I woke up yesterday morning to my father's voice muffled through the loud and deceptively small fan in my bedroom. Though the sun was starting to heat the room, I turned off the fan and lay back under the covers. Something about my father's voice, booming from his office next door, was amazingly soothing. I closed my eyes.
A therapist once told me that to overcome my vivid and bazaar dreams (which are mostly entertaining but occasionally very frightening), I need to be more present in my sleep. My mind wanders too far into my imagination and, as a result, my adventurous encounters during REM do not provide for a well-rested feeling in the morning. He said I should name five things I see, hear and feel out loud ("I see a white wall. I hear a loud fan. I feel my cheek on a soft pillow.") When I was particularly frightened or anxious, he suggested I close my eyes and place myself in a safe bedroom...a memory when I felt especially secure. A real place where the sounds were calming, the sheets were comforting and the environment was at peace. I was to recall the noises, temperature, smells and feelings of that moment. Often, I placed myself back in my grandmother's bed in St. John, KS, where I often ended up after she awakened early to start cooking. She had a comfortable bed with old, cotton sheets that were so incredibly soft; but what is most appealing about that memory is the sound of the pots and pans just across the hallway in the kitchen. To this day, if I wake up to hear my own mother hitting a spoon or spatula against a mixing bowl I am immediately taken back to that safe place.
But this was a new feeling for me. It reminded me of the summers in high school, when I was allowed to sleep-in. My dad worked from home at the time, and I could always hear him on a call in the guest bedroom that doubled as his office. Though I never listened to the content of the conversations, just the lulling beat of his voice was enough to put me right back to sleep.
Memories are important, but they so quickly become snapshots that can replay as filmstrip-visions in the mind. Perhaps because I am a musician, the sounds are what seem to bring me the most familiarity and calm. And I have a feeling, at some point in the future, when I am alone in Egypt and I start to feel a bit homesick (because all us daughters have these moments), I will want to recall that comfortable security of my father's voice.