Senza Sonno

Senza Sonno

It’s back. Only now I can’t even get to sleep much less stay asleep. The recent loss of my father’s voice on my answering machine is a low-fi backdrop to a constant stream of worries that plays relentlessly through my head… And each night it seems we get to bed later and later… Phone calls, unexpected visits from friends, desperate final games on the DS before bedtime, more dishes to wash than it seems we could have possibly used just to make dinner for the two of us… various things thwart our plans to retire at a sensible hour. And the later the hour, the more stressed we both are about hurrying up and falling asleep. It took Elihu close to an hour before I heard his breathing shift. He tossed and turned until past 10… Me, I napped for an hour but am back up again, wide awake and awaiting the effects of one of my few precious remaining sleeping pills. I try to go without any pharmaceutical assistance – I really do, but it seems no matter how much I may yawn during the day and yearn for my bed, I cannot depart this waking consciousness on my own… I awake tired each morning after just an hour or two of true sleep. And as I embark on a long, full day, I look forward to little landmarks to keep me going, culminating in that glorious relief my bed will bring…. yet it when I finally get there…. there aint no relief waiting for me.

I’ve shared my love of sleep before. I no longer find shame or embarrassment in my need for a good eight or nine hours of the blessed stuff. I’ve come to believe my body needs it. I feel refreshed and ready when I’ve had a good long night’s sleep. I can go a day or two on scant nighttime naps, but by day three I’m not happy. And tomorrow morning will be such a day. I’d fix it if I could, I’d call a doc friend and ask as humbly as I could for some help, only even if she does help me out, I still can’t afford the full-on, mainstream price tag of the sleeping pills without benefit of insurance. Why do I even mention this? I came to learn recently that my Medicaid has lapsed. Not good. Not even sure how it happened. I’m usually on top of that stuff… (Makes me wonder if they’ll cover my colonoscopy from a while back. Ich. One more thing to stew over while I’m busy not sleeping.)

Not much to do now, think the little pill is fuzzing me down now. That’s better. Maybe now I can drift away. Only four hours left… Here comes the game of the sleepless night; the constant readjusting of one’s justifications – I can do it on three hours if I have to… it’ll be ok… it’s just one more day… how hard could it be?… ok, I’ve got just over two hours. That’s better than nothing, right?

Yes, I’m getting the heavy lids. Thank God! Shoulda just done this hours ago. Better late than never. Better ‘con‘ than ‘senza’. !

Sleepless in Saratoga

Sleepless in Saratoga

Ok, this is nuts. It’s been going on for a couple of years now, and I’ve had it.

I live a full and busy life. For the most part I’m pretty happy, daily I’m grateful, and never am I idle. My chores start before sunrise and end late at night. I cook two mealtimes a day plus make my child’s lunch. I work a few hours, I practice an hour, I do laundry and dishes daily and keep up on correspondence. I prepare for students, I teach students. I have a great relationship with my son, I love my home, my family is all alive and well… I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol and the coffee I drink is decaffeinated. All in all I’m healthy, and things are goin pretty well. So why in hell can’t I sleep? Oh I can get to sleep initially – but if I get up at night to pee – it’s all over. Likely I’ll be up for the duration, catching half hour naps here and there on a good night. Some nights I just wake up for no good reason at all. Either way, there I am again, watching that stupid clock. I’ll turn the clock to face the other way, but that won’t help. And yes, I know the other tricks – get all your wandering and pressing thoughts down on paper. Concentrate on your breath. Don’t drink lots of fluids close to bedtime… check, check and check. 

I can’t be the only one! I see the commercials for sleep medications – that lovely, luminescent butterfly gliding in and out of suburban bedroom windows, gently coaxing pretty women to sleep… And I myself have taken such medication. Many times over the last five years I’ve depended on em for a true night’s sleep. But I’d very much like to sleep on my own now, only it just aint workin. It’s driving me nuts. Ok, there are two things I know I haven’t tried – exercise and yoga. Those two disciplines, worked routinely into my life might tip the scales. They might be just what I need to find sleep a naturally occurring phenomenon again. Ok. On the list…

Oh, yeah, and speaking of lists, there’s that ‘other’ list too. The ‘low-grade worry’ list that continues, like a ticker at the bottom of your screen on the nightly news…. not enough money so the electric might shut off soon, not enough money but the fuel oil’s nearly out, not enough money so now the phone’s been cutoff, not enough money but sure hope the the kid’s violin rental won’t be cancelled , not enough money, hope the car insurance won’t lapse….did the bank charge me two or thee overdrafts? How much was that total?  I need more students, I need more egg customers… where will I find them? Even then, will it be enough? This is all old news by now, but it’s there, nonetheless, and perhaps it contributes to the problem. Shouldn’t think so, but then again…

My mother insists that this is simply what happens to all women in or nearing menopause. Many other women say that’s baloney. Who’s right? What’s the cause? What the hell is going on here and why can’t I sleep???

Years ago – as in maybe more than 20 – I was an extra in a Sandra Bullock movie, shot in Chicago. Folks were all abuzz in the costume room, but all I was was tired. My husband had long told me I was making too big a deal over sleep. We humans didn’t need much, he would say confidently, we could function on so much less than we got every night. Alright, so I decided to live ‘like him’ for 24 hours to see how true this was. We had a gig the night before, stayed way up, retired way late. Drove him the O’Hare for his next gig somewhere, then I went back downtown to the set. I was shown the cloakroom, told the extras were already on the street but I had a good twenty minutes yet to find a coat and get down to the set (we were given coats to wear, not much different from our own). There was a pile of coats on the floor left by the extras – and it looked so inviting. Maybe, just for a couple minutes. A power nap. Yeah, that’s just what I need. And there’s no one here – I’m all by myself. Perfect. I laid down and slept. When I awoke, it seemed to be lunchtime. I’d missed the morning’s scene, but I’d at least make the afternoon scene. Got in line and put some very good looking food on my plate. I was just about to taste the tip of a perfectly prepared asparagus spear when a very stern woman came up and informed me that this was dinner for the crew, and that the extras were outside, on set. ?? It took me a minute to realize what had happened. I’d been deeply asleep for at least eight hours – through the commotion of lunch break too – and it had only felt like fifteen minutes! Woah. Very Rip Van Winklesque. Kinda disorienting. The woman made me dump my plate into the garbage and leave the building. Ok. I’m going. I wasn’t bummed about not being in the movie, but I was instead feeling quite smug inside. Turns out this girl does need her sleep. Body don’t lie.  

And the name of that movie? “While You Were Sleeping”. Ha! I certainly know that I need my sleep – more to the point I want my sleep – but these days the challenge is actually getting it. Here I go, back to the task at hand… rested or not, see you in the morning.

Night Snack

Night Snack

I think I’m dreaming, but I’m not quite sure… my son and I are running through the tall grass of my parent’s property in the dim light of early night, searching for the source of a skirmish we hear. A bird of ours is in distress, she is being attacked by something. He is far away from me, nearing the hen and her attacker faster than I am, and I begin to fear for his safety. ‘It can’t be any creature that would harm him’, I think as adrenaline comes over me. It looks a lost cause as I get nearer to the spot. The grass is too long to pinpoint the trouble, and it’s dark enough now that I believe our attempt to save her is lost. I am now aware that if it’s a dog moving in on her there may be more dogs closing in soon. My son himself is hardly tall enough to be spotted in the undergrowth and he seems all of a sudden vulnerable to the imaginary pack now sifting out of the woods and coming in closer. I call to him to stay back, I tell him we need to call this off. “Just come back!” I yell across the darkening field whose perimeter of forest now appears as lightless as black velvet. I feel some relief to hear his feet rustling back to me, the sound of his footsteps blending with the terrorized movements of our hen.

I now realize this is a dream, and the fearful mood dissolves just a bit, enough for me to begin to consider that I am replaying a version of what might have happened to the hen we had recently found dead in the garden. Then I begin to associate the dead carcass we’d seen in the garden with the meaty, tangy and tough strips of cured beef we like to indulge in every so often, and note how that kind of food feels as crude and real and death-like as the event that’s going on before us. As my focus now begins to turn in earnest to the idea of beef jerky, I realize that I would very much like some of that now. My dream fades a bit more; one half of me wants to remain in that dark field and finish our quest, retrieve our bird and scare off the predator, yet the other half of my mind is now seriously attached to the idea of beef jerky. I realize I’m hungry…. hey, I didn’t really have supper, did I? No, just broccoli. Man, I really do want something like that.. do we have any? Now I am indeed waking out of the dream. I am still able to shout one last thing to dream Elihu, but now I’m not sure he’s with me anymore. He’s still putting his energy into stopping the kill… so I finally leave him there, and open my eyes.

12:12 am. I smile to myself. That’s a number been in my world a long time. Got married on 12/12. And I am hungry. Salami. Got some of that. Started to buy it only recently for Elihu’s lunches. Is it enough to get me out of bed? I wonder, as I take an assessment of just how comfy I am, lying here under my warm covers rather than with cold, wet feet out in the middle of a field as I just was… Ok. Now I am awake. Yes, salami it is. And then the other half of the second-to-last sleeping pill to make sure I can truly get back to sleep.

I’m up. The salami does a good job. Not jerky, but salty, chewy. Kind of. I step outside and notice that it must be cloudy, because it sure is light out for the middle of the night. All that light from the mall, from the stores on 50 that stay lit all the time. All of it bouncing up onto the ceiling of low-lying clouds, keeping the land underneath bathed in a constant glow. Maybe something healthier to cap off this snack. A strawberry. Have one, leave two for Elihu’s lunch tomorrow. Just as I finish it, I realize I have bitten the inside of my mouth ever so slightly, and I notice the sour taste of the small cut mix with the tang of the strawberry’s last flavor. For a microsecond the two tastes are almost one. I worry it with my tongue to check how much it actually hurts. It upsets me for the briefest moment, til I remember what a familiar sensation it is. All the dozens of times throughout my life in which I’ve ever so slightly bit the inside of my cheek by mistake, the lingering salty, sour taste of an open cut left behind. I imagine myself if I were dying of some disease, thinking with nostalgia on something as preciously mundane as this, and becoming happy instead to experience it once more. Hm. One swallow of seltzer water will end this snack perfectly. Without checking the bottle, I grab it from the door of the fridge, take the top off and take a swig. It is not what I’d intended; instead it is the sickly sweet, no calorie sparkling lemonade I’d bought in anticipation of Elihu’s school chum coming over. Our seltzer water is too foreign and fancy for him, so I’d bought this. A taste of plastic hits me, and immediately I see the flourescent lights of a grungy corner garage where they sell Mountain Dew and stale candy bars.

My snack ends. So many images, all in a matter of mere seconds, wafting up from disparate corners of my memories. Waking in of itself becomes a dream. I shuffle back to my bed still going slow, energy mellow, hoping the transition back to the dream side might be more seamless than other nights. Roll into covers hardly pushed back, my body’s form still held by the pillows and blankets. Onto my right side, for I am a mostly a right side sleeper. Tuck it all in around me, and very soon am dissolving into the mysterious dimension of dreams once again.