My body shoots itself awake.

It’s still dark. The second I open my eyes, my nose is running like a faucet, and I have to stretch for the tissues on my nightstand before it’s too late. I should really move that box closer, I think. This has been happening at least once a week for the past month. I wonder if this is my body’s defense mechanism against making sure I don’t drown in a river of my own snot.

Once I’ve soiled a handful of tissues trying to drain my face, I toss and turn trying to get back to sleep. I resist looking at my phone for as long as I can. I don’t need to see what time it is. I know what time it is.

It’s 3AM I must be lonely.

My body has become a finely tuned clock, a vehicle for ritual and routine. When I manage to sleep through the night, I wake up at exactly 7:00 on the dot without an alarm. I have a schedule that I stick to—exercise, food, work, food, relaxation—before my body alerts me around 11:00 that it’s time for bed by grinding to a halt as though my muscles have been replaced by sandbags.

In some ways, this was the routine I always wanted. I used to dream about working from home—though in this fantasy I was bringing in a full salary as a freelance writer—because home used to be a sanctuary. I wanted the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted, to be able to spend the day with my dog in my lap, to answer emails around my writing time, to stop stressing about not having enough office attire in my closet.

And in most ways, my body thrives off routine. I am utterly unproductive if I give myself too much leniency, if I don’t enforce some kind of structure. Because if I find myself with a few spare hours, I could finish reading that book or write that essay or that household organizing project I’ve been meaning to get to for months. Instead, I melt on the couch and watch The Office for the fourth time in three years.

But these concepts that used to bring comfort—routine, home—have now morphed into a kind of prison.

I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes.

I give in and look at my phone. It’s 3:13. The blue light from the screen assaults me and guarantees I won’t be able to fall back asleep. I surrender to the insomnia. I open Twitter to check news updates and see what’s trending, then I open Facebook and Instagram, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, until, what? Until I’m saturated, but not satiated.

I open Headspace, put on one of their sleep soundscapes, and listen to the sound of the ocean for forty-five minutes until the audio cuts out. Still awake.

It’s past 5:00 now. I should just get up and start my day. Or at the very least I should turn on the light and read my book. I should, I should, I should. But I can’t. My body is paralyzed in bed, protesting all the ways the world should be right now but isn’t.

Well, she believes that life is made up of all that you’re used to.

When Brendan and I opened our relationship, I was amazed at how dating other people broke the routine of not just monogamy, but of life. Going out on dates made me realize that I’d only been a homebody because I knew no other way to be, not because it was a core trait of mine. I found myself becoming more extroverted than I’d ever been in my life, and I came to understand precisely in what ways I’d become a product of my environment.

Realizing I was poly broke open all my preconceived notions about how everything should be, fracturing negative thought patterns about my life and myself. I became receptive to the possibility of literally anything. I had never felt more alive, more awake; I had for the first time felt like I was cultivating an interesting, worthwhile existence. I’d been released from Plato’s cave and was sprinting far away from it, swearing to never turn back.

But now, without that freedom, without that spark of spontaneity inspired by all of our relationships and the people in our lives that push me to continue growing, I feel myself shrinking and shriveling, like a flower that’s been cut off from the sun.

I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes.

I can see the beginnings of sunlight emerging through my window. It’s 6:07. Exhausted by my night of sleepless sleep, I doze off for about an hour before resigning to the inevitability of the day.

Maybe my allergies aren’t what is waking me up in the middle of the night, after all. Maybe it’s a body, wired for variety, calling out for the break in routine.

Krista is a writer, dedicated dog-mom, and someone who loves people and organizing gatherings. She helps other people tell their stories working as a coordinator for a graduate creative writing program.

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