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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Of all the afflictions the universe has seen fit to bestow on humans, I have never suffered from insomnia. But that doesn’t mean I’ve never stared at the ceiling for entire nights at a time, desperately working through relaxation exercises and meditative sessions, desperately hoping to catch a few zzz’s before the alarm goes off.

Sleep is a thing that seems to happen when it wants to, and not necessarily when you want it to. It can happens at any time at all, except when you’re trying to do it.

Why are we talking about sleep? Because I crave it, in a twelve-hour-like-I’m-a-teenager-again way.

Falling asleep is not usually the problem. I do that most days on my laptop or on the couch or face-down in a book. Unless there is something I need to do the next day and I want to be rested, like if we’re going on a road trip and getting up at say, 5:00, to start a 15 hour stint in the car. In that case I’ll want to get to bed early and fall asleep right away, but instead will lay there and stare at the ceiling until 4:45.

Stupid psychology. But it never fails.

When we lived in Brigantine, every Wednesday we’d get up at 4:30 so we could drive 90 miles up to BNI and be there in time for the 7:00 meeting. Want to guess which night of the week I spent staring at the ceiling?

You’d think after three years of doing that every single week, my brain would be like ok, I get it. You’re going to get up early and do this long car ride. Good night.

But no. Every Tuesday night I’d go to bed early, and stare and stare and stare.

I don’t think I was awake for a single Wednesday in three years.

Sleep is fickle like that. It gets very insistent when I want to read the last paragraph of a chapter. And it runs off shrieking laughter when there’s an important meeting to be ready for the next day.

Anyway, since there’s a good chance that wanting to sit here and write will result in sleeping, let’s keep going.

Most nights I fall asleep on a word game or a card game. Sometimes I put on a meditation or music.

The falling asleep is usually fine.

The staying there is another issue. If it’s not getting up to pee fifty times, it’s throwing the covers off in a sweat and yanking them back on in a freeze a hundred times. Or else it’s my hip and I have to roll on one side then the other.

Or I snore and Ralph pokes me.

Or stupid dreams.

All the waking up that happens is interruptive. When I get out of bed at 7 and my Apple watch tells me I’ve already completed five “stands” you know it hasn’t been a restful night. For those unfamiliar with Apple parlance, “stand” means “do something once every hour that makes your watch think you’re moving.” It typically involves moving in a walking sort of way.

Have you ever noticed that the middle of the night is always the precise time when your brain wants to remind you of the thing you did ten years ago that you really wish you didn’t? And it wants to relive in great detail what a terrible human you were and ruminate on all the things you should have done instead.

It writes apologies and love letters. It plans fixes and do-overs. It berates you a bit then berates you for berating yourself.

The middle of the night is also the time that your brain wants to remind you of the thing you forgot to do, like write yogurt on your grocery list, or take out the garbage even though you peeled two dozen shrimp and swore you would not forget to take out the garbage.

Then you have a choice. You can get up and do the thing, or you can lie there and refuse to do the thing, because you’re sleeping, damnit, even though you’re not, and you’re not going to because you’re not going to stop thinking about and refusing to do the thing.

It’s all so exhausting that it really makes you want to sleep. Which is the thing you are 100% not going to do as long as you want to.

Until you’re sitting on the couch typing a blog.

Here’s what I want to know about sleep. Why, if I am sitting here in front of my laptop, can I suddenly find myself doing it, and yet when I get in bed I can lie there playing a thousand card games until I’m remotely sleepy.


That’s how many card games I’ve lost in the past couple of months. I’ve fallen asleep on some, stayed awake trying to fall asleep with others.

The worst part of falling into a blissful sleep on your laptop on the couch is when someone wakes you up to go to bed.

You’re perfectly fine with your head bouncing around on your neck and the laptop sliding off to one side. It could crash to the floor and you probably wouldn’t notice.

But wake up to go to bed?

Pass the cards, please.

Sleep is like a precious Fabergé egg. You just need to hold it and sigh gently. Because the minute you drop it, there goes a hundred years of achievement.

The worst thing is waking up like 10 minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off.

There’s no way I’m getting up ten minutes early, but also no way I’m going to fall asleep in less than nine and half minutes.

Then I can’t get out of bed because I’m tired.

I don’t remember the last time I got out of bed not tired. Not even on weekends.

This sounds like a lot of complaining. Maybe it is, but when I get tired I also get cranky. I’m not quite in cranky territory yet but I am a little annoyed that Monday decided to insert itself into my week again tomorrow. I swear, that’s about the fifteenth time this month.

At least I had a nice, relaxing weekend of sleeping in my cup of tea. I read the last paragraph of the last chapter in my book about 90 times but I still can’t tell you what happened. I had a good nap, though.

And now that it’s time to go to bed, we’ll see if that involves any actual sleep. I’m sure my brain will decide to plan our next road trip, down to the exact number of ounces of shampoo that I’ll pack.

And I’m officially declaring tomorrow Friday, and my week off. Take that, universe! Sweet dreams.

Photo: all the cozy blankets required for a good sleep. All made by my mother.