It’s going to be another long night. I can tell by the wiredness I feel inside, though my eyes are heavy and my brain would probably really really like to shut down for a few hours. Restless legs kick in, jittery and literally so, and sleep will not be for now.
Yet I celebrate insomnia. It’s a cycle I remember from teenhood and early twenties. I’ll be honest, for some of those years I smoked cigarettes or pot. Alone in my room I watched Saturday Night Live, totally loving the irreverence and comedic timing of Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Jane Curtain, Dan Ackroyd, Lorraine Newman, Garrett Mirris, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner. It was my escape as I dreaded night and what it might bring.
My father slept in another room, slowly wasting away while I felt young, inadequate and without much support to truly help this man I loved with all my heart. This was my teen reality. I worried about my dad all the time. It scared me when he was short of breath or what I see now as mild anxiety attacks. His disease – congestive heart failure – was claiming him slowly but steadily.
Therefore, I embraced the night so that it didn’t have power over me. I would be in control, not it. Staying up till 4:30, I never slept in later than 11:00am. I set my Queens College schedule to accomodate my needs to be that night guard – watching over it carefully and yet enjoying Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, The Honeymooner reruns, or listening to the radio.
As I got older, sleep became easy and routine. During my raising kids and working years, I was often in bed before 11pm and up at 5:30am. I became a morning person, enjoying an hour of quiet with coffee and the paper before rousing kids and jump starting our days. I became suburbia. There were the distractions of daily life which kept me on a routine. It was a rare night when I couldn’t fall asleep easily and stay that way throughout the night.
And now, here I am again, waiting out the night. Yes the hyperthyroid restless legs and jitters can keep me awake. But I worry about my sweet adult kids who are on their own. The idea of a ringing phone in the night scares me. I’ve had it ring before in a jarring tome. On January 5th, 1978, around 3am, I answered the phone from the nurse at the hospital letting me know my father had just died. It’s the jolt that stays with a person for the rest of his or her life. At twenty, I was probably too young to deal with things on such a level, but I relied on myself, dug in and did what needed to be done. Luckily, my sister had arrived the day before and she was with me in that lonely house. Somewhere along the line, I’ve lost that spunk and fortitude, and I miss thst person. (Migraines have chipped away at that over time).
So I sometimes worry about late night phone calls. Like the one three years ago about a crazy off-duty deputy who gunned down his wife and her two friends in a bar my kids were in. That was another incident where I felt powerless and scared. I’d woken up my husband Jim, but he stayed in bed as I fretted out the rest of the night until the kids had given witness statements to the police. It forever impacted my daughter, and I’m sure my son (who was in another room but heard the gunfire and surely was concerned for his sister). My two nephews and a niece were there too and I worried for them. I saw the shock in their faces on the news the next morning.
So how can I be embracing this night owlish existence if I’m fraught with worry? Well, you see, I’ve got this smart phone. I can tweet, pin, play games, read my Kindle for Android app, blog. It’s my escape. I watch the clock nudge along the morning’s hour, and I forget to woe. Thank you, techno wizards.