Thursday, September 13, 2012
"The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to." (F.Scott Fitzgerald)
That's sort of what my sleep difficulties have come down to in recent years. Once upon a time it was a cause of great anxiety and distress because I hadn't yet learned how to stop myself from thinking of all the things I didn't want to think about. As a kid I remember lying awake at night, pondering the realisation that everyone I knew, myself included, was going to die, like I was the first person to ever realise such a thing and wondering exactly how I was supposed to crack on for the next 60+ years with that knowledge sitting inside me like a sharp, awful kidney stone.
Then for awhile there I started to use the time well: I used to plan school essays in my head, scribbling little cryptic notes for myself by the side of the bed, which I could only barely interprete the following morning. I distinctly remember writing an essay on The Cake Man during one particularly bad bout of insomnia in the late 90s, the only interesting thing here being that I'd never actually read The Cake Man - not then and certainly not now. (I feel like I made the right choice. It looks, how do I say this, not quite my kind of play.)
Now this whole insomnia thing is just sort of... boring. I want to be asleep, yet instead I lie awake staring at the ceiling, counting up the possible hours of sleep still open to me. Or perhaps I crack and listen to an audiobook or a podcast, in which case I'm liable to (as I did last night) wake up at 5am after two whole hours of sleep to hear goddamn show tunes blaring in my ears. (In my defence: I was gorging on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour - thanks Bec - and so, honestly, I have nobody to blame but myself.)
The thing is, I honestly believe - and will happily tell anyone who listens - that it's important to be comfortable being alone. People who can't handle being by themselves make me sad. Ultimately - and I'm sorry if I'm bringing anyone down, here - we're all pretty much alone at the very end and if we don't like our own company why should we expect anyone else to? These are all ideas in which I very much believe. That much said, at 2.45am in the morning I can't say I much enjoy being along with my own thoughts. When forced, after hours of staring at nothing, to pay attention to the inanities rattling around in my noggin' - the petty disappointments, the jealousies, the unrelenting wanting - I can't say I'm exactly my biggest fan. At best I bore myself. At worst I bore myself.
So I'm heading off to bed tonight with a slightly heavy heart, hoping the wine consumed at dinner will be enough to push me into sleep and not enough to wake me up in an hour. I have several more NPR podcasts downloaded and at the ready, although I really do hate waking up with a set of headphone knotted dangerously about my neck so - fingers crossed - they won't be entirely necessary.
And yes I know what you're wondering: is that really my bed in the photo above and do I really look that good in my underwear? The answer, readers, is sadly no. My actual bed is wooden and square and has a headboard that is more or less covered with books and glasses of water, half abandoned and slightly dusty. The actual headboard itself is frequently dusty too, thanks to semi-inept cleaners. My sheets are stripey and delightful but neither particularly crisp nor snow white: my pillow slip was a gift and has a gorgeously weird picture of an owl on it. My bottom-sheet, for reasons best known to itself, emerged from the last wash with a weird blue stain.
But, yes, I do look that good in my underwear when lying face down in bed with my long, glossy brown locks strewn across the pillow as I frequently do. True story. Would I lie to you?