Monday, November 22, 2010

She Can't Sleep

     I'm curled up under a warm heavy down throw, with a hot cup of creamy something beside me. Wearing long thick socks and my oversized Dickies hoodie, I'm surrounded by pillows for insulation as the room and I are cold.  The automatic thermostat has gone into night-mode. The residual heat from the fire has long died down and the damper and doors are closed as the wind would only swirl down the chimney and add to the chill.

Everything quiets down, even for a brief respite, the cats. TCM is on, as usual, my night companion. 'Leave Her to Heaven'. Gene Tierney and Vincent Price...both treats for me. Everything is low and quiet and resting, everything that is, except me.

Since the crib I've been a charter member of the night-owl club, a vampire of the night, or in my case, a sparkle fairy (pink of course). It started when I was six months old and my parents, desperate to get some sleep themselves, read in a trendy childcare book that they needed to let me cry myself to sleep to get into a regular routine. My father told my mom to go out with a girlfriend and he sat beside my crib for hours while I screamed and then fell asleep exhausted.

I have no desire to skewer my folks' choice of parenting styles (which was mostly 'fly by the seat of your pants' as I was their first); their motives were pure. Baby needed sleep. Mommy and Daddy needed sleep. The End. Every night they kept me to a schedule of bed by 8PM regardless of whether or not I was tired. and every night as far back as I can remember, I looked out the window or up at the ceiling or at my closet door and clutching my doll or a teddy bear for company, I thought. And thought. And thought.

For the most part, I didn't fight the bedtime routine unless I could hear the sound of Muppets singing on Carol Burnett drifting through the house to my room and I would scream and throw myself on the bed, at the door, on the hot pink shag area rug over the giant daisy linoleum on the floor, my little white ruffled granny gown flying,  my little feet running across the room like an elf on speed. Sometimes my dad would relent and let me in. Not so much my mom. She needed a break. Can't say that I blame her.

If I didn't get my way, and fell asleep crying, I would have horrible nightmares, well the same nightmare, of 'The Hands'. The Hands reached up at me through either side of my crib and squeezed me tight and tickled me until I screamed only I couldn't scream because I was being held so tight. I was terrified and shrieking inside and no sound could get out, I tried, I tried to scream, my eyes would bulge, my little body would heave and to stop it I would force myself to calm down and The Hands were finally satisfied and withdrew.

Until the next time. So I pretty much decided at the ripe old age of maybe.....two, that there would be no crying in bed for me. No way. No how. Not gonna happen. I was a very determined little girl. Even now I feel the fear and that same fear kicks in whenever my anxiety kicks in and medication is necessary.

Very early on, I figured out a a way to disassociate myself from that scenario. A way to avoid or escape the sadness, fear and loneliness. I just removed myself from it by imagining I was somewhere else, sometimes in the room floating on the ceiling or through the window, sometimes another place or time entirely. And when I
got a little older and more mobile (climb out of crib <check> 'fall' out of bed <check check>) it morphed into a healthy fantasy life including a very loyal and entertaining imaginary friend whose name will not be mentioned to protect the innocent (and nameless. I just can't remember).

Interestingly enough, my dad, a warehouseman who worked the night shift would often come home at dawn and hear me talking animatedly with my imaginary friend. He'd throw open the door in panic and looking around say, "WHO'S IN HERE WITH YOU?"  I'd look up and smile and say, "Nobody, Daddy." HE still talks about that. Bless his grumpy heart.

My imaginary friend disappeared around the time we got a dog or my sister. The timing there is a bit fuzzy.

  Sleeplessness plagued me for years and I fought it. When I slept, I did so deeply and woke remembering long vivid rich dreams that could rival any old Hollywood extravaganza. They were in technicolor and had a score and soundtrack and in them I was a major character but also an indifferent narrator and some people or voices that were in those dreams I didn't know then but would at some point come to know which disturbed me. 

In fact, when I tell that to people now I fully expect them to be skeptical and chalk it up to fancies of a precocious little girl but I still have those dreams and still are meeting those people.

Recently I saw a video clip of a man I never met but wanted to and perhaps it was that desire that influenced me but I recalled his voice from a dream, several in fact.  My heart leaped, not in surprise but in the delight of recognition. (Well, also because his voice thrilled me but that's neither here nor there.)

I don't look forward to those dreams as much as I used to. Sometimes I can't figure out if there was ever a point or lesson to be learned or if like Scrooge said, "You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato." Sometimes a potato is just a potato and not a blueprint for the future.

Sleep is for amateurs. I am at peace that it doesn't want or need to be my friend although I would like its assistance from time to time. Four or five hours a night will refresh me and seven or eight seem like a luxury I can only hope for, less realistic though than my ridiculous wish list.

The upshot is that I have plenty to do. I joined several internet forums and groups, can search YouTube and Google without interruption and will talk to anyone who won't ask for pics of my sexxxi asz on Yahoo IM.  I have quite the little world on Facebook and am truly tickled when someone 'likes' my stuff or 'pokes' me back. I'm also working on a chick-lit novel that is practically writing itself, reading every fiction writing guide I can get my hands on and have recently discovered the joys of blogging.

The communities I've joined have yielded warm friendships which I consider quite real and now some have even punched through the digital membrane of anonymity and spoken with me in person which makes me quite happy because to me, it validates, it acknowledges the friendship. It's not so easy to pull the plug and pretend another doesn't exist because you now have seen their face on cam, then in person, shared coffee at the local bookshop and laughed and snarked and heard their voices for real, for real, and not just in a dream.

I met my husband over the internet. We then began to talk on the phone in earnest and then after a week or so he wanted to meet me (and I him, of course.)  At the time, the internet was fairly new to me. I had no idea we were on the cutting edge of new ways to reach out, meet and touch someone first in pixel, then in person so it was strange but fun. I considered that budding relationship real, as all my friendships now.  I cherish them all.  

So, I no longer consider insomnia a curse or some further proof that God has passed me over once again and found me unworthy, in this case of sweet peaceful sleep. If not for my steady constant friend, I would not have this second world to dive into and the many fellow travelers on the same road, "Hey how long has it been for you? Oh...weeks on and off." "What do you think of valerian tea?" "It stinks! What about Melatonin?" "Nothing." "Yeah, well...did you try not having the TV in the bedroom thing?" "Yeah" (shaking head) "I hear ya. Well, good luck." "Yeah, you too. Sweet dreams." "Ha. Funny."

Sweet dreams.


  1. Sweet Dreams, indeed. You know I have the same issue with sleep... But, I have the opposite reaction to it. I want to be absolutely alone. I do not want to chat. I do not want to surf...
    I end up watching reality medical shows. And have no reaction to anything I see. None. In a way, that frightens me, a bit

  2. Wow, I wish I had memorable dreams like you. I would like to be one of hose people who can function on a limited amount of sleep. Then I could spend more time improving my drawing ability and talking to Michele.