You would think after practicing the art of snooze our whole lives, we’d all be experts at sleeping. Kinda like breathing. Should come naturally, right? Yet here we are, a nation obsessed with zombies, while it is actually we who are the living dead, bleary-eyed and kept semi-cognizant only by Starbucks. I say this in a slight tone of condescension, as I have always been caffeine-free. Superiority over my fellow humans (valiantly resisting the urge here to make a ‘human bean’ joke) is my energy boost.
End detour. Back to not sleeping.
Anxiety seems to have taken the modern circadian rhythm hostage. Having conquered the flimsy foes of ages past – cold, hunger, plague and Mongols – the civilized Western man wrestles with new pestilences of domesticated terror. In a horrifying world of forgotten wi-fi passwords, no time to clean the second garage, and dated wall paper, it’s a miracle any of us snooze at all!
As with most problems, my nocturnal struggles can be blamed on the Russians. God bless their warm Slavic hearts, but if that nation didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be forced to observe the same napping schedule as a newborn baby.
Years ago, I went on a mission trip to the Motherland with a group from my church. The night before departure, I was so jittery and excited I didn’t sleep a wink. Terror that my flimsy American immune system wouldn’t be able to withstand the rigors of fatigue, traveling, and the ecstasy of being in Dostoevsky’s homeland sauntered over into the next night, when I also didn’t sleep.
I had worked SO hard at memorizing my two, short Russian phrases that it was unfair I didn’t know the one I really needed communicate: “Where do you keep the sleeping pills, comrade?”
Desperate to sleep, I finally procured a blessed little bottle of drugs with an indecipherable label. For all I know, they could have been old KGB interrogation pills or orangutan tranquilizer, but by the Czar, they worked! Unfortunately, I was unable to smuggle more of the drugs home. All I returned with were a few dried specks of delicious borscht (a pretty purple soup) on my traveling garb. Oh, and a riveting fear of the night. The insomnia bug had impertinently made itself an permanent lodger in my psyche.
After that fateful trip, I tried everything: Nyquill, melatonin, prescription sleeping pills (this time with legible labels), meditation, hypnosis, alcohol, exercise, aromatherapy, bribing God, etc.
Nothing would break the cycle of fear that kept me up in the eternal night. Each lonely hour separated me from the rest of humanity, as they selfishly slumbered on restoring brain cells. Then just when I thought I was about to explode from fatigue, the sun would peak over the horizon and as if on cue, I would fall blissfully asleep.
And then my alarm would go off 10 minutes later.
I know it’s not the worst problem in the world, but c’mon. It’s pretty gross.
Reprieve finally sailed in one year later, on the pages of a prosaic economic book. Even my rapturous adoration of all things fiscal withered when I callously bombarded it with determinants of demand, circular flow of goods, and sundry other spicy concepts. Relentlessly, I would read for hours, until at last my senses capitulated and I drifted off to my dreamland of blimp-sized Oreos, ever-ripe donut trees and no dogs. Whoever said money can’t make you happy?? Lots of people, and they are all wrong.
With meticulous zeal, I still have to coddle my bedtime environment. Mentally, I can’t hear any exciting or disturbing news before retiring, still have to read for an hour, and the following day must be devoid of alarm clocks, deadlines, and performances in order for me to fall asleep. Physically, it must be pitch black, completely silent and devoid of other homo sapiens. Even if the other humans are as quiet as silence, I can hear their very EXISTENCE.
We all have little crosses we must bear through life, and perhaps this is one of mine. Well, as my French ancestors would nasally quote through bites of baguette, “C’est la vive!”
Look it up. I’m too tired to translate.