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July 25, 2005

Insomnia, not just for crazy people anymore.


I used to be the sort of child that could sleep a whole day away, drove my parents crazy.

Although I was a light sleeper, I was committed to it and through sheer will alone could turn the wisps of a delicious, fading dream into a new dream, letting it wrap around me and fading back into it, even when my mom ran the vaccuum cleaner to wake me up. Even when one brother stomped around the stairs, another knocking softly at the door, "Come play... are you asleep?"

Now it's like being strangled by wakefulness, unable to relax and breathe in this not-exactly-night, not-exactly-morning. Just wandering from room to room, smoking on the patio, listening to crickets, thinking. Admiring the fact that I can sit now, alone, completely untended. Feeling somewhat better at this thought -- how much easier it is to be my own company now -- and still tight all over, like being awake all the time is a straightjacket. Watching. Waiting. My primary occupation these days is waiting. Listening.

Tonight I paged through an old photo album from our first road trip cross country, the year we got engaged. It was a hot summer just like this year, darkly humid at night and blistering all day. I know you think I was crazy, looking at those pictures can do no good. But then I saw the one I took of him ... I was in the passenger's seat and he was driving my old white convertible, we may have been in El Paso by then, and as I looked at the picture and traced it with my finger, all I could think was Goddamn, I loved that car.

So there's that.

And Lord how I do miss a good road trip. Driving in LA scares me, all those cars and people and traffic and off-ramps that have no corresponding on-ramp. But sometimes at night, like this, I think of packing all the cats and my cute shoes in the car and getting this show on the road, as my daddy says. We're a whole family of travelers, peculiar for southerners. It's something right down to the core of me, this need to just up an leave, get this show on the road.

It's like something is missing in my life but I can't place my finger on it. Can't trace it in any picture. And all I think about is moving, not really in the concrete sense, more like looking, but I have no idea what to look for. They don't make that type of car anymore.

Holes are crazy thing, sometimes so small you can ignore them, only they rear up and swallow you entire in one night. Or they just sit there in the pit of you, making you feel not exactly complete, not exactly sure. Hard to sleep when you're in that place, contemplating the missing thing. Is it a person? A place? A job? A house? Is it the way the air smells in a certain town, or the way a person smells, or good food simmering on the stove? Is it a dream you had, a dream you want for your whole life? A picture of a perfect day?

All these books in the Self Help aisle and these TV shows and talk radio hosts, they have an easy fix: just complete yourself. Know yourself and you'll be whole. As if knowing yourself is such a happy accident; half the time I'm tired of my own jokes and covered in cat hair.

I like the way older women seem to feel comfortable in their own skin, caring less each passing year what people think of them. I like the way I'm not teetering on some edge anymore, always about to crack. I like the way I can sit alone and night and not feel lonely anymore. There's nothing particular about my own situation that's hard now. All that crying had its place and I am cried out, it's over with, just paperwork and waiting left.

Maybe this hole is just quietness; nothing is there to fill it up with new emotion, everything moves forward today the same way it did yesterday. Kind of makes me want to go shopping. Or drive. George Jones on the radio.

And now I just miss my old convertible, the way I felt free to roam with someone hand in hand, the sheer joy of taking a snapshot of a beloved friend driving your beloved car.

Something's missing. I assume it will become clearer in time -- either that or I'll do something impulsive because action makes you feel like you're filling up, doing not waiting. I assume it's like this for most folks (is it?) because we wouldn't spend so much time looking, waiting, listening, or filling each day with distraction. Some people fall asleep at night exhausted, from a whole day packed end to end with a to-do list, some don't sleep at all.

I'm just going to wait a little while longer. Listen. See if anything turns up. See if I can fall asleep some night, all the way through, reaching back into a dream to keep me on the pillow a little longer.

So there's that.

Posted by laurie at July 25, 2005 9:46 AM