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.

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