A couple of days ago was the first scorching hot day of the year. We don’t have central air conditioning, so in the summer my husband throws a couple of air conditioning units in a few windows and we make do. The problem is he was rushed for time and didn’t seal the window in our bedroom properly so when I went to bed I found bugs swarming through the thin opening between the window panes. They were everywhere. I tried to ignore them, and then there was this flickering light like Tinker Bell had come to tell me that Peter was in trouble – come quick – and I realized, oh, wait, it’s not Tinker Bell, it’s a firefly. And there were three of them. In my room. Like beacons. Flashing. On and off, on and off, on and off. And I knew that unless I got up to catch them, there would be no sleeping for me.
Sleep has never come easy. As a kid I was the one reading beneath the blankets with a flashlight. Early morning is not my friend. I’ve learned to cope in a world that gets started at the crack of dawn, not always cheerfully, but I try. Sometimes, though, my propensity for staying up late lurches into the realm of insomnia, which is beast of another kind. When I cannot fall asleep no matter what I do.
My husband doesn’t understand that at all. He thinks that falling asleep is simply a matter of self-discipline. I have tried to describe for him what it feels like — sleeplessness even in the face of bone-deep fatigue. It’s like there’s an electrical current running through my body that I have absolutely no control over, and there’s no switch I can flick to shut it off or slow it down. Odd thoughts and words slam around in my head, disjointed and meaningless; sometimes seemingly profound or so applicable to something I’ve been working on that I debate whether I should get up and write it down. I don’t have to be worrying about anything – other than going the hell to sleep. The insomnia is just there, waiting, in the dark, taunting me like a fiend from a horror story. Honest to God, my first conscious thought yesterday was the line: Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary. . . .
And before you offer, just let me say I have run the gamut of sleep aids. Antihistamines, lavender oil, warm milk, herbal, homeopathic, ayurvedic, over-the-counter PM versions of Tylenol, Motrin, or Advil. None of it really works, or works for long. It’s annoying as hell, but I’ve learned to accept that some of us are just wired differently. It’s how we were born. In fact, who knows, maybe that’s how vampire stories got started. Maybe those people were nothing more than poor schleps who were also wired differently and couldn’t sleep at night. So they made up for it by sleeping a big chunk of the day away and were persecuted by the early-to-rise citizenry. If that’s the case, I consider myself lucky. At least no one has tried to drive a stake through my heart.