The Insomnia Chronicles


I have insomnia. It’s sporadic and self-diagnosed and (please, please, Lord) temporary. Sometimes it means I can’t fall asleep until 3. Other nights I wake up at 5 after tossing and turning all night. At first it came on because I was too excited about life to sleep (I know, how weird am I?), and now it just baffles me. Of course, it’s not that I’m not excited about life. In fact, I very much am. Maybe even more so now. But there’s something about regular sleep deprivation that tends to drain one’s enthusiasm, at least in the dead of night.


And what do I do in all those quiet hours of the night, you might ask? Lots. I finger my favorite rosary, the simple wooden one whose beads are well-worn after an accidental trip through the washing machine. I watch my gauzy white curtains billow in the wind of my ceiling fan and the faint glow of street lights bleed through the slats of my blinds. I read novels and magazines, write notes to my roommates and friends, eat toast and drink tea and watch videos about Mormon apostacy. (Okay, that was just one time.) One night I revamped my bedroom gallery wall, praying my roommate wouldn’t hear me hammering nail after nail into the wall. (She didn’t.) Another particularly desperate night I broke a futon. (It was an accident, I promise. It’s complicated.) Coldplay’s “Fix You” always, always runs through my head. When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep. I yawn, and yawn, and yawn.


But mostly I think. I think about the day ahead, about work and plans with friends and hopes for the year. I let all sorts of questions, from intense to inane rise in my mind:


If I ever have kids, how will I explain the Holocaust to them?

Why on earth did Rolf blow his whistle when the von Trapps come out of hiding in the abbey?

Will I ever sleep again?


“You’re like a puppy,” my roommate said. “You just need to run around and tire yourself out so you’ll crawl into your crate and fall fast asleep.” But even after the day that I swam and biked and ran, I still had a rough night. But get this: the next evening, as I gathered with friends to watch an outdoor screening of Jaws, with bumpy ground beneath me and my purse as a pillow and a freight train passing by, I fell fast asleep. When I woke up for the very end (a knack I’ve developed over years of movie-watching on the plush couch in my parents’ basement), I wondered: Why is the boat sinking? And what happened to that third guy? Leave it to me to snore through screams on a speaker surrounded by a crowd and then lie awake for hours in a silent room on a cloud of a bed.


So, on a particularly sleepy day at the office, I did what any good and rational person would do: I asked my mom for help. One quick phone call later, I was armed with advice about melatonin, blackout curtains, blue light, and the perils of eating and drinking and exercising too close to bedtime. (With all her medical knowledge and personal experience, my mom is practically a doctor. And the best.)


Unsurprisingly, after that call, the past couple of nights have been miraculously better. I have never been so very grateful to make it through the night. To wake up to the sound of my alarm, not for an inexplicable reason before dawn. So, maybe I don’t have insomnia after all. And maybe self-diagnosis isn’t always accurate. Who would’ve guessed?


I think about why it all happened, or about what possible good could come from it. Maybe it was preparing me for life with a newborn someday, although my nights of sleeplessness were also silent. Maybe it was helping me live in solidarity with the homeless, although they don’t have a bed, or eye mask, or five pillows to maximize their comfort, or privacy. But if it was just a sliver of others’ suffering and it softened my heart toward them, I consider that a win. Tossing and turning and yawning and all.


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