Today I want to write about beds. I’ve slept in 20 different beds since I left my own, perfectly wonderful nest at home. And I’ve developed some strong opinions about what makes a bed good.
The first component, in my opinion, is safety. If you don’t feel safe, there’s no way you’re going to sleep well -- no matter how magnificent the mattress or perfect the setting. I slept in a few beds on this trip where I felt unsafe (a local motel near Grand Junction, CO; a Motel 6 near Salina, KS; a Super 8 in Jacksonville, FL). The issue wasn’t the bed itself (though I did keep rolling out of that Motel 6 bed, which had NO support around the edges). The issue was the neighbors and the neighborhoods. In Florida, it was drag races and police chases on both sides of the motel. In Colorado, a large group of men was drinking noisily in the parking lot outside my door. In the Motel 6, it was people fighting in the rooms below and next door. I looked for inexpensive motels (long trip; limited funds), and chose them through Yelp reviews. I wish now I had always chosen to believe the worst reviews on there -- because most often, they turned out to be right. So, travelers, it’s one thing to travel cheap; but make sure it’s not SO cheap that you spend your nights worrying yourself awake.
Cleanliness is also important in a bed. I read somewhere that the most germ-intensive surface in any motel -- even the ritzy ones -- is the bedspread. So every time I entered a new room, I turned the bedspreads. I would have stripped them off (and burned them!), but usually the bedspread was the only blanket offered. Sometimes, the sheets didn’t feel clean; apparently, not all detergents. bleach, and washing machines are created -- or applied -- equal. But more important than physical cleanliness (when it got really bad, I just slept fully dressed and changed all my clothes in the morning), was energetic cleanliness. I’m a healer from northern California, and my friends and I can’t do anything (order take-out, discuss politics, write a check) without feeling and discussing energy. When I’m in a motel room, I literally feel -- in my body -- the energetic echos of the people who have been there before me. Some motel rooms (even sketchy-looking ones) feel fine; others feel like they have been breeding places for violence, or profound despair. You never know what you’re going to get before you check in. The bed in the Motel 6 in Colorado, for example, felt angry; I wouldn’t be surprised if the anger being played out by the guests in the rooms below and next door to mine was at least partially triggered and supported by the anger of previous renters in and around those rooms. It didn’t occur to me until about four weeks into the trip that I could -- and should -- do some sort of energetic clearing of each bed (and room, motel, town...) before I slept in it. When I remembered to do that, it seemed to help; but after 10-12 hours in the car each day, sometimes I was just too tired to do anything but crash. And I learned that rooms that are clean physically and energetically are just easier to sleep in.
The last component of a good bed, obviously, is comfort. Before the trip, I thought I had arranged my bedroom with the absolutely perfect sleep set-up for me: a brand-new (though well-outgassed), firm yet cushioned mattress; a very carefully chosen pillow (Walmart, $7); full-length body pillows nestled on each side of me; high-thread-count all-organic-cotton sheets, and just the right weight of down comforter on top. Plus, the room was perfectly dark and quiet (benefits of living out in the country), and there was a minimum of electromagnetic radiation from wireless routers, cell phones, computers... all eliminated. I had arranged the room with perfect feng shui, and for perfect sleeping comfort. And then the fire came. I spent the next night with three other refugees in a too-small and too-hot motel; then a night on a too-short couch in a drafty room; several nights after that in a damp tent; then a too-soft pillowtop in a smokey hotel above a casino; then a week on a camping pad on someone’s floor; more cheap motels; hard beds; soft beds; old beds; new beds; palatial beds... And what happened was, after a while, the quality of the bed itself seemed to lose its importance.
Sure, I still have my preferences. But eventually, it became clear that the important issue was sleep itself. Not my belief about what it would take for that sleep to happen. Not my yearning for comfort and tactile enjoyment. Rather, simply that the bed, the room, and the space around the room were safe, clean, and supportive.
By some standards, I’m to be pitied. I lost and left almost all of my previous life behind, due to the fire. By other standards, I’m to be envied. I had a safe car filled with comforting and helpful belongings; friends and relatives to put me up; enough money to be able to travel, eat, and spring for 14 motel rooms along the way. I wish I had had a big enough car to sleep in, but I didn’t (I would have traded in my little VW before the trip, but it’s one of those evil polluting diesels, and had very little resale value at the time). Instead, I had to/got to sleep in lots of different beds.
What did I learn by sleeping around so much? That there’s a much wider range of experience to life than I had been allowing myself in my safe, clean, comfortable bed in the California countryside. That I’m more adaptable than I think. That I don’t NEED everything I thought I did to get a good night’s sleep. That I have a wonderful family, great friends, and tons of support. And... that it really is nice to be home.