Tag Archives: Insomnia

Asleep, Awake

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My mind works overtime. When I’m trying to fall asleep, no matter how exhausted my body is, my brain is busy. I run through all the things I should have done and yet need to do. I make lists and plan schedules. I have imaginary conversations. Busy, busy, busy. Until I get out of bed, determined to accomplish enough of something to put my mind to rest.

Then, I’m tired. I can’t think. I can’t focus. I am overwhelmed by the number of things there are to do. Impossible to tackle them all. What one thing can I get done, so that tomorrow, there will be one less thing to face? What will be enough of an accomplishment to make up for the sleep I’m missing? These are my nights.

Sometimes, with a cup of herbal tea, I do some writing. Maybe just a list to help organize my thoughts, or a bit of correspondence, always overdue. Sometimes I’ll tackle a news article, an essay or a blog post, though I’m rarely an inspired writer in the middle of the night. Other times I’ll take on bookkeeping. I may balance my checkbook and pay some bills, or work on the never-ending record-keeping that goes along with the Beacon. Sometimes, I clean.

Too often, I turn on the computer under the guise of working, and instead just waste time. I’ll check the news, then the weather. I’ll see what’s going on in social media. I’ll play a computer game…or two. No matter how unproductively I spend my time, though, it is still not actual rest. The next morning I am tired, with little to show for my lack of sleep.

At night, I am worrying and working over in my mind all the things I need to do. In the daytime, I am fog-brained, sluggish and less productive than I could be if I had gotten a good night’s sleep. This is my dilemma.

 

What I’m Doing…What I’m Not

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Yesterday was gorgeous, bright sunshine and blue sky.

Today, new snow and winds have changed the view.

A little under the weather, I cancelled classes and stayed home both days. I think exhaustion, rather than illness, is the problem. I don’t seem to be able to get enough sleep these days. One night of good but insufficient rest will be followed by a night of insomnia. A trip to the city to accompany my aunt to the hospital – strange beds, city lights and worry – compounded the problem. A couple days off would do me good.

I wrote a few letters, answered a couple Emails and enjoyed two long telephone conversations.

I waded through snow to my hips to empty the compost – a collection of coffee grounds, eggshells and vegetable parings – into the bin on the far side of the garden. The bin is almost full. I’m not the greatest at composting. My collections never get turned, and the ratio of green matter to food scraps must be off, too. Even in the heat of summer, the compost doesn’t seem to get hot enough to break down. It should, after a while, look dark and crumbly; it should smell like earth. In odor and appearance, my compost looks like exactly what it is: a collection of old coffee grounds, eggshells and vegetable parings. Still, I persist. It seems like a good idea, and it feels more hopeful than tossing all that organic matter into a plastic trash bag. Every few years, when the bin will hold no more, I tip out the smelly mess and use it to mulch around pumpkins and winter squash. Covered with a layer of straw, the unpleasant characteristics are masked, and it works to hold in moisture.

I gave the bathroom a good cleaning. One area at a time, I am setting up my house according to the precepts of Feng Shui. I did this long ago, when it seemed like I was the only one who had even heard of the concept. As I gained knowledge and added books to my collection on the subject, I found contradictions and big problems. Without being able to tear down my home and start over, some things seemed hopeless. I let it fall to the wayside. Recently, I picked up another book on the subject. Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter is a clearly written, not-too-serious manual of using Feng Shui to “get love, money, respect and happiness.” As I’m in the process of a major winter “de-cluttering”, and clutter is the enemy in Feng Shui theory, it seemed like a good time to try again. The bathroom, in my home, is in the “Helpful People” section. I had barely finished my thorough cleaning (plus one red ribbon tied around the sink drain, all mirrors shining bright and a wind chime to dispel negative energy) when my sister Brenda called, with an idea to solve a big problem I’ve been worried about. Immediate results!

I’m making soup…an awful lot on these cold winter days. Yesterday I finished off a pot of spicy lentil soup; today I have turkey and wild rice simmering. Easy: one cup of diced turkey, sliced from the bird and frozen after Christmas; two quarts of turkey broth, made and stored in the freezer around the same time; three carrots, one onion, four stalks of celery and the leaves, stems and core from a head of cauliflower, all diced; a generous handful of wild rice. It will simmer all afternoon, and be ready to eat at suppertime, when the bread’s coming out of the oven, with plenty left over for lunches this week.

I am not putting in time in the studio. Winter is usually the time for art-making. The studio can be a cozy place to work when the cold winds are blowing. With a movie or the radio for company, I’ve spent many long hours in creative pursuits. Not so much, this winter.

I’m not shoveling snow…not much, anyway. If I can wade through snow to my hips to empty compost into the bin, I guess I can tramp through a foot of snow to get to the car. In other years, I’ve done more. Usually there is a clear path from the side door to the car, and also around to the front door. There is usually a path from the front door to the side yard, so that I can read the meter. There is walkway shoveled from the sliding door in back, just for the dogs, that leads over to the pine tree at the side of the house. Today, with another six inches of new snow, my chihuahua gave me a very intense look when she needed to go out. I suppose it’s time I get going on that.

I am not, it seems, coming to grips with my sister’s death. I was not there when she died; I was unable to attend the memorial. I forget that she is gone. Because I live away, and rarely saw Nita, it isn’t immediately apparent that she’s not still with us. I have moments of sadness. There are pangs of realization. I recognize symptoms of depression in my sleeplessness and neglect. I don’t feel depressed, though. Though I know it won’t last, most days I feel as if she is still here. That’s not a bad feeling!

Awake!

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Sleep does not come easy for me lately.

This has been an ongoing problem for much of my life.

As a child, I battled bedtime, and then fought sleep, as if my very life depended on it.

My sister, Brenda, and I chattered away under the covers through all of our teen years. Dad’s arrival home from his second shift around midnight was the only thing that forced us to stop talking, so we could fall asleep.

During my first pregnancy, my sleep patterns flipped wildly back and forth. The first weeks, I felt like I could sleep twenty-four hours a day. I’d often crawl into an empty bed for a nap during Sunday visits to my parents house. I’d drop off to sleep whenever I was a passenger in a car. I didn’t dare sit down in the middle of a project, or sleep would overtake me while dinner burned or water overflowed the sink.

Then, suddenly, I could hardly sleep at all. For months.

Apartment living prevented me from noisy endeavors like vacuuming or machine sewing, but I’d scrub and wax floors through the night. I patched my husband’s blue jeans by hand, and sometimes embroidered the patches. I crocheted for hours. I played hundreds of games of solitaire. When the alarm went off in the morning, my husband would find me wide awake with coffee waiting. I’d kiss him off to work, then settle in for a nap on the sofa.

There was a time, when my oldest daughter was a baby, that she and I would rendezvous every night at three AM. She’d have a bottle; I’d nibble left-overs from dinner. Together, we’d watch old episodes of Charlie Chan.

Generally, though, having a working husband, children, classes and jobs forced a schedule on me that helped to diminish the problem. I still had the occasional sleepless night, and suffered through the effects of it in the following days, but insomnia did not have the same hold on me.

Now, once again, it does.

Often I can cite too much caffeine, unresolved issues or legitimate worries as the cause.

Some things are within my control, some are not.

It’s hard to shut down a busy mind.

Lately, it’s very hard to fall asleep.

Last night was a perfect example.

I had worked in town, walked the dogs morning and evening, wrote, made dinner and tidied up, worked several hours in the studio, answered a couple letters and went to bed exhausted at eleven o’clock.

And lay there, wide awake.

I try all the regular things: I tense, then relax my muscles one by one, from forehead to toes. I allow every thought to enter my consciousness, then gently release it until my mind is clear. I count backward from one hundred, to keep concerns and worries at bay. I toss. I turn.

I lay there.

At one AM, I turned on the lamp and read a couple chapters.

Could hardly keep my eyes open.

That’s the way it is these days. Though I could vacuum to my heart’s content without anyone complaining, and heaven knows my floors could use a good scrubbing, I don’t have the energy. I wish I could roust myself to at least accomplish the chores that I know I’ll be too tired to tackle the next day, for lack of rest. Awake in the middle of the night, all I want is sleep.

I turned out the light…and sleep would not come.

At three-thirty I came downstairs to let Rosa out.

Tried the sofa…no better for sleep.

Turned on the computer.

I checked the news and e-mail and a social networking site, played two games of on-line scrabble and researched a children’s art project for Cinco de Mayo.

At six AM I went back to the sofa where I slept like a baby for almost two hours.

I’m up for the day now, but without much stamina for the day ahead.

Though a nap sounds lovely, I force myself to resist, so that sleep will be possible tonight.

For now, onward…I’m awake!