Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nonsense and Sensibility: Grumbles from a Sleepless Night

Nonsense and Sensibility: Grumbles from a Sleepless Night

Most people are sensible. Most people, when they feel out of sorts, not up to par, not their usual hale and hearty selves, quite sensibly slow down, take their temperature, heat chicken soup, build a tower of books next to the bed, lay in a supply of tissues and aspirin, snuggle under the blankets and wait out the siege of whatever bug is dropping virus bombs with no regard for the safety or welfare of innocent victims.

I went to bed feeling fine, no inkling of the night to come. At 11:30 I awoke with slightly aching joints. I rolled over, tried to get comfortable on my other side. I flip-flopped several times, twisting the bedding into a croissant, my aching torso the sandwich filling. Got up and checked the clock. 12:05. I continued this exercise regime—in bed, flip, flop, twist, turn, out of bed—at approximately twenty minute intervals until 3:17.

By now I felt as if flames seared down my backbone and licked out to my hips. Since my tumble in October I have experienced intermittent back pain but never before did it demand such attention. My mind (which knows everything, ask it) said, you know what this is, don’t you, Sugar Pie. What, I asked. The Big C, Dummy. Remember what happened with your Dad. One day he complained of pain in his hip. Next thing, he was in the hospital. Two months later he was gone. So, Princess, when was the last time you reviewed your last will and wishes?

Don’t be silly, I said. I’m not listening to you. I probably twisted my back when I, well, when I did something or other during the day, or just shifted my body when out of balance, or any number of things which can leave lingering pain. Leave me alone and let me sleep.

My mind shape-shifted into a vulture, perched on the corner of my bed, calmly folded its wings, preened its feathers, and proceeded to review a parade of woes. My failures marched across the foot of my bed in grim formation: the Christmas cards I didn’t send, the friends I haven’t called in months, the flood plain ordinance I haven’t reviewed, shop work I’ve neglected, blunders, mistakes, yadda, yadda, yadda, and yadda. At 6:35 the Vulture tucked its head beneath its wings and I fell asleep.

At 7:40, I woke up, grumbled out of bed, slid into the same clothes I wore the day before, brushed my hair and combed my teeth. I grimaced at the mirror and decided not to clean my glasses.

Believe me, night terrors are nothing compared to daytime recriminations. What is wrong with you? Why are you dragging around? Don’t be such a sluggard. Get a grip.

Friends called with syrupy advice, well-meaning nostrums, which made me feel homicidal. Reading made me sleepy. Coffee didn’t help. Food repelled me. I growled at the cat when she jumped into my lap.

It did not dawn on me that I might be sick. It never does. I’ve been this way all my life. I figure, if I can just figure out what is wrong with me then I can get on with it. Behind my inability to get on with it, lies the unwelcome knowledge that I must be a moral failure. My source of information is the infallible me. I know that what is wrong with me is some weird psychological stuff. If I can just root it out, everything will be okay. So I get out of bed, get dressed, show up, and think my life will automatically fall into place. I quite capably ignore fever, chills, aches, and tears, all the while losing my stomach over the toilet. It never occurs to me to think I might have a touch of flu.

My kids tell me that when they wake up feeling pooky, they get up, clean up and get ready for the day, just like I taught them. Usually it works. But when it doesn’t, when they still feel badly, to my great relief, they understand that they are probably coming down with something. They quite sensibly get undressed, climb back into bed and get well.

After several hours of self-flagellation, when I could do nothing else, I crawled back under the covers. Twenty four hours later, I woke from a restful sleep and bounded out of bed feeling great. Whatever it was that had me in its clutches probably wouldn’t have lasted so long had I just stayed in bed in the first place. Like a sensible person.

Sondra Ashton

HDN: Looking out my back door

January 17, 2013

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