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The lunesta moth could be touching my skin with its creepy moth feet ALL NIGHT and I would never know. And I am not even TAKING THE PILLS.

Presurgery, before the months that I call OMGIADLY (pronounced OM-gee-AD-lee, an acronym for “Oh em gee, I almost died last year.”) I had a long standing and profound relationship with Insomnia. On the surface, I flat hated Insomnia, and reviled him and said Very Bad Words Indeed about him. Between you and me? The lady was protesting too much, and the relationship was of course more complicated than that.

At four am most mornings, my brain would spring awake and begin gamboling about and peeing out novel all over the floor like a naughty Labrador retriever puppy. It would be a happy, feckless brain, concerned mostly with sniffing out the right words, not at all interested in the sink full of last night’s dishes.

Insomnia, in this already extended-beyond-all-possible-interest-or-reason metaphor, was the stick that POKED that puppy, that rooted it out of the bed, the LYING SACK OF CRAP STICK that said it was time to get up, and more truthfully told it something rotty-licious was buried deep in the files of my latest novel-in-progress, and the brain should go dig it up and bring it in the house.

I paid for these hours later, with grumpy, bitter black coffee-fueled four PM times, when my brain would have aged all the way from puppyhood to a Schubert-esque old age. My brain would be creaky and foul, and it would direct me to finally tackle the crusted dishes, because that was about all it was good for. I might break a couple fumbling at them with my sponge, I was so clumsy with exhaustion, but they got DONE. By 6 pm, Insomnia would start poking at me again and telling me of COURSE I didn’t need any SLEEP and I should have dinner and chatter at my husband and kids and play games and frisk about, but the afternoons? Were awful. In the afternoons, my old creaky 4 PM Schubert brain would not be interested in novels or pleasantness; it was in charge of autonomic functions and grumpiness only.

DIGRESSION: Speaking of the old fat cat, he will NOT use the old fat cat step. I was up three times last night, setting him ON THE STEPS, and then he would step gingerly onto the bed and flop down in a heap of smugness to nap by me. I am going to season him with oregano and bake him in a pan. I see no other solution. TO UN-DIGRESS, each time he woke me up, I would put him on the step, get back in bed, and fall ALMOST INSTANTLY back into dreamless sleep! INSOMNIA, WHERE ARE YOU?

Post OMGIADLY? Insomnia is nowhere to be found. He has DITCHED me. He is on the fritz. And I MISS him. I MISS my insomnia. I can’t believe I just said that. I can’t believe also, that every time Insomnia does a drive by, and I have a bad night or two, I trumpet about it excitedly to all my friends. I THINK MY INSOMNIA IS COMING BACK, I bellow into the phone, hopeful, as if I am talking about a beloved cousin who has been deployed into a hotzone, and now has orders to return.

Maybe not. But you are ruining my schedule.

Because as much as I used to bemoan my lack of sleep…Let me tell you, there is a fabulous advantage to a nineteen hour day. It is this: You can get NINETEEN HOURS WORTH OF CRAP DONE.

FAQilly speaking, when I teach at writer’s conferences, one question I almost always get is “How do you FIND THE TIME.” The person who asks is almost always a woman, and she will almost always have some sort of a mom-tell. Perhaps something subtle, like one perfectly shaped eyebrow and one bushier one because she got interrupted halfway through to help with a science fair project and never got the time to go back. Sometimes it is plenty obvious, like a toddler’s shaky smiley face drawn in Sharpie on her otherwise nice handbag. But the mom-tell is almost always there in these WHERE DO YOU FIND TIME question askers.
The answer was (yes, past tense) simple—-I had two things going for me; I married the right man, and I am a RABID insomniac. I am still married o the right man. Scott is my go to guy, Mr. Fixit, who repairs everything in the house, from the toilet to my temper.

But I have LOST my other edge. Instead of a week consisting MOSTLY of 19 hour days with one two hour nap somewhere and one night where I pay for up-hours with a ten hour sleep binge…I consistently have days that last about 16 hours.

My afternoons are better, sure, but that means my brain never shuts down and wants to do the dishes. That means, I lose those three SILENT morning hours when no one is up but me, not the kids or the pets or that IRRITATING and apparently IMMORTAL chipmunk has for years now spent his morning hours right outside my office window producing a PIERCING rhythmic CHUP CHUP noise.

I don’t know how to schedule my day. I have to do the writing FIRST thing, but then I am behind the rest of the morning. I never catch up. I get to the end of each day, Insomnia free, yawning and blinking by 10:30 and I have about three hours worth of crap that SIMPLY HAS NOT GOTTEN DONE. Not even the worries over how I am going to find the time to make up for those hours and hours I am losing, get my filthy house under control, finish the book, get my kids to all their activities…not even all that FRETTING can keep my brain awake past eleven pm.

12 comments to Thwartastica

  • OMG, you’re one of US now. The horror. And how will you find the time? By ditching the housework like the rest of us lazy writerly-wives. Maybe Scott can fix that too!

    I get once a year bouts of insomnia, but my brain won’t cooperate to write during the “up” hours when it is beyond silent in the house and there’s not much of anything intelligent I can do. Those are the times I use to wash floors, dust bookcases, re-organize the pantry… you know, all that stuff that otherwise doesn’t get done.

  • Well I already wasn’t a great housekeeper, so not really a lot of WIGGLE room there (hee!) I am having to give up stuff I love. I don’t know that I WILL find the time. Already missed my book deadline. The book is coming along and I am in love with it, but I have 3 hours less a day to WORK On it, so it is going slowwwwwwwwwwwwly.

    This whole Almost Dying thing really threw a spanner in my works!

  • I went back to setting my alarm. Seriously, if I do not get at least 2 hours before the world infringes on my space, the day is shot. As for the housework, I thought teaching the boys to do it might work. Actually, it takes longer and I have to lower my already low standards to accept it as done … but I can read while I “supervise”, so that’s one other activity I can enjoy.

  • Haley

    “I am going to season him with oregano and bake him in a pan.”

    I assure you he would not taste very good, being as old as he is. It would take hours and hours of stewing to make him tender enough.

    And about the scheduling, I write best late at night after everyone else goes to sleep. SO I would stay up super late writing, and then get up whenever you have to to get everyone out of the house. This would involve some grumpiness, and maybe taking a nap somewhere in there, of course.

  • the celt (jessica)

    I used to only sleep four hours each night and could not sleep more, no matter what. It started in high school and lasted until about four years ago, whereupon, for no apparent reason, my body simply said, “Look, lady, we want at least eight to nine hours of sleep.” (The only think I can think of is that’s about the time I got married. Either my husband is so calming to me — and believe me, he is! — or he wears me out so much I just need to sleep. I work fewer hours than I did then, as I had basically two jobs before I got married, so I was actually busier and more on-the-go when I was getting less sleep. Urgh.)

    Sometimes I miss having so much quiet time (I’m a night owl and did a lot of writing in the latest hours of the night before the sun came up), but then I realize how much I like to sleep. I still have my insomnia weeks every so often, but then I really just don’t sleep at all, not even my old four hours.

    Also, did you see the guy who did try to marinate his cat to eat him? (The cat was still alive, so he was happily saved from crunchings and munchings when a cop pulled the guy over for something else.) If not, you definitely need to Google that (it’s a recent event). Poor kitty…

  • jeanette

    The Lunesta moth makes me jealous. Jealous of those who can just gulp a pill and cure their sleep problem. I am blessed/cursed with a sleep problem that apparently no form of pills, liquor, or therapy can cure. I have a neurological disorder that causes me to do what I call my “crazy dreaming”. I can fall asleep (read: doze off on the couch) and my husband can wake me up literally 5 minutes later and I can tell him all the vivid details of what I was dreaming!! I know some people really enjoy dreaming, but I do it ALL night long, nearly EVERY night. It is exhausting….I feel like I’m living one life while asleep, then I have to wake up and live a second life all day long! I have never once dreamed anything that was inspiring in a NOVEL sort of way. I have perfect recall of the dreams quite often, which really pisses me off that I have never once dreamed the lottery numbers for the following day. Just psycho, not psychic………..

  • In the book Beggars in Spain a few people are genetically engineered to not ever need to sleep. With all their extra time they take over the world. You may be onto something here!

  • Methinks your body is trying to take back some of the time it lost when it nearly died. Either that OR the amount of times Schubert wakes you in the middle of the night is catching up. I get what you are saying (as I sit here with one eyebrow bushier than the other), but *I* say, be kind to you. You COULD always get Scott to leave town. There’s a SURE CASE of insomnia right there.

  • As one of the hyster-sisters, let me reassure you that your old friend Insomnia may just be waiting for the right time to come back to visit. I slept really well for. . .gee. . .almost two years after my surgery, but when Lady Insomnia came to kick me awake, she did it with a vengeance. Now I go in sleep cycles; able to sleep well anywhere from two weeks to two months, and then just almost exactly the same amount of interrupted sleep.

    It’s annoying as all get-out, but oddly comforting too. Weird, that.

  • Brigitte

    I had massive insomnia for decades, since I was a kid, but the blood pressure meds I started now seem to make it very difficult to get out of bed in the morning.

    Sadly for me, I’ve never gotten MORE accomplished from being awake longer, as I always felt too tired and depressed to get much of anything done. I now have high hopes, what with more sleep and my kid going off to first grade: maybe I can finally do the same amount of stuff as a normal person, wheee!

  • Brigitte

    I meant to say, Jeanette, I often spend all night having vivid dreams too, but my husband forbade me years ago from telling him about them. That’s a disorder? I actually kind of like mine. 🙂

  • jeanette

    Brigitte: Mine is actually believed to be a symptom, well not sure if symptom is the rightest word here, but, a “part” of my Tourette’s**** syndrome. I have a mild case of Tourettes, but it does cause the brain to fail to adhere to the normal cycle of the sleep stages.
    ****I am always compelled, upon mentioning Tourette’s, to force feed the following fact to anyone who will listen: Less than 1% of people with Tourette’s go around swearing indiscriminately in public places.