Tag Archives: insomnia

Thought Experiment

It’s way too late at night, and I cannot get to sleep. I don’t mind going ’round the bend if I’m creatively insane, but this wandering around in apathetic madness is for the birds. It just feels so blah. So I’ve decided to perform a little experiment to measure the effects of sadness on the insomniac psyche. I would much rather be fine-tuning my short story, but unless something changes in my head before I go to sleep, the best I can do is pound out some abstract nonsense and say that it was done on purpose. It used to be a matter of just altering perception, but I’m a father and grandfather now, so how would that kind of narcissistic, hedonistic behavior look? I miss going on adventures, both in time and space and within my mind. I miss staying awake until the wee hours and making candles dance, chasing off the Beasties with a magick word or two. I guess what I’m trying to get across is that the world just seems so two-dimensional now that I’ve grown older, the colors are all muted, and vibrancy is something which I barely can remember. It’s too bad they changed the formula for NyQuil, or I could relive my glory days once more while stumbling through the streets of Not Quite Richmond, California.

I guess what I really miss is feeling like I am tapping into something larger than myself. I remember wandering around the Island late at night with Fed beneath the purple skies of clouds sailing o’er the Witching Hour. We used to walk miles, with no thought of aching muscles, or tired feet, and just talk for hours until we finally passed out. We drank shitty beer in graveyards with my girlfriend, and wrote songs which I was convinced would be my ticket out of obscurity, but which don’t even exist outside my mind anymore. We gave a demo tape to one of our friends, but she lost it soon after. Not that we would have made it as a live band. Fed was good, but I could barely find a steady rhythm, let alone keep it, and the two and a half chords which I could play still required thought before I could change between them. I did love recording with him, though. I remember when we were working on one of his songs, Compass Rose, and he made me take a walk outside because he felt self-conscious about his voice. I never recorded with Bad Leon, though we’ve talked about instrumental backing to my angry love poetry.

What am I doing here? I’ve managed to accomplish exactly nothing in my time since I left work, at least nothing which will make me any money. It wasn’t so bad being destitute when I was living on my own, but as I said just a few days ago, that’s not really going to cut it with my wife and son. I just hate the dichotomy of being me. I shut off this artistic part of me for so long that I don’t know if he is ever coming back. I suppose that until November of last year, I could have described my artistic self as Schrödinger’s Wordsmith: both extant and extinct. But now Pandora’s Box is open, and I’ve had the misfortune to peek inside. What terrifies me most is the thought that it’s not just institutionalized apathy; that it’s simply a matter of me not having what it takes to do this for a living. That my lifelong dream is never destined to be more than just a hobby. I think of all the stories which are running around inside my head, and I am screaming silently at myself for not doing a damned thing about them. Every time I try to write, I go in with the notion that I’ll only screw everything up, and then manage to stay true to my word.

I can feel the fires burning just beneath my eyes, and the anxiety throbbing beneath my skin. And yet it’s all held down snugly beneath a blanket of exhaustion. I want to touch the energy of youth once more, even if it’s only for a day. To have the knowledge that the world is mine, and there’s nothing that can stop me. I used to know that I would change the world, but somewhere in my twenties, I managed to lose sight of that. And now, because I cannot even encourage myself to do what I love most because I lack the discipline required to work for myself, I’m going to have to shove myself back into that tiny box without even the reassurance that I’ll unpack myself again. This was my shot. This was the last batch of courage I could muster, and I couldn’t get it done. I was so excited when it dawned on me to rewrite that bloody story. I thought that if it was good enough, if was good enough, I could use the momentum I had built and hop tracks to something of a slightly longer format. If I cannot even get excited about the crap that I am writing, what makes me think that someone will pay money for it?

Welcome to the Pity Party. If I ran for office, I would have to run with them. We’re not much to look at, but we’re sort of attached… to us. Is it like this for everyone? Do other writers get halfway into something which they’re pouring themselves into (enjoying it along the way), and then just throw their notebook down, and scream, “Bullshit!” at the walls? Not that it really matters. Reality, it seems, has finally caught up with me. Who thought that this could last forever? What is it going to take for me to get this figured out? I wish there was a desert I could visit, or rolling hills which I could roam at night while screaming at the wind, and howling at the moon or clouded sky. More than anything, I want to have a little garden where I can grow tomatoes and chili peppers. I want to find excuses not to write so that I can just hang out in the garden and dig my fingers into soil and pretend that I’m alive. Which, to be honest, is a little weird, because I’m not that into vegetables. I guess I just like to see things grow.

I’m looking at the word count and realizing that if I could have just gotten in the flow while I was working on that stupid story, I might almost be close to done by now. I don’t know what the holdup is, to be completely honest. I know the story, almost like I was actually there. Almost. And even if it wasn’t burned into my brain, I have the story which I wrote half my life ago, which kind of lays the whole thing out for me. I even managed to solve the roadblock in the text which had been bothering me since I started to rewrite it. It was an elegant solution, altering the exposition slightly to turn it into dialogue. Maybe what’s killing it is that I’m trying to do too much. I remembered that I’d also written a story called Nic Buzz around the same time, though not a single copy of the original remains, and that since that revelation, I’ve been trying to figure out how to squeeze it into what I’m already trying to do. I would just jump right back into where I’ve left off, setting aside that notion for a little while, but every time I try to get myself back into it, I find that story which I have no idea how it went has left a giant hole just beyond the words which I have written. Like always, my cardinal sin appears to be overthinking everything.

So what’s a boy to do? I’m beating back exhaustion with silken bat wings thrumming in the dark of night, and only my tenacity is driving these words from within the whispers in my head through my fingers, and onto the screen before me. I want to just curl up into a little ball of safety, and sleep until the necessity of the real world has expired. There has never been a problem too large, in my opinion, that it cannot be slept away. But I know that this time I cannot simply ignore the demands of my responsibilities. This time I have got to make it work somehow. Both Bad Leon and my wife think that the answer is in brain-dead work, like a cashiering job or line cook, which I can leave at the door when my shift is over, and then come home with enough energy to write. But I have been in management too long to think that that’s an option anymore. If I’m going to work for someone who isn’t me, then I need to be in control of at least some of the variables in my working life. I despise working for people less qualified than me, and if I’m going to climb the ladder, I’d prefer to start somewhere closer to the top. It’s not that I haven’t worked my way up before, just that there’s a limit to just how much crap that I can deal with while I’m trying to get ahead.

Maybe I’ll stop writing this, and work on something more productive, like a love letter to Death. Courting the Grim Reaper has always been my secret ambition. Well, I don’t know if it’s still a secret if you tell everyone you meet, but I haven’t, until now, broadcasted my desire to the entire world. Some thought experiment that this turned out to be. More like a convoluted pep talk for someone who isn’t listening. But at least that I know that words are flowing once again, and though it’s true that the narrative voice between the story and the blog are slightly different, tonally, it’s still me who’s rambling on, and that should count for something. Maybe I could pop in the part about Applesauce and Abby, or that time when Crys and I almost died because she was way too drunk to drive. Or how her daughter stole those beers from us, which we had stolen first (or so the story goes, if I’m to retain plausible deniability), just so that she could share them with her stupid friends that weren’t us. Of course, if I get in too deep, I’ll just have to go ahead and write the book that I know that I’m not ready to tackle yet. I should probably get started before too long, before all my memories have dissipated, but there’s something which I want to do stylistically, which I know that I’m not quite good enough to actually pull off. At least, not yet.

I can’t believe I’ve written almost two thousand words in just an hour and a half. Turns out that when I’m typing at almost the speed of thought, I can get something accomplished. And now the thought has bubbled up which I want nothing more than to ignore, which is that I should really sit down and read this for the podcast version. Except that the calm and collected voice which is narrating this between my ears won’t sound nearly as impressive if it has to pass my vocal cords. I guess the audio version of this will just have to wait until I get around to it, which, knowing me, is probably somewhere close to never. And here I thought that I would wind up arguing the point with a little bit more passion. I suppose that the time has come for me to get back to work on that thing which I really wanted to be doing. Now if only I could manage saying that with even a modicum of sincerity, I’d be set. Just one more thing before I go: In the comments for this post (or on Facebook or Twitter), please let me know which of these photos you prefer for the cover image.

This one, which is both primal AND artistic…
or this one, which holds a slightly different perspective.
or this one, which holds a slightly different perspective.


The Afterglow of Insomnia

I still can’t get to sleep. Don’t get me wrong: I slept last night, but only for a little over five hours. I don’t know why it is that I haven’t been able to get to sleep before two o’clock in the morning. I’m going to try to avoid taking a nap today, but I make no promises, for insomnia is a harsh mistress. But at least last night I managed to be moderately productive. After being inspired by a comment about a mistranslation, I sat down and busted out a cheesy grunge-inspired song. Well, the lyrics anyway. I’ve now passed them over to Bad Leon Suave, who will add some music and turn it into a proper tune- I hope. But there is so much left to do to get the apartment into shape before our company arrives. Even I, the bastion of not giving even the slightest crap about home maintenance, have begun to feel a little urge to get stuff cleaned and/or put away. And considering that I will be attending a fast food protest/strike tomorrow with my wife, I guess that means we have a lot to get accomplished by the end of the day. I just wish that I wasn’t so exhausted.

It’s not like this is my first bout of insomnia. I’ve been unable to get to bed at a reasonable hour for most of my adult life. Part of that is due to the fact that I’m naturally a night owl, and part of it has to do with not having time to myself to finally decompress. Yes, Virginia, even unemployed writers occasionally need to blow off steam. I thought that I might be able to fall back into a more normal rhythm (at least for me), switching to full-on nocturnal once I was no longer working. But things kept coming up, and now I’m basically on the same schedule that I had when I was working, give or take an hour. I will say that getting my son ready for school and out the door is a far greater challenge than just getting myself ready and off to work. I have a good autopilot system, and would usually finally begin to feel the hints of consciousness somewhere halfway through the BART ride. Being responsible for another human being in the morning is mind-numbingly difficult, especially if it seems like that person is doing all he can to sabotage the whole endeavor.

Me: Come on, get up and get dressed.

David: Ugghhh…. Why?!

Me: School.

David: (angrier) Ugghhh! Fine! I’m not going!

Me: Dude, come on! Let’s get changed out of your jammies and put on your clothes.

David: I need to go pee.

Me: You don’t need my permission.

David: (goes to bathroom.)

Five minutes later, with no sounds whatsoever resembling the flow of liquid…

Me: You done in there?

David: No….

Me: Come on, let’s get a move on!

David: (opens door unexpectedly, wearing only his tank top) Uggghhh….

Me: Dude! Pants!

David: Do I have to?

Me: No one likes wearing pants, but it’s cold outside, so just do it.

David: Fine! But I won’t like it!

Me: I accept your terms. Let’s go.

David: (gets dressed slowly, attempting to raise my blood pressure, not finishing for another five minutes)

The rest of the morning is just more of the same, and it isn’t until I finally let go of his hand when we’ve arrived outside the school that he seems to remember that he knows how to do things. I’ll try to give him one last smooch, and tell him that I love him, and he’ll wipe his face and look around to see if any of his friends have seen him. He’ll tell me goodbye with the finality of a dismissal, and then walk toward the door to disappear inside so that he can go and play. And then, just as he’s about to pass through the doorway, he runs quickly back and throws his arms around me, and tells me, “Last hug!” without a trace of the self-consciousness which wholly consumed him not a moment before. I hug him back, and tell him that I love him, and that I believe in him. And to have a great day. He then runs back inside, still my little boy, but growing up all the same. I can see from time to time, glimpses of the person he’s becoming, and I think to myself that maybe he’ll turn out okay.

And then I come back to my quiet home (everyone else will be sleeping in ’til noon), power up the laptop, and try to think of what I want to say. Don’t tell my wife, but one of the reasons that I love walking her to work is that it usually gives me a little extra time to mull over things when I’m sipping coffee on my walk back. There’s something beautiful about the world in that hour before dawn, and while I would never set an alarm to see it, I’ve spent many nights awake in eager anticipation of its arrival. There are hardly any cars, and I can wander down the streets and work out the first couple of paragraphs in my head, playing with the narrative while talking to myself. I’m not afraid of what other folks may think, and the best way to protect yourself from those who might seek to harm you is to appear exponentially more batshit crazy than even they can manage. We can smell our own, you see. And after spending a night wrestling with insomnia, it’s really not that much of an act.

This e-cigarette just isn’t cutting it. I need the rich, full flavor of combusted tobacco product. I’ve been really bad about staying away from the real thing (ultra lights, though they be), and now I’m pretty much back to where I was before my lungs went on strike. I want to keep living like I’m still in my twenties, but my body keeps reminding me that’s not really feasible. One of these days I’m going to wake up and suddenly discover that I have a spark of self-preservation in me, but today is not that day.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing something about strikes and unions, and Thursday will be a series of shorter posts which will chronicle my adventures in the city with my newly arrived nephew.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone!