at 4:00 a.m. a few days ago and thought I was going to die.

I have this issue with my left arm.   When I sleep in the wrong position, it goes numb.

I’ve already talked to my doctor about it and there are things that I can do to avoid pinching the nerve – lose some weight, wear a better bra during the day, use a different pillow at night, etc.

I did the easy ones and I’m working on the others.

The problem is, when I wake from this at 4 o’clock, I always think I’m having a heart attack.

Eventually, I do convince my head that I’m not actually dying, but my heart isn’t always as sure.

In those wee quiet hours, when my family is asleep and the house is dark, I always imagine the worst.

I hate it.  I hate that my a.m. brain goes to the darkest corners of my life to borrow bad fuel for my panic attack fire.

I think of the deaths of my friend and my father.  I remember my failures as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, even as a student.

I remember errors I made in my high school and college classes, stupid things I did to thwart my own education, and stuff I didn’t figure out until it was way too humiliatingly late.

I was late to the game a lot.  Late.  To the game.  A lot.

And at 4:00 a.m., I cry because of it.

Occasionally, my husband stirs and distracts me for a brief moment with some night terror of his own.  I guess that’s the hour when bad dreams hit our house.

Last night, I recalled (and was humiliated anew) by an incident from my 12th grade drama class.

It’s too ridiculous to explain in detail.  The short version is that the teacher asked me to summarize a play she had assigned a few days before.

She wanted me to start the discussion in class that day.

Unfortunately, I never read the play, so needless to say, I didn’t do very well with the summary.

To mask my stuidity, I even foolishly dared to tell of a scene from the book to enliven my description, only the scene I recalled was from the movie and wasn’t even in the book.

Epic fail.

There was such disappointment in my drama teacher’s face.  I think she really liked me until that moment.

Twenty-five years have passed, and it still embarrasses me to think of it.

At 4:00 a.m., it makes me panic.

And in college – oh brother – what an idiot I was.

I took Astronomy at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.  Bad move.  Not my favorite subject.  Not my favorite time of the day.  Lethal combo.

I fell asleep almost every time I went.

My friends took the class with me and helped me to stay awake now and then, but mostly I missed everything.

When it came time to take the final, I was totally stumped.

Rather than kill myself trying to come up with answers I knew weren’t in my head, I wrote a note to the teacher on my exam paper.

I apologized for failing the test, mentioned that I was a theater major and said I hoped he would come to a play sometime.

I strolled to the front of the class, got behind a few other students and added my unfinished test to the pile.

Since there were other kids behind me, I assumed my test would sink below some others so I could skulk out of the room without incident.


The instructor read my note before I’d gotten ten feet from him.  Then he said my name.  I turned to see a look of totally exasperated disappointment.  He shook his head at me.

Humiliation.  Red hot cheeks.  Couldn’t get away fast enough.  What was I thinking?!

At 4:00 a.m., that teacher’s face appears right in front of mine and makes me panic.  PANIC.

It sucks.

I hate for people to know how dumb I am.

And by “people,” I mean me.

I hate to know how dumb I am.

I hate to know it at 4:00 a.m. because it makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack.


Don’t know what else to say.

Happy Thursday.

P.S.  Oh, and by the way, if you absolutely MUST know, the play was Anna and the King of Siam.

P.P.S. Today, I look like my mom.  (Ignore the red eyes.)

And my dad.

And myself too.


10 thoughts on “4:00 a.m.

  1. Your Mother should be so lucky as to look like that! And you are not dumb! I will not allow anyone to call my daughter dumb! Everyone has such thoughts at 4:00 A.M. When I was in first grade -FIRST grade I wet my pants by the teacher’s desk while I was waiting to ask permission to go to the rest room. The little boy I liked, sat on the front row and I can still see the look of horror on his face. That was 75 years ago! So it’s normal to think about your regrets at that hour. I have plenty, just as you do. It shows you’ve lived and not hidden away from life! Your Mother loves you.

  2. Becky,

    I thought I was the only one who did that! I’ve had a few incidents where I thought I would die from the panic attacks that started by my trip down idiot Christy’s memory lane. Why do we always remember the bad. . .we are so hard on ourselves, never good-enough. I seem to get into moods sometimes, in the middle of the night, usually, when I’m sure life (mine and those around me) would’ve been much better but for my epic fails.

    I found that reading during these times, half a little yellow pill (rarely) and faith in God and remembering that we learn from these Epic fails and that We All Fail. But, that’s hard to remember at 4 in the morning.

    I love you and appreciate the ability to be so honest and put those feelings out there for us to share.

  3. I find the 4:00 am time (actually in my case is 3:00am) just bewildering because of the worries and regrets that I can dredge up. I guess we are at the most vulnerable when we awaken. Just hate it! From all of the comments, this must not be an unusual circumstance. So, being in such wonderful company, I can proudly say I love you wonderful girl!

  4. Becky my dear,

    I’m thinking your description of your 4 a.m. experience might become known as the 21st Century version of the Old West’s Prairie Madness. And it’s killer hard.

  5. I command that you write a blog today about “Fabulous Becky” because with all of your perceived failures that’s the only Becky I know: Fabulous Becky. 🙂

    • Are you sure you aren’t secretly setting me up for some sort of reality tv show – nicknaming something like that? Fabulous Becky! Ha! Right back at you, my fabulous friend!

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