Sunday, November 24, 2013

Notes From An Insomniac (Warning: Possibly Depressing)

Being an insomniac is not as glamorous as it appears in the movies; and although that's true of many things, it strikes me as particularly true about not being able to sleep. 

Sleep seems like a basic human right; something that your brain should do unthinking; and certainly it's possible that we as a species are now so overbred, overfed, overmedicated or over SOMETHING, that really we should feel lucky we can still perform the act of breeding at all, or at least without the constant assistance of our therapists. Still: it seems incredibly rude of mother nature to have yanked the ability to perform this particular physical need. I mean, at least I'm female--and, because my parents read this, I'll leave the rest of that sentence as an exercise for the reader.

After all, you've been up for a dozen hours, perhaps more; you've performed some kind of work; you've run errands and prepared and eaten a few meals and generally taken care of the detritus of the day; you've brushed your teeth and you lay you down to sleep and maybe you DO, at least for a few hours, but then suddenly at 3:30 your eyes slam open and you are well and truly fucked.

Being awake when everyone else is asleep is ostracizing, disorienting, and depressing. It's not as much fun as you think, listening to people snore, even if you love them. It's actually one of the very few things that's MORE fun, or at least more tolerable, if you live alone, because you have no one lying next to you, snoozing peacefully in the arms of Morpheus, unpacking the cares of the day, hammering home the fact that you are broken, that your brain hates you, and that you are completely out of sync with the rhythm of the world. 

And so you decide to get out of bed, because lying there will just make it worse. Maybe you'll get a little work done. HA. More fool you. Being awake when you should be asleep has one defining physical quality: you're out of sync with time, and that means you are FREEZING. (Terry Pratchett nails this in "Thief of Time.") I don't care if it's the middle of summer in Florida with no AC: you are shivering too hard to type accurately.
So you end up, instead, at a diner with the rest of the other losers who have nowhere else to be.

It should be mentioned here that part of the assumed glamor about being up when no one else is includes the idea that you'll meet someone. Maybe not in a romantic way, but that you'll have a deep conversation with someone you've never met before, baring your soul in the way you can only do in the middle of the night with a stranger that you'll never see again, some twisted Puritan version of Confession for the Damned. It seems so romantic, very Casablanca, that of all the hours of the night and out of all the diners in Seattle, you're sitting there, and so is that other person, and doesn't that mean that you and he have something in common, possibly even more so than you do (at least at this moment) with your lucky, lucky, sleeping partner?

No. Because literally no one is at their best in the middle of the night. Not you, not your promised conversational partner, not anyone. The reality of being up when no one else is is more like the jungle: everyone reverts to their basic lizard instincts, like that scene in Mean Girls. You have to physically watch yourself to make sure you don't start grunting and pointing as you hunch your cold body over the counter. And so you try to talk to the waitress, if you can and she has time, and eating greasy food just to have something to do, and re-reading a book you've already read a million times before, watching the hours tick by, wishing that you could have stayed there, with your partner, in the warm and cozy bed, where you thought you belonged.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Strong Father Figure--or, Happy Birthday, Dad! (Early!)

Countless times in my life I have overheard this phrase: "Hey, have you gotten Steve's opinion on this?" Before Google, there was my dad.

He's just that kind of man. People care what he thinks. They come to him with problems or concerns. They ask his advice. He is routinely asked to lead a committee or read the Bible passage at church. He is always the man to lead prayer. He's a Presence, and he has this VOICE. I let him read bedtime stories to me long after I could read them myself, because I liked sitting on his lap and hearing the vibrations in his chest. The Voice says something to people, something they subconsciously and viscerally respond to, something primal. The Voice says, "I have recognized you as a human being. I have really seen you. I have really listened to you. And we are in this together. Have no fear; I got your back. I have the situation under control. This is what we are going to do." People HEAR him. You would probably not be surprised to learn that he is a fantastic salesman.

My dad is the kind of man whom would be asked by a group of COMPLETE STRANGERS to, for example, say the blessing. 

He is exceptionally tolerant. I can still list every single time I have seen him angry; that is how rarely it occurs. He is calm. He treated me, and still does treat me, like he would treat a son. He never told me he was too busy for me; he took time to explain things to me until I understood; he told my favorite stories over and over, upon my request, never telling me that he was tired of them. He never laughed at me for using such big words that my mouth could barely fit around the syllables, and, in fact, he taught me more of them. He never censored anything that came out of my mouth, even if it might make him uncomfortable. My ongoing questions about boys and the universe were never too silly for him; and what's more, he never gave me advice until I asked for it. (I discovered boys very early--it's just that it took a little longer for them to discover me.) When I did start dating, he wasn't one of those dads that sits on the front porch cleaning the shotguns, partly because my peace-loving dad has never owned a gun in his life, that I know of; partly because he's not much of a porch-sitter; and mainly because he trusted me to make my own decisions. He never gave my dates the third degree or played twenty questions with them. He only cared if I liked them and if they treated me well, and since--in him--I had a rather stellar example of how a man SHOULD treat a woman, he probably had some confidence that I knew what it was, to be treated well. (Also, to cement my standard for "good treatment", my dad took me on my first date! I would highly recommend this approach, fathers of the world.)

We disagree on many things, but he is compassionate, non-judgmental, open-minded. We discuss politics, gay rights, religion, and he does not get heated. He doesn't discount my opinions, and he allows facts to influence his judgment, instead of the other way around. (Discovering that people DON'T do that most of the time was a real shock.)

He is, in short, a man who taught me that I had a voice and I should use it, even if that meant I would use it to disagree with him. Incredibly smart leaders all over the world have consistently refused to  wrap their heads around this idea, and my father lives by it every day.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Sniff. Sniff.