Ah, sleep

Photo by Domenico Salvagnin via Creative Commons

I’m doing something different. I’m getting sleep. Real, glorious, soak-the-pillow-with-drool kind of sleep.

It’s been amazing.

I’ve never been a champion sleeper.

One of my earliest memories is of awakening in my dimly lit bedroom to the sound of  a squalling monster. I recall slipping out of my bed and padding over to its cage on the other side of the room. Inside was a smallish, red-faced beast with curled fingers and toes, leaking profusely.

My next memory is of my mother rushing in, flipping on the light switch and actually touching the creature, which, as it turns out, was my little brother. I recall sitting on my father’s lap in the living room as he explained babies and crying to me. The late news flickered on the TV screen and cast a blue glow around the room.

As a teenager, I went through a sleepwalking phase. I was known to walk from my bedroom down to the kitchen, turn on all the lights on the first floor, then open the side door leading to the driveway and garage. I’d lean out and look for someone or something. That’s when I would wake up.

As a young woman out in the world, anyone who slept next to me complained that I tossed and turned, sometimes shouted, sat up and carried on one-way conversations, and then *gasp* snored my way through the rest of the night.

I guess I’ve settled down in my middle years. If I snore, I get a poke in the shoulder to turn over. No more reports of conversations or late-night wandering.

Most of the time I’m adrift, seeking the distant shore of unconsciousness.

But this past week, thanks to the wonders of NyQuil, I slept the blessed slumber of the very young and the achieved the stillness of the dead.

Speaking of dead, I’ve been advised and warned for more than a year now that my sleep deprivation habits are going to kill me. I didn’t really believe it until I tried to lose 20 pounds. No matter how much time and effort I put in at the gym, no matter how much I dieted, I was not losing a pound or shedding an inch anywhere.

I kept reading studies and hearing reports about belly fat and lack of sleep and mortality.

I thought back to a friend of mine who died of cancer early this year.  I recall her telling me that as a single mother, she never got more than five hours of sleep a night. She did this for two decades. I wondered if she ever kicked that habit, or, if the damage had been done.

I’ll never know but the memory scared me.

So, a respiratory infection, followed by a three-week cough, followed by the common cold felled me like an old oak in a light breeze. I realized the most important thing was to get some sleep to get better. Night after night I just went to bed and slept until my body woke me.

It was amazing.

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Hell on wheels

Photo by Infomatique via Creative Commons

I hit a guy on a bike today.  Just a little bit, like a nudge.

The front bumper of my car tapped him as he pedaled into my path. I was stopped at a corner. I wasn’t looking forward when I lifted my foot off the brake. I was looking to my left, gauging oncoming traffic and how I could gun it to merge into the flow. I was tired and I was in a hurry.

Traffic opened.  I lifted my foot off the brake.

In a split second I turned to see this man on a bike at the front end of my car, pinwheeling his arms and mouthing obscenities. In a split second my foot jumped back on the brake.  My hands flew up to my mouth.


I sat there, hands held palm-to-palm in prayer, pleading his forgiveness. I watched as he jumped back on his bike, leaned forward, grabbed the handlebars, locked eyes with me and shouted words that rhyme with hunt and witch.

It could have been oh-so-much worse, I thought, as he rode away. He seemed OK.

He appeared to be homeless, a street person, with his tattered clothing, salt and pepper wild beard and skull cap. Several stuffed-to-the-brim bags dangled from the bike’s handlebars.  I didn’t ask him if he was OK. I said it aloud inside the car but not to him so that he could hear me. I didn’t pull over to verify anything. I just went on my way, shaking and feeling like dirt.

My Girl from the East was strapped in her car seat in the back. We were on our way to a group playdate.

“Mama, he needed to be more careful,” Girl from the East said in her matter-of-fact way. Of course, she assumed this near-accident was his doing.

It occurred to me that she had no idea what almost happened. She has no idea how her entire life and safety were in my hands. It occurred to me that I have no idea how dangerous I am when I am tired.

As I continued on my way, I felt my heart beating in my chest, beads of sweat gathering on my temples and under my arms. I looked in the rear view mirror at Girl from the East. I thought again of the man in tattered clothing. One means everything to me; the other is a stranger. Yet both lives are so fragile, both hold equal value.

Whenever I’m on the road with children in the car, I worry for their safety. I think of the dangers as being outside of the car.

I need to be awake. I need to get some sleep.

It’s all a vicious cycle. I was distracted and careless because I was tired.

I was tired because I stayed up well past 1 a.m. getting caught up on things I didn’t get done the day before.

I was tired that day and behind because of lack of sleep the night before that.

On and on and  on.

I need sleep.

Sort-of hitting someone on a bike is a big two-by-four across the temple.

Sure, I could argue the guy looked homeless and maybe a little drunk or high.

So what?

Sure, I could defend myself and say I was at a busy intersection, trying to merge into traffic, and he pedaled right in front of me. Doesn’t he know to make sure the driver sees him before going in front of a car?

So what?

If someone else was the driver and the bike rider was one of my children, would I accept those lame-ass excuses?


I need to get some sleep.

I need to be awake.

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Signs, signs, everywhere signs

First the neighbors asked if we were moving. Then the mail carrier wanted to know about the rent.

In the bizarro world that is my life lately, the latest crazy thing is the “House For Rent” sign that sprouted on our lawn overnight.

We own our home. (Well, we make mortgage payments.) Yeah, we’ve thought quite a bit lately about unloading it and ditching this D-town, which lately stands for Depression State-Ground Zero. But we’ve not done anything yet. And somehow, with the appearance of this sign, the universe is channeling my deepest fears. The cosmos is playing a dirty trick. In one day, two important things are taken away and a sign appears  suggesting that we are renters and on our way out

Had I not been on week two of a sleep deprivation above and beyond my normal dosage, I would have probably ripped out the sign immediately and stuffed it in the trash along with all the other wayward signs that find their way onto our expansive corner lot. It would have found a home next to the obnoxious “Garage Sale” “Bush/Palin” and “Open House” placards that folks don’t even bother asking permission to place on our grass. Had I not had bigger issues to resolve, such as no cable/phone/Internet service, I would have  inquired around the neighborhood to see if someone was missing a sign.

But I’ve not been myself lately. Just because I see something with my eyes, hear it with my ears, or touch it with my hands does not mean it’s real or true. So I stared at the sign, felt my eyes tear up, and then wondered through the watery blur: Did we sell our house? Did we ever really own it? Are we renters? Did I just emerge from a fugue state for the last decade?

Hoping to clear the haze in my head, I went outside, looked at the number written on the sign and called it.

Of course, no one answered. Of course, the voice mail message was vague. I listened as a sleepy-sounding guy asking me to leave a message. I did. Mr. Sleepy never returned the call.

When I awoke this morning I looked outside. There stood the sign in all its conspicuous glory. No one has rescued this runaway. I went outside and yanked it out of the earth and placed it on its side near the street. Much later, upon returning from errands, I found it planted on another front lawn two blocks north of my house.  Ah, so it’s some sort of misguided marketing strategy or a silly prankster on the move. Whatever the reason, it’s a freaky little message from the universe.

Should we stay or should we go? That’s the question of the moment. We’ve invested nearly a decade in this property. That’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere since childhood. It’s easy to pack up  a place after just a few years. But a decade in, well, now you’re talking about a place steeped in memories.

I cannot look at our living room without thinking of two giddy newlyweds sitting on cushions, eating takeout Chinese food, surrounded by unpacked boxes. I cannot ascend our second-floor staircase without recalling the time when we had the upstairs gutted to the studs, a big hole cut out of the west wall, and my husband’s office doubling as our bedroom for three long months. I cannot tour the big back yard without remembering how it was when we found it: a sea of weeds and overgrown shrubs. Today it is home to a good-sized playground and a massive vegetable garden.

So much time, money, energy and hope poured into this place. We always knew we’d leave it. We never professed a lifetime commitment. The plan was to leave on our own terms, when we were ready. Plans change. Terms change. Are we ready?

The very palpable fear of loss has forced me to appreciate what I have and to fight like hell to save it. If I lose that fight, let me leave with grace.

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