I have always been a bad sleeper. The family story is that my mother had to sleep with me until I was six-years-old because I was afraid of the dark. I feel almost certain that I was the only ten-year-old in 1979 using my construction-worker father’s earplugs to help me sleep.
Those who have struggled with insomnia may agree that the suffering is twofold. First, there is the exhaustion, and frustration, that comes from being sleep-deprived. Worse, I think, is the time. Time to think. Time to reanalyze and reevaluate – and, if you are like me, reevaluate and reanalyze. Several months ago, I ran across an excerpt from Kierkegaard’s “The Concept of Anxiety” that brought to mind precisely how I feel during my nighttime wakefulness:
And no Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as has anxiety . . . choosing the instant when [we are] weakest . . . [it] never lets [us] escape, neither by diversion nor by noise, neither at work at play, neither by day nor by night.
When I find myself awake in the middle of the night, I search for things to comfort me. A warm pillow for my always-frigid feet. A snack. I believe the number of Ritz crackers I have eaten in the middle of the night may have positively impacted the overall profitability of Nabisco.
If my daughter isn’t home, sometimes I crawl into her loft bed. I love the way it smells. The cheap wooden ladder creaks, threatening to splinter with every step. One rung hangs at an odd angle in an unspoken dare to climb. But, the promise of comfort is stronger, so I continue up the ladder.
Her twin mattress is covered with too many pink and purple pillows. Ponies, kitties and bears form a plush menagerie. All is illuminated by grey light that forces its way around the edges of the polka-dotted curtains.
By the time I lie down, I have been awake too long. I can feel the ache in my shoulders slide down my back and settle, oddly, in my knees.
Maybe sleep will find me here. Like a faithless lover, he flirts, sometimes allowing me to briefly doze, but always moving on to greener pastures, leaving me with only bruised, bloodshot eyes and a heavy soul.
What he doesn’t understand, however, is that in my pastel, stuffed-animal fortress, I am strong. Love protects me from the whims of fear and worry, my breathing slows and I drift off to sleep.