I have chronic insomnia, and it's always worse before some important event--an event at which I know I have to be "on" to perform, to make others comfortable or happy, to give my all (which is much less "all" than it used to be), to look my best (which just isn't happening with two hours of sleep). Tomorrow, it's just this sweet young man coming over with his work partner to pressure wash and then Thompson water-shield my deck. My needs for being "on" have definitely changed, diminished, over time, but I still get the insomnia nonetheless.
One day, I am afraid I will have insomnia simply because I know I will be getting up at some point the next day.
Or, slightly worse, that I will be going to bed the following night and having insomnia, so I really need to get a good night's sleep tonight.
My parents were cursed with insomnia, and perhaps I just patterned myself after their behavior. When I was in high school, I found the creaking of the living room floor, and hearing my father talking to himself, definitely winning at verbal combat with his nemesis, or turning the pages of a book after pulling out the chair at the reading table--these sounds comforted me. It was as though my father was "on patrol." Even though I knew he was a rather wacky patrol, that didn't matter. Someone was up, a light was on somewhere, and I was free to sleep.
If my father wasn't up, my mother was. Her ways of dealing with insomnia were counter-productive for the most. She drank glass after glass of iced tea at the dining room table with the burnt orange tablecloth. (The tablecloth and my mother were not sharing tea, although I wrote the sentence that way! And, who knows? Maybe she was sharing.) Slightly obsessive, she stirred each glass of tea, the ice tinkling and tinkling, at least--I don't know how many times. I lost count of the zombie stir, and I think she did, too. It was a ritual designed to comfort herself, but the caffeine and sugar went dead against sleep. The one thing she did that brought some success was playing solitaire with a deck of cards so old, the edges were bent, and the cards were wavy, as though they had once fallen in water and had been dried out. I did find solace in the quiet sound the old cards made as she put the eight on the nine, the nine on the ten. That was a gentle lullaby. She rarely bought new cards. I would have been hanging from the ceiling of my room with those crisp clicks. Stirring the tea was enough. Sometimes, I did go into the dining room and confront her, gently, "Mama, I think the sugar crystals have dissolved by now." This brought on maternal concern and apologies that made me wish I had stayed in my room, biting the headboard of my bed until she stopped stirring, which could last for some time.
Sometimes, I get up about 2 a.m. and look around at all I could be doing while having insomnia. I could be sending out a manuscript, sweeping dog hair off the baseboards, e-mailing someone about something important which he or she would find first thing in the a.m. and get right on. I could be working on my memoir, which is stuck in a manila envelope in my desk drawer. I could get ahead in some editing project. Take a warm shower. Floss better than I did earlier. Read something that would inspire me to find the fire in my belly that, once, was always there. I was so amazingly wild to find myself and life in every single thing I did, and I was like an innocent in every moment, everything turning up shiny and new, even if it turned out to be a not-so-good thing. There was risk.
Knowing that I have insomnia because I have to be "on" for the deck man makes me sad.
I really want to go back to Paris to live out my life. I used to have that kind of courage. I used to have that kind of money. I could sell my little bungalow, but it's mortgaged to the hilt, and I would have to sell it for about double what it's worth to get enough money to fly to Paris. Well, that's not exactly true. January flights after New Year, of course, are pretty inexpensive, comparatively, and my cousin, Joel, has an apartment in the 19th arrondisement. But he's young. Paris apartments are fairly small. Here would be this sixty-something woman flopping about on his floor in her sleeping bag, while he tries to have a life.
I have thought of begging in the subway. I have thought of writing little French poems for a couple of Euros. I can't seem to give up francs in my head. Euros sound like zeros. I could make enough to eat, just by pointing to my defibrillator-pacer, but where would I sleep at Joel's apartment. Standing up in the closet against the ironing board. Space is well-utilized in small Paris apartments.
So, now I am growing sleepy because I don't feel hemmed in. My future doesn't feel quite as locked into being "on" only for the pressure-washing of my deck, no matter how important that may seem, but, of course, next to Paris, is like a neutrino floating next to a whole universe of neutrinos.
Good night now. Dream of what you really want. And do that. I used to, and I pray I won't squander the time I have, clinging to something known, but very miniscule, and not able to put a fire back in my belly.
Daddy, go to sleep. The floor is aching from your footsteps. Mama, go to sleep, or whirr into space on all the sugar and caffeine, and hallucinate sleep. I am really and truly going to bed.
Something tells me that tomorrow I will be terribly embarrassed by this insane blog, posted at 3:14 a.m., CST. Hey, it's a risk. Another reason, however, that I might sleep better now.
Causes Bonnie Roberts Supports
The Southern Poverty Law Center, The National Resource Defense Council, The ACLU, Doctors without Borders, Save Darfur