A copy of a copy of a copy. Chuck was right: when you can’t sleep for extended periods of time, you gain a certain distance, including on yourself. So I’m now on day 5 of 2-3 hours of sleep per night. And I feel I’ve passed beyond the ability to keep myself going during the day with caffeine. One would think that at some point, my body-mind would say enough is enough and shut down for 36-48 hours. But that never happens. Caffeine fasts, all sorts of drugs, exercise, self-hypnosis, primal scream therapy, Charlotte Brontë, warm milk with honey, deep trance, special Hungarian sleeping herbs, hoodoo, biofeedback, and studying Estonian grammar by candle light have all failed horribly. I walk. I talk. I slither on my belly like a reptile.
Using a combination of theta wave brain entrainment and Zen meditation, I am usually able to simulate a near-sleep experience (kind of like being fully aware while floating in a featureless black void for a few hours), but nothing, nothing will put me to sleep for more than 3 hours during an insomniac episode. No matter what I do, I know there will be some weeks where I work for up to 7 days without much down time.
I’ve been told it’s psychological, biological, social, psychosocial, biocultural, a spiritual malaise, a misalignment of Ajna and Anahata chakras, post-Catholic guilt, a sleep-onset phenomenon due to working late under bright lights, the vapors, the manifestation of damage to one of my subtle bodies, a futile attempt to compensate for lack of talent / intelligence by over-studying (thanks Dr. You-Know-Who-You-Are for leaving me with this one—you have a PhD, not a MD, by the way), or just my imagination.
In truth, the cause of my chronic insomnia remains a mystery, but I do understand its essential pattern. It may be shortening my life; however, I have come to accept it for one reason: I do an immense amount of work at the beginning and middle of these episodes. So this morning, I found myself on the street, my shoulder bag packed with the usual gear—iPhone, notebook, netbook, a few Euros for green tea, and a box of the Pilot G-6 gel pens that I love. Unfortunately, I’m not in the beginning or the middle of this episode. I’m at the end where my brain turns to Tasty Wheat. So I’m blogging instead of writing the real stuff. So be it. So it is. Quod erat demonstrandum.
Because I’ve been feeling generally lousy lately and endowed with a double dose of the usual joy-killing pessimism that comes along with sleep deprivation, I’ve been avoiding all but the most essential human contact. I’ve been editing, not composing. I’ve been on a coffee hiatus. And the goddamn moon has been waning. So I can shake my fist at the heavens and scream, “Yea! I know thee!” or I can be quiet and fulfill my responsibilities as a teacher, a writer, and when absolutely necessary, a friend. I’ve found the latter course to be the most advisable.
All well and good. I sound like I’ve got a handle on everything, don’t I? Yes, I’m good at that. They used to say my grandfather could sell ice-cream to an Eskimo, which, I believe, is exactly how he made his fortune. My father taught English in college for almost 4 decades, sending wave after wave of humanities cannon fodder into the world to wait tables, cold call senior citizens about real estate possibilities, and dispatch garbage trucks on the graveyard shift. And me? My life is the eternal recurrence of the same with the dial set to the Kobayashi Maru scenario. But then, I have an addictive, highly disciplined, yet somewhat abrasive personality. (Lou, you don’t know where I’ve been). Or so I’ve been told.
Ergo, I abrade. Now it is 1:08 AM. All is quiet. The tv is running without sound and, as I am typing this wondering where the end of the post is hiding (my shirt front pocket? the beautiful island of Saaremaa?), the screen shows a group of Bulgarian firefighters shooting water onto a burning roof. Well, of course they are. The flames are pretty. I think I need to end this post and stare vacuously at that news loop until it’s time to stare vacuously at something else. The good news is that when I get to this point, blessed sleep may not be far away.
Before I go, here are a few additional considerations:
- “When Things Don’t Flow.” A title that could suggest any number of possibilities.
- What it is. What it was. What the fuck. – Lounge singer I heard the other night: “He melts my boots off in every single scene.” What does that actually mean? The metaphor doesn’t stand up. Neither does she.
- A Baltic girl named Amber standing in front of Baltic Amber.
- Girls climbing out of cellars surrounded by steam look like earth goddesses in the morning.
- Tallinn is a magical place. The cats and dogs are quiet and sinister, watching, waiting.
- Fiat Voluntas Dei Anno 1603. Every time I see something old and beautiful, this is inscribed above it. Only the year changes. And they say Estonia is not religious.