I am a recovering insomniac.
Minus the recovering part.
I’ve tried all the promised solutions, except for a fontanel drip.
Which, I mean I was initially open to, but it didn’t turn out so well for Michael Jackson.
Since I was a child, my mother has insisted that I have the power to change the circumstances of my life simply by rewiring my brain. If I didn’t like hot dogs you just told your brain that you did. If you wanted to strangle your brother, you just told your brain that you loved him. If you couldn’t sleep, you just told your brain you were going to. You just visualizing yourself in the state you want to be in Joanie Bug, and then verbally and mentally reinforce that picture. Just tell your brain are what you want to be. My mother would say, shrugging. If you want to sleep, you just tell your brain that you are a sleeper.
Turns out I am a crushing disappointment to my mother. Because I can’t even rewire my brain not to want to eat chocolate, let alone retrain it to sleep. Part of the problem is there are too many things keeping me up at night. It’s usually my bladder that gets me up; my regards to pregnancy. But it’s my mind that keeps me up. Something as innocuous as a fleeting thought about if I changed the oil three months ago, or four? Did Logan remember to turn in his field trip permission slip? Did I turn off the oven? Did I take the cookies out of the oven? Is something burning? I latch onto a thought and gnaw on it like a dog with a bone; I can’t seem to leave it alone until its broken down to shards, sucked dry of all the marrow.
Another favorite insomniac pastime is to start thinking of everything I didn’t get done that I was suppose to do during the day, and tacking them onto the list of things I needed to do tomorrow. Then I play jinga with my brain to get the pieces to fit; if I move Alex appointment to 1:30 I can take the two dozen greek treats to culture day at 1:00 and still pick up Spencer for rehearsal by 3:00.
My brain becomes a short hand secretary making quick, concise lists like a court stenographer: If it pleases the court we’ll start with everything I should have already done; please see exhibit A. Refilling prescriptions, registering the car, rewashing the laundry I forgot to put in the the dryer. For the last two days. Letting my child out of the locked closet.
This list just makes me feel defeated, and like I’ll never catch up. Which hello, what fun is that. At this point I move on to what I would like to be doing instead of, say, feeding the neighbors pet vipers while they are out of town.
*Side note, did you know you can buy frozen mice and rats then let them thaw to feed to snakes. When they thaw out there is all this excess water that I once saw my neighbor squeeze out the mouse water like you would squeeze the water out of your hair. I have yet to recover from that image.*
So, since I don’t want to feed snakes, I allow my braid to drift towards what I would like to be doing, if I wasn’t thawing out mice carcasses in the kitchen sink. This list usually includes researching a place I’d like to visit or checking flight loads on my iPhone. That damn blue light will kill you! Or I turn to a book, endlessly scroll through social media, or get up to stumble into the kitchen and find something to eat like ice cream, or a rat popsicle. EEWWW.
When I’m getting out the ice cream I turn my court stenagafer app back on and start making a list of what things I need to get at the store. Then I decide to just… go to the store, since it’s almost morning anyway, and that way I get guarteed a grocery shopping trip that doesn’t end with one of my children freaking out and throwing a bar of dial soap at another one of my children, but missing and hitting the pyramid display of Cocoo Puff Cereal instead. By going to the store at 4:58 am I am avoiding going literally coo coo from Cocoa Puffs! Leaving me, literally coo coo for Cocoa Puffs!
I bought too much stuff, the bill was more than I expected, which gets me to thinking about money, and how to pay for things my kids need like, or speaking hypothetically, therapy, when I’ve just spent all my money paying for 287 boxes of damaged Cocoa Puffs? We’ve spent a lot of therapy. I mean, we use to be a mess 😉 Basically we choose who gets therapy by playing a rousing game of spin the bottle. First you sit your family in a circle and spin… wait I missed a step, then you separate the two children who are fighting, then you spin the bottle, whoever it lands on gets therapy that week. What kind, you say? Oh honey, take your pick! We’ve done cognitive, speech, occupational, behavioral, individual, family and marital. Lots and lots of marital. We’ve paid for enough therapy in our family to provide imported Italian tiles for all my therapist’s pools. And their children’s pools. And their children’s children’s pools.
You can’t just tell your brain you have money to pay for therapy when you don’t mom. Believe me I’ve tried. You are rich… It seems to work as well as wishing for a pony worked when I was eight. But while I have my doubts about rewiring, I am a people pleaser. So I keep trying to rewire my brain just so I don’t disappoint my mom.
Later that night, at bedtime, I lay in the solem quiet of dark, trying to wrestle my inner thoughts into soothing, calming, validating thoughts, like something you’d hear at a meditation class. Slowly all your worries will drift peacefully back to the ocean as you become one with the water. You are a receding tide drifting… drifting off to sleep. But my serenity keeps getting interrupted by a fog horn. Because in reality my x-college linebacker husband Russ’s C-pap machine has sprung a leak in the hose. Which means with every breath he inhales and expels the plastic tube makes a sound like someone is letting helium out of a balloon v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee) alternating with the sound of someone blowing a party favor. Repeatedly. (squeeeaaaaaal, squeeeeaaaaal, squeeeeaaaal). This noise coupled with his snoring -which said malfunctioning machine is suppose to prevent- is, truly, what can only be described as a symphony to the senses. Who needs meditation?
Where was I? Oh yeah, my midnight musing over (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee) to do lists, that I don’t have time or resources to do. Wait! I’m rewiring my brain! I’m drifting in a boat rocking side to side on a calm (squeeeaaaal) sparkling sea. I let the water move me, surrender to the peace of (SNNNNNOOOOOORRRREEEE!!!!!). At this point I elbow Russ hard in the side, hissing, “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY ROLL ON YOUR FREAKING SIDE ALREADY!” Russ, disoriented, groggily lifts his mask to say, “Sorry. Was I snoring?” then repositioning the mask back on his grizzly snout, immediately re-enters the REM sleep cycle. On his (squeeeeaaaal) back.
I make my way to the couch in search of solitude, grabbing the throw pillows and flinging them like frisbees across the room. I stuff the last pillow under my head, “By your side is where I’ll stay.” it says in flowing embroidered cursive. I pull it out and punch it hard. It needed softening.
By your side is where I’m chained. I mutter into the empty room, a sly smiling growing on my face at my cleverness. You never see those pillows at Pottery Barn, I say sardonically. Then my brain starts thinking of slogans to embroider. You’re doing it wrong. I used your toothbrush.
I can’t get comfortable. I kick the blanket, flip from my side to my back. And then my brain starts doing some unwanted rewiring, this is my brains forte, fear the captain of this ship. In the dark, my rewired brain starts unraveling, the tide pulling apart my good intentions, you are drifting on a boat I begin, resolved, but then my brain yanks the railroad switch and just like that I’m on another track and I continue the storyline with, all three of your children who don’t know how to swim, and everyone is hungry and Logan needs to pee, and he won’t pee from the side of the boat because he’s afraid he’ll fall in the ocean.
Look on the positive side, The boat is filling with water, you are going to sink. My brain answers back.
But then something unexpected happens, because my mom installed the mother board in my operating system, so sometimes she overrides the programing, and it’s her voice I hear in my head now. “Start bailing.” She says, her voice wise and deep like Mufussa. Reach out of the boat and grab those life jackets you hooked to the railing earlier. If the boat capsizes, lay on your back, and float.
I am quiet then, still enough to hear the sounds of the house settling, the beams groaning from the weight of stacked bricks. From the back of the house a familiar noise emerges, echoing faintly from the bedroom; eeeeeeeeeeeeee, eeeeeeeeeeeee, eeeeeeeeeeeee. squeeeeeeeeel. It almost sounds like a song, I say into the dark. It’s like a lullaby.
Then I close my eyes and go to sleep.