Friday, January 23, 2009


I’m going to bed 15 minutes later than I planned. Actually, an hour and 15 minutes later than I planned. It seems everything takes longer than I think it will these days. I’m not sure where the time goes, this time I’m certainly not frittering away. But it just goes somehow. And as I sit at the edge of the guest bed tonight, I am again surprised that it’s so late.

A congestion demon has invaded Eric’s head and chest, so I volunteered to sleep downstairs. A likely fruitless effort to avoid yet another virus. I run my hand over the cold cotton sheets with blue flowers and decide to sleep in a long-sleeved nightshirt.

I’m not used to sleeping alone. So I flank both sides with extra pillows and even stick one between my feet to stimulate warmth and help me forget I’m all by myself. I curl up on my right side, hugging a pillow with my left arm and closing my eyes tightly.

It feels so good to finally rest. I have been working late the last two nights — chasing adjectives and commas, SKU numbers and prices around black and white pages until way past my bedtime — and tonight I am so tired.

I snuggle in and start thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list, reminding myself of errands and phone calls. Then my mind drifts to the show I was watching just before I went to bed — the one I used to quiet the revving in my head after finally meeting my deadline. Then I’m suddenly thinking about a childhood friend who lost her sister last week due to a grave medical error. I grip the pillow tighter and clench my teeth. I am so tired. Why won’t my mind shut up?

I look at the clock. A half-hour has passed. I decide to roll over and try a trick my grandmother taught me when she would visit from Kentucky and sleep in my trundle bed. “Count exhales,” she would say when I couldn’t get to sleep. “It quiets the mind.” So I inhale deeply and exhale slowly. One. Again. Two. Again. Three. But then I start obsessing about the rate of my breathing, speeding it up and then slowing it down until I’ve forgotten to count altogether. I suddenly realize that I’m not getting enough air no matter how fast I breathe, and as I sit up, I notice my legs are ice-cold.

It’s now after midnight. I decide to put my sweatpants back on along with a pair of fuzzy socks, and while doing so, I notice the familiar pain in my right hip that came on with pregnancy and forgot to leave after the baby was born. So I reluctantly get up, pad across the family room floor, and pull the bottle of ibuprofen out of the pantry.

As I walk back into the guest room, I try to avoid looking at the empty closet with uneven stacks of boxes spilling out, the bits of Christmas decorations and file folders peeking out from haphazard piles. I ignore the clutter-hater in the back of my mind as it berates my lack of organizational skills. I remind myself that the next time I have a couple of spare hours when I’m not working, mothering, cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, throwing a birthday party, loading or unloading the dishwasher, or driving Josh to this or that practice I will finally go through this mess. I will throw things away, donate to the needy, and pack up the few treasured items into a neatly labeled Rubbermaid container. Yes, as soon as I have a couple of hours to spare.

Before I get back in bed, I decide to put on a sweatshirt as well. I know I’ll wake up sweaty in an hour (if I ever get to sleep), but at this point, I’m willing to try anything that might help me find dreamland. As I slip back under the covers, I remember reading somewhere that the part of the brain that enables imagination also enables dreams. So I curl up and try to imagine myself in my favorite place doing my favorite thing.

The problem is, I don’t know where that is. You’d think that with as much time as I spend some days thinking about where I’d rather be that this exercise would be a no-brainer. But I’m stumped. So I start guessing. How about back on the peaceful beach in Hawaii on a clear day? Nope. That’s not working. How about sitting at the kitchen table crafting something beautiful? Uh-uh. OK. Let’s think smaller. How about watching Josh laugh with reckless abandon? While that does make my heart smile, it doesn’t spawn any actual dreaming. I finally give myself permission to take a mental vacation, and I can’t figure out where to go. I’ve got nothing.

As I roll around and bemoan my complete inability to sleep, I suddenly realize my ultimate fantasy. Where I want to be most at this very moment is asleep. It’s so simple I can’t believe I missed it. So I assume my favorite cuddled-up position and decide to try to imagine myself sleeping — arms and legs sprawled out, hair smashed into my pillow, deep loud breaths flowing through my nose. I think about that warm tingly feeling I get as I’m falling asleep. I imagine weightless limbs. I picture my peaceful frame cozy and motionless. And then I think about…nothing.

I don’t consciously realize it, but I am no longer awake. And I won’t figure it out until two hours later when Josh wakes up screaming for no apparent reason, and I am roused from my deeply needed sleep to rub his legs and hand him tissues and quiet him back to sleep.

At which point, I will be restless once more.

1 comment:

Sus said...

This is lovely, Robyn. I go for warmth, too, when I can't sleep. Usually because I'm writing in my head. Which seems like maybe what you were doing, too, huh? It might be keeping you up, but the rest of us are very happy for it. :)

Designed by Lena