Up at 2:47 A.M.

  1. Sometimes, I look east toward high rises on Lake Michigan.  The company of lights means nothing really, but they arrest crazy thoughts.  It’s some comfort to discover I’m not the last human.
  2. Anyone conscious at three a.m. understands accountancy, the brain’s obsessions with sheep, the names of every teacher who has ever taught them, the history of their romantic entanglements, the remaining night.  I assess how long it might take me to do all the tasks ahead the next day and discover how foolish I was to close my eyes.
  3. Often I retrieve unread novels or papers that await grading.  The next day, when I see my annotations, they seem at first the work of elves or messages from me in another dimension.
  4. Occasionally, my daughter accidentally wakes me—she has trouble sleeping too—and I find her in the kitchen eating or baking, gathering ingredients like a zombie channel food celebrity.  I bark at her to go to sleep.   She says she can’t.  I say she’s not trying.  She says I’m not trying either.  Our zombie programming has no laugh track.
  5. Sometimes she douses the lights and flees.  I don’t blame her.  Three a.m. is the hour of avoidance.
  6. Growing up, I often found my mother on the couch reading or dozing with a book at her side.  Every night, some light peeked under her bedroom door.  My siblings complain of similar habits. Some of their children suffer insomnia too, and during my strange sleepless hours, I picture them wondering about the rest of us.  Then I half-dream, half-imagine conference calls full of sighing and silence.
  7. I don’t talk much about not sleeping because I want to avoid one-lessmanship.  Someone has always slept fewer hours.  It’s not a contest anyone wins, and these days I only use sleep troubles as an excuse for the gaps stretching in my conversation, my eyes fixing on middle distance, or the forgetfulness between my impulses and actions.
  8. After a particularly bad night of sleep, my mind restarts hundreds of times an hour, all day.
  9. Everyone has a strategy to help, and each of them works really well a few times.  The only approach that always works is setting aside time to fail.  Ten hours in bed may get you seven hours of sleep, six may get you five, four two.  I’m ready at the same time, follow rituals, and still slip from the rails a couple of times a week.
  10. “Is it worry?” people ask.  Sometimes.  But what if it’s imagination?  What if I don’t sleep through the night because my mind isn’t finished?  What if it’s never finished?
  11. Coffee is Satan’s work.  I love coffee, but I also drink it because I need to be alert, and sometimes it keeps me alert all night.  The next day I need coffee, until caffeine and sleep chase each other, the dog and cat of my mental house.  I think I should take some control of how much caffeine I ingest but then find myself at the kitchen table with lidded eyes, spying shapes in the steam rising from the cup.
  12. I read recently about a condition called Familial Fatal Insomnia that besets 40 families worldwide.  Suddenly, in their fifties, the sufferers stop sleeping and, just as the name suggests, they stay awake until they die.  Since I heard about this condition, their faces have been floating up in the eight ball of my restless hours.
  13. Many days I sleep just fine. But scrutinizing variables hasn’t helped me much—am I more exhausted, less stimulated, better prepared to relax, contented for a change? I wait for sleep as for a fickle friend who will choose to visit.  I live in hope—tonight, the house will be dark.  Two to four will pass unbidden.

1 Comment

Filed under Doubt, Essays, Experiments, Home Life, Insomnia, Laments, life, Thoughts, Uncategorized

One response to “Up at 2:47 A.M.

  1. My preferred sleeping schedule includes a two-three hour wakefulness in the wee hours. That’s when blog posts get written.

    I wish my sleeplessness was so productive–I keep thinking I’m just about to drop off…

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