I avoid sleep. I run from it as if it holds a knife because, in a way, it does. It’s where fears comingle with regrets, where failures meet insecurities. It’s where nostalgia lives, where my Mom dies over and over again, where all of life’s cruelty resides. It’s where I’m helpless to fight back. And I wake from every sleep, whether a nap or a full night, that knife stabbing at my gut, poking around, choking away my breath. Sweaty and panicked, I take inventory of all that matters: where’s my wife, where’s my son, where’s my dog, is Dad okay, what about my sister, her kids, and then money, too, do we have enough, can I pay for college in seventeen years, what if I lose my job, is there a fire up on the mountain I smell smoke, is the phone ringing and how many more times can I live through such a horror? This is fear, yes, but it’s recognition, too, an acknowledgment that things do, in fact, fall apart.
Wake up, take a shower, pet the dog, squeeze my son, kiss my wife, drink a coffee, check the news, respond to emails, get in the car, go to work, come home, go for a run, play with the toddler, dream with the wife, watch show, listen to music, say goodnight to everyone, sit on the couch, read, listen to more music, ponder and wonder and dream. Smile. Go to sleep.
Start all over again.
I’m lucky in life: I have health, a (mostly) supportive family, a happy little boy, a patient and beautiful wife, a great education and an innate craving for knowledge, a craft that keeps me employed, and countless number of friends, both old and new. Sure, I’ve struggled on some fronts: I could stand to be better with money, I’m tragically empathetic, cloyingly nostalgic, and I’m a rabble-rouser. A poker, a plotter, a plodder, too: I’m always wandering off, late for everything, unaware of time or place or who may be on the receiving end of my absentmindedness.
While awake, I keep perspective. Stay calm.
And then I fall asleep again. That’s when I worry, where I anticipate. It’s where the disappointment gets in. Clever logic fails to make a case and worries stack up, both legitimate and imagined. I face reality when I sleep, chase dreams when awake.
Yet, it informs, too: coerces apologies, maps out plans, inspires change. Reminds me to be alert, take nothing for granted, to hold myself accountable. Love louder, hug longer, smile bigger. Stop. Disconnect. Live in the moment.
Somewhere in the groggy panic are these little truths and perhaps that’s just it: sleep is my rabble-rouser, my conscience, a not-so-gentle reminder of all of the many things I’m not doing.
Like writing, which is my map. When I stop writing, I get lost.
I’m tired. Time to face the next fear.