Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,/The death of each day's life...Chief nourisher in life's feast --William Shakespeare, Macbeth II,ii.

I spent the past few days not sleeping. This is a time consuming activity. When I don’t sleep I lie in bed, trying to sleep, listening to books on tape or letting my thoughts drift aimlessly, running through my relaxations techniques, and getting up every twenty minutes or so to take something—a little more Vitamin C, a homeopathic, some herbal drops—to see if it will allow me to drift off.

In my defense, when I’m not not sleeping, this method usually works. But when I’m not sleeping, this method takes up more and more time, Instead of getting up for the day at 8, I get up 9 or 9:30, feeling unrested. I eat breakfast and am so tired I decide it would be a good idea to have my morning nap early, so I get back in bed. Instead of sleeping for the usual 20-30 minutes and getting up again, I can easily spend an hour or more not sleeping and what with the not sleeping before breakfast, the entire morning is practically over by the time I’m done. The same goes for the afternoon nap…. and soon enough I’m in a state of extreme exhaustion and frustration.

So the day went yesterday. Aside from not sleeping, I managed to walk a couple blocks to the mailbox and make one short phone call by the time 5pm rolled around. In my defense I also meditated, but this is close enough to not sleeping it hardly counts as an activity. 5-6 I spent talking to the real estate agent and seeing that all my friends had emailed me to say they were too tired to go out tonight.

Everything around me was irritatingly familiar-- I had been at home spinning my wheels far to long. To make it worse, I’d told The Poet I would be out for the evening so he would have time to himself, and I was going to be damned if he found me at home moping instead.

“Fine, I’ll go for a walk alone just to get out,” I told myself. I didn’t want to walk on my regular routes through my neighborhood—I would get in the car and drive to Queene Anne and walk up the huge hill, something I hadn’t done before.

Tears welled up as I locked the apartment door and headed for my Honda.
“This is ridiculous,” I told myself. “Just because you’re along right now doesn’t mean you don’t have friends or people that love you.”

In a last wild hope I called Amelia. She hadn’t emailed me back, but might be home with her family for the night, and I could visit.

She picked up the phone. I could hear her five-year-old and her toddler, both screaming in the background.

“I’m having an extreme child-rearing moment,” she said. “Are you calling me because you want to go out tonight? Let’s go!”

She left her husband in charge of the kids, and half an hour later we were at the movie theater. We saw Ghost Town, which was good for a few laughs, and then went out for tea and kvetching and more laughs. When Amelia looked down at her watch and declared it was 10:45 I was surprised. Time had flown.

I also felt one hundred times better and had even forgotten about my insomnia for a little while. It’s amazing how such a simple thing can make such a big change.

I got home, took all my pills and gave myself what felt like a thousand injections, but was really only two.

I woke up at about 6 the next morning, when I usually do, and went to the kitchen to mix up the drink I always have at that time, with magnesium and amino acid powder, plus a handful of vitamins and supplements. I went back to bed. “If I can’t get back to sleep,” I told myself, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll get up and do stuff.”

I dreamt I went out swing dancing. I sat on a bench and watched, thinking I would jump in sooner or later. Seamus Heaney was there. He turned out to be a decent swing dancer and was dancing all the songs. I didn’t want him to see me, so I hung back. The music ended and it was time for me to take my chlorella. I went to a sink for water. As I mixed up the drink, Professor Heaney came up to me. He recognized me and chastised me gently for not writing. I knew it wasn’t my fault, but still I was chagrined.

“Look, I wrote your recommendation letter and it’s the best I’ve ever written,” he told me. As he talked, his Irish brogue became thicker, until his words were a deep, unintelligible rumble that rose and fell like waves. The next moment I was awake with a different poet, my boyfriend, snoring loudly beside me. I looked at the clock. It was 9:15. I didn’t care about Seamus Heaney anymore. I had, at last, slept all that I needed.


Post Script: Although it seemed at the time that going out with Amelia had cured my insomnia, the next day I realized that leaving home in a hurry and staying out fairly late, I put my heparin injection off until right before going to bed. That was what helped me to sleep so well. Since then, I have continued to do my heparin shot late at night and I have had not a drop of insomnia. Thanks to Amelia!

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