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I’m not a morning person and I’m not a good sleeper.  This is not news – no need to alert the media, unless we’d like for it to become an issue for the teabaggers – oops, I mean tea-partiers.  But last night was unusually rough.

Yes, I know, I didn’t go to bed at an early hour, even though I worked 12 hours and was terribly tired.  I got entranced with The Civil War after I got home (see yesterday’s post) and stayed up too late.  I offer myself a Mea Culpa for that.

However…

When I did go to bed, I turned off the light, like a good dog, and went straight to sleep.  For about 3 hours.  At which time, the coyotes who frequently roam the empty field by the Cottage struck a little too close to home.  Like right beside my slightly cracked bedroom window.  I don’t know what they were tussling with, but there were snarls and squeals and growls and excited paw movements that woke me suddenly, leaving me bolt upright and wide-eyed, staring at the black until they ran off towards the Big House.

Of course, that had my heart pumping.  I remember once, when I was little, there was a dogfight outside my bedroom window in the middle of the night.  I will never forget my terror at the idea of two huge fighting dogs plunging through the glass and into my bedroom.  That didn’t happen, but the fear of the fantasy remains.

Since the house next door was broken into and robbed last week, I have been, I think understandably, a little edgy.  I’m glad no one was hurt.  But it brought into sharp focus how isolated I am in the Cottage.  No one can hear me here.  No one can see me here.  So, in the middle of night, the hamster of thievery came to romp in my brain.  And that’s just not a good sleep aid.

But I did not give up.  I was still hopeful that Morpheus would come to cradle me until morning.  I got up to get some water and noticed my forehead hurt.  Odd.  Blinding myself with the bathroom light, I faced the mirror.  And there it was.  True injustice to a woman experiencing sirocco-like hot flashes.  A giant pimple erupting directly in the center of my forehead.

Sigh.  What can you do?  Curse.  Go back to bed.  Speculate on why it hurts like a broken skull.  Imagine that, instead of a pimple, it is actually a horn about to emerge from the bones beneath my skin. 

Don’t laugh.  It happens.  See?

And with that thought I drifted back to sleep for an hour.

Insomnia last night.  Ugh.  Went to bed a little bit late – just before 11:00, but come 3:00 am, I was still awake.  I almost drifted off sometime around 1:00 and I was startled awake by a lone coyote out in the Open Space beside the Cottage.  I think he was separated from the pack.  He was giving these interesting barks – summoning barks, but not the same summoning bark as when a coyote has made a kill.  He went on for a bit, and got the distant dogs in the surrounding neighborhoods going.   Once he stopped, Eagle next door gave out a couple of calls – he is often a companion on my sleepless nights.

Things quieted down, but I was awake, listening to the quiet.  I was thinking about what my new house would sound like, since it’s closer to a street than the Cottage is, and doesn’t have Open Space around it.  It’s been 20 years since I’ve lived in a house that didn’t have a natural wildness next to it.  Pat’s house had the creek on one side, the Cottage has the Open Space, the house in the mountains had, well, mountains (and a stream) by it.  But a house by Open Space that’s close to Kelsea is out of my price range for a little while. 

After I soaked in the quiet for a time, and examined the color of the walls in the dark, the two Great Horned Owls that live in the big pine tree in front of the Cottage started talking to each other.  I have only seen them a few times, and only when they have swooped through the darkness over my head as I’ve been crossing the lawn to the Cottage.  They hooted at each other for a long, long time, clearly conversing.  I wondered what they were saying, and then lay there in the darkness, doing my best to imitate them very softly, and wondering if they could hear me.  I think perhaps they could, because when I got the call to a tone that sounded close to theirs, they were silent for a few minutes.  I don’t know what kind of hearing owls have, but I would expect that it’s pretty good.

At 3:00 am, I turned off the alarm which was set for 7:00.  I cannot function on less than 5 hours sleep without shaking all day.

I did finally sleep.  Sometimes, as I’ve written about before, I feel like a small child, fearful of sleep, because I am fearful of my own dreams.  But last night, I dreamed and dreamed.  I dreamed about my father (in a good way, in a new life), about a house with wood floors, about outdoor showers, about dogs that loved me, about Paris, about a man on a streetcorner cooking me eggs, about finding my way. 

I awoke far too late, having missed kickboxing class, which I made up for by taking a hike.  But I woke up singing.  I got up singing.  I haven’t done that for a long while.

It felt good.

And after feeling bad for what feels like so long, I’m going to enjoy feeling good for as long as it lasts.

I can’t sleep.  I have never really slept well.  I remember not sleeping when I was little little, my brother and I talking from our twin beds across the room, his under the window, mine by the bedroom door.  My father would carry us both to bed, and then say our prayers with us, and lay at the end of our beds and talk with us about anything and everything.  We could store up our questions from the day, our imponderables at that age, to ask him about.  He always seems to have the answers.  And I remember seeing ghosts by my bed, but that’s another story.

I know my bro checks this blog from time to time – did he lay at the end of each of our beds individually?  I can’t recall us ever interrupting the other’s conversations with Daddy…and that wasn’t like us!  Do you remember, E-Bro?

I think I’ve written about insomnia before.  For a few weeks, not too long ago, I was going to sleep without taking something to help me get there, and it was wonderful.  That bliss has fled back to wherever it came from.  Now it feels like nothing works.

I know why.  I want the  shoulder to rest my head on, the warm love to reach out for when dreams get strange.  I’ll have it again.  I know I will.

For now though, when I sleep, I sleep sideways across my bed – at least I did last night.  The moon was so bright it kept me awake until I dozed off staring at it.  Owls were hooting gently in the trees along the fence.  They would pause when the coyotes started their joyous, kill-celebrating chorus, which they did from various distances, three times.  It was a good night for hunting, no doubt because of the brightness of the moon.

I can’t see the clock from my bed, which is a good thing.  (Because of my eyesight, not my clock placement.)  Otherwise, I’d do that thing we do when we look at the clock and count how few hours we’d have if we fell asleep right NOW, and we think about how awful tomorrow will be because we had no sleep.  If I don’t know what time it is, I can’t do that – a small mercy, I think.

Eagle next door seems to be an insomniac as well.  I hear him at odd hours, with his distinctive call, and I wonder what he’s thinking.  Does he mind being cared for by Mr. National Geographic?   Or does his cry in the night speak of his longing for his freedom?  Is he dreaming of flying?  I will never know, but I find him a comfortable companion in the wee small hours.

I was talking with a friend the other day about what it must be like to live in the northern climes where there is no night – or no darkness, rather – for months at a time.   Since lack of light is a contributing factor to seasonal depression, would seasonal depression be less prevalent in those places?  Or would your circadian rhythms be completely wacko, because it is always light?  I expect my insomnia would get worse, as I can only sleep when it is light on rare occasions – Caribbean naps or in the perfect lap.

I wrote some months back about the hamsters that would traipse through my brain when I couldn’t sleep. Currently, the hamsters seem to be sedated.  Perhaps they’re hibernating for summer.  At any rate, they don’t prevent me from going to sleep and I seem to be able to lull them into submission if I awake in the night, even if I can’t lull myself into submission.  Their absence makes the wakeful nights less stressful.

But my insomnia is not about waking up and not being able to get back to sleep.  It’s about not being able to go to sleep.  I am told I have poor sleep hygiene.  I read myself to sleep, which I shouldn’t do.  I should just get in bed, turn out the light, close my eyes and try to sleep.  But that’s the only time I have to read, and I love to read.  Hmmmm.  I need to think about this one – you can make time for the things you love without sacrificing the things you need.

Occasionally, sleep eludes me because I am too tired already, and I know my dreams will exhaust me.  My sub (or is it un) conscious mind is so active that my dreams are loaded with symbolism, incredibly busy, and usually have a cast of thousands.  (Picture a film with the shared directorial perspectives of Cecile B. DeMille, Francois Truffaut, and a bipolar person in a manic phase, and you have my typical dream – what does that say about me?)  I look forward to using my dreams in my future shamanic practice.  Perhaps that will help me to come to amiable terms with them after all these years.

My bed is wonderfully comfortable, good mattress, feather bed, down comforter, high thread-count sheets, and  fleece my mother bought for me as a parting gift that carries the colors of tropical waters.  One day, I am sure, insomnia will have had her say, and sleep will be, for me, another form of peace.

Shakespeare said, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” 

Let’s see what Morpheus has in store for me tonight.

318

Holding the moon

We characterize it as hamsters.  Hamsters trying to chew their way through a tangle of neural networks.  We say “Call if you can’t sleep” and neither of us sleep, but neither of us call, because we don’t want to take the chance of waking the other, if, by some breath of the Gods, the other is sleeping.

Insomnia.  Combine it with dreams, and it is a force that could bring an army to its knees.  There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a torture tool in some places.  Interestingly, while the torturer may think that it will make their captive confess, it will actually just make their captive confess to anything.  Insomnia leads you to an altered perception of reality, of your thoughts, of your feelings, of the importance and normalcy of everything around you.

My father suffered from it for the last years of his life.  He always took something to help him sleep, which bothered me for a while, until I realized that he might as well get a comfortable sleep during his last years – becoming dependent on a sleep aid didn’t matter. 

I find that when I work too much, I am too tired and then I can’t sleep.  After getting home around 10:30 last night, I took a half a Lyrica (the latest in a long line of sleep aids) and settled in to read.  And read.  And read.  I finished Charlatan, which was a wonderful book.  I started The Fall of a Philanderer, which is a light, mindless mystery.  I took the other half of the Lyrica.  Finally, finally, I feel asleep.  Woke up having had a water dream, with Kelsea in it, which inevitably means that some change is about to come.  Didn’t want to know what time it was, laid awake, went back to sleep, and in what felt like an hour, the alarm went off.

I am working now in the surreal haze of exhaustion, looking forward to going home and going to bed.  But there is much to be done before that can happen, and I have Kelsea tonight, and need to exercise, as we are one month from my next trip to the islands, and of course, I want to look like a fit supermodel by then (ha!).  But more on that later.

In case YOU need help sleeping, here are a few little-known insomnia facts:

  • The longest film ever shown was entitled “The Cure for Insomnia” (1987), with a run time of 87 hours.
  • Cows and elephants sleep standing up, but can only dream when lying down.
  • Being awake for 17 hours results in the performance equivalent of a blood alcohol-level of 0.05% – which in Colorado can get you a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired). Trust me on this one.

I suppose it could be worse.  At least I am not suffering from Exploding Head Syndrome, Hypnagogic Jerk, or Night Eating Syndrome.  And while I can come up with some highly entertaining and unwholesome definitions of these disorders, the actual definitions are as follows:

Exploding Head Syndrome – where you hear loud exploding sounds in your head (actually I have had this).  It’s distressing and puzzling, but not painful.

Hypnagogic Jerk – that involuntary movement that happens when you feel you are falling in a dream or as you are drifting off to sleep.  I’m a victim of this, as I’ve been whacked in the nose by a sufferer.

Night Eating Syndrome – binge eating in the middle of the night.  Some are aware that they are doing so, and others are not.  The scale will tell.

 Or Fatal Familial Insomnia, a rare genetic prion disease that causes dementia and death.  (For more about FFI, read “The Family That Couldn’t Sleep” by D.T. Max, available at www.amazon.com).

 But wait — my father couldn’t sleep.  Uh oh.

They run through my mind in the wee smalls, racing on their wheels or chewing on the wires of my brain.  In an effort to calm them and minimize damage, I am naming them like Santa’s reindeer or the 7 dwarves, each with its’ own personality and purpose.  Cut from the herd tonight are:

 

Scared

Guilty

Selfish

Nervous

Lonely

Overwhelmed

 

Hungry appears at the fringe of the herd – a nervous critter that tries to find comfort in eating and in serving as a physiological distraction from the damage the others are attempting to cause – causing collateral damage himself.

 

Let’s put faces to names, shall we?

 

Scared – big, round eyes, semi-paralytic – what have I done? What if I’ve screwed up?  What if there’s no one to take care of me when I’m sick? Sits in a corner of my mind and races, little heart beating a million thumps a minute. This is big. Really big. I can’t take it back – not because he wouldn’t let me, but because I wouldn’t let me. But what if it doesn’t work with Russ? What does – could – my future look like? Blankness.

 

Guilty – troubled, downcast eyes, furtive behavior – how could I do this to Pat? How dishonorable to my 25 years of relationship with him, to leave and leap heartlong into a new relationship? I do not want to hurt him by being with Russ – but I do want to be with Russ. Talk of honor – there would have been more honorable ways to get out of this without involving someone else. But I’ve been in relationships with someone else for many of my married years. Gee, that makes me feel so much better about myself – chicken – dishonorable, weak chicken.

 

Selfish – narrow-eyed, crafty, cunning.  I am putting my needs before my family’s, before Pat’s (can’t be helped anymore, he’s never put my needs first), Kelsea’s – I want to be with Russ, but am not yet (geez, give yourself a break, you just decided this eight hours ago) ready to sleep with him when Kelsea is here – Pat doesn’t want me to.  Kelsea wants to get to know him.  And he is going through a hell of his own.  I want to make love with him, as he does with me, and I can’t feel comfortable doing that with her right down the hall. So does that mean my selfish needs are more important than my daughter, than having her around?  But I don’t want to continue to sublimate myself, not to her, not to Russ, not to anyone.  I’ve lived too long beneath that veil.

 

Nervous – darting eyes, sitting in a corner, twitching and wringing his little paws. Very similar to Scared.  “What’ll I do, what’ll I do?” is this one’s battle cry – or battle whimper. What if? What if Russ can’t deal with Kelsea? What if he doesn’t like her, doesn’t like compromising his desires for a child? What if I lose my job? What if what if what if. What if I am smothered?

 

Lonely – tear-filled eyes, slowly walking the wheel. Am I truly destined to be alone? Not to be old Nobody’s Girl, as she is gone – Russ has been instrumental in banishing her, as he was in banishing my red demon and the Mayan god. But I could still be only my girl, no one to love me to the core. I come with so much baggage and love is hard to find, hard to achieve. And after Russ, impossible to imagine having another.  But who will care for me when I am sick, as I get (unthinkably) old?

 

Overwhelmed – breathing heavy, frenetic on the wheel, unable to calm, to self-soothe. So tied to all its cage-mates, this one plays out every conceivable and inconceivable scenario in its’ little hamster brain. How do I fill out those divorce papers? What about the two therapist appointments tomorrow, neither of which I want to keep? How can I find a life balance? How will I get the Directory done – the jpgs, the index? (I want to spend time with me, with Russ, with Kelsea, not be working.) What if Pat wants me to continue to pay for his mortgage (as he said he did – that’s why we need a mediator.) I worry about Pat. I am sick of working. I don’t even have time to take my recycle to the recycling center. And what about moving to the Caribbean?  Going into debt for the house, the bar?

 

And on and on…

 

I am forgetting the Secret.

 

And there are some positive rodents in the mix, they are just completely overshadowed by the chorus of madness from the aforementioned. It’s as if all the blurts are front-and-center, with no affirmations as counterbalance.

 

But perhaps that’s for a different night’s musings.

 

Russ says to call him if I can’t sleep amid the night. But I can never bring myself to possibly wake him from his possibly hard-won slumber.

 

My Mother’s best advice was “Never think about anything important after 2:00 am.”  My footnote to that advice: that’s when the bars close – coincidence? – but she did not drink. And it is now almost that witching hour.

 

The hungry hamster is chewing on the ropey-slimy cords of my intestinal tract in his demands for food, but I will not give in. I will triumph.

 

I will miss my garden and my lilacs in the Spring. I never had time for my garden anymore. That’s why it didn’t grow well.  What a metaphor.

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