It is 9 a.m. Colorado time and I have been up all night, not by choice, but because my old nemesis insomnia has snagged me yet again.
For years I battled it, until I gave up and began to make myself get up as if I’d had all the rest in the world. For me, time spent grinding my gears and what’s left of my teeth in rage is all time spent that I will never get back.
There are so many things I love to do. To auction on e-bay– I’ve bought a number of low-budget computers and laptops lately and upgraded them; my apartment looks like a warehouse of dead and dying space junk.
To write. Ah yes– to write, to work on my novel, the latest one about the woman who has undergone treatment for agoraphobia and sells everything to move to the Daintree rainforest in Queensland, where she learns the true meaning of fear.
The other novel, about an Italian American belle dame who helps southern Italians take down a capo di capi– a ruthless mafioso called Il Voce– The Voice–even as she launches a marriage to her covert Carabinieri lover.
My collections of poetry waiting as they have for years to be sent to the contests with the slim margin I’m developing from the computer money.
My teeth– there’s a thought; if I can’t sleep, go get a tooth or teeth pulled. It’s past time.
The point is that we all have things that seem hell bent on destroying us and ruining our quality of life–such as it is in one’s sixties and seventies.
Years ago I worked with a young woman who came down with insomnia and dispatched herself with a shot gun one day.
She got some sleep alright. And left a desolate husband and a little boy who might not make it to adulthood without his mother and the memory he must have that keeps him awake.
I don’t mean to be glib. It’s just that there are the mornings when you wake up after dreaming and barely dragging yourself out of the comfort of your bed, to the sweetness of early light and coffee and a clear mind. O Heaven, Here on Earth!
Years ago I hadn’t slept for three days and nights before my written exams for the M.A. in English/Creative Writing. I passed, but I had forgotten thesis statements for my answers. How fortunate that those very exams also applied to the MFA, so that I didn’t have to climb another Everest so strung out I could hardly stand.
Back then, I was trying to live chemically free. And one reason I’ve left AA is that there isn’t any room for someone like me, who needs certain drugs for valid reasons. We get shamed, dissed, made to feel worse, as if it weren’t a big deal to have gone without a drink now for nearly four years.
Not sleeping makes everything look awful– the snow, the long shadows on the cold lawns, one’s loneliness and lack of a companion, even one’s dog seems like a nuisance.
I hate it. Sometimes I don’t want to wake up when I fall asleep.
So I took another pain pill and am chugging a fake beer, which pacifies me, and writing this little post.
These things pass.
I am hoping to revisit the issue of getting my leg “fixed,” if a shortened deformed leg can be fixed. But the dread! The fear of being incapacitated and at the mercy of nursing home staff again!
My stay in the local nursing home– very local as in right down the street- was a buggering nightmare. When I could gear down and feel safe, which wasn’t often, my roommates, a series of three very old women who relived their lives the night long, would either fall out of bed, attempt to get to the bathroom and nearly fall, or shout epithets at all of us from their snoring, gum-chewing oblivion.
Next door to the last room I occupied in the nursing home in the spring of 2008 was a woman who lay in her recliner, mewing “help me, help me,” through the wall the night long.
All the circles of hell are gilded with souls who couldn’t sleep and went out into the street and felled someone with an ax.
For years, during the eighties and into the nineties, I would flee my own household and drive through the neighborhoods at dawn, my eyes burning with exhaustion, and some friend or neighbor would take me in and try to help me relax and take a nap.
I never could. It really was about feeling safe.
When ever I move anywhere, it takes weeks for me to feel safe enough to let go and rest and re-seat myself in the moment. I lie awake for hours, hyper-vigilant and in terror.
I think this goes all the way back to being a little girl in a body cast left alone in the dark on her back, trapped. For when I was cut out of the cast I was very fearful– afraid of re-injury with no trust in my body. And surely and not incidentally, I had been abandoned, and felt like it.
My brother was the one who had all the bravado in the world with which to sail and ski and climb, while I dislocated my knee the first time we went skiing.
All that fear. If you could get paid for being afraid, I’d be a millionaire.
It helps to furiously pound the keys into the next hour of the morning and feel the cottony mantle of the pain pill settle between my shoulder blades.
To remember that mere hours ago, I posted a poem I had dedicated to someone whom it didn’t please; I thought, well, I wonder what others would say about it. And I was vindicated.
But I am so very afraid, friends. I haven’t been able to work up my courage to face the other demons of having someone slice my gums open and extract my two front teeth. I can’t bear to look at what used to be a nice smile in the mirror. I fear the blood poisoning dentists rant about.
I know that we all have these dark things that wait for us, in the corners, when we stop thinking and doing. They spring from behind, latching on like the gorillas they are.
And the other building anxiety has to do with how for three years I had such a wonderful easy come easy go relationship with my neighbors and landlord. I know that worrying about this, my mind grinding away on worst-case scenaria, kept me from gearing down.
Back then, after the night I called them worried about their air conditioner and like a couple of neonate, banana-sucking monkeys with nothing to do, they called the landlord and he didn’t get my side of the story, subsequently citing my efforts to get us all the free mediation the city offers as “weird,” and saying that I seemed to be the problem– all of that bullshit, the chaff and tangle of blame– I fear that four months from now he will not renew my lease.
I have always pulled through for myself. But I desperately need to win the battle against my fear. To set aside these battles and merely live in the moment, for my creative work. It sucks to have to fight for every little disability accommodation and to have to unfurl the Fair Housing Act in someone’s face.
But back to the things hanging fire that comfort me and that I could do, as opposed to staggering outside screaming. I solemnly pledge to not lie suffering alone in the damp dark of my bedroom while the rest of the world is about the business of another day in the history of the world. I will read. I will paint. I will roll out a pie crust. I will finish a movie I started last night.
No matter how hard, how angry, how unfair it all seems, how victimized I feel– surviving bad nights means getting up, getting to it.
Those who chastise me for forever talking about life being so short ought to listen. Because it is. And we all sleep soon enough.