Well, here I am again. Awake at 2 a.m. I can’t sleep.
I change beds, leaving my husband and his rumbling snores behind in the bedroom. They don’t help my insomnia at all. I need complete quiet. Now I’m wide awake on the living room couch and, wouldn’t you know, it’s just too quiet. Although it’s 65 degrees in the house, I get up and turn on the ceiling fan, hoping the faint whirring of the motor and spinning fan blades will lull me to sleep.
The cats are surprised to find me there in the dark. The littlest one, Clark, curls up on my side, then proceeds to take a full-body bath. We never see him bathing and always thought he was just an unkempt kitty. Perhaps he is modest and prefers to bathe in the dark. I’m pleased to know he does bathe, but the rocking motion of his aggressive grooming is not helping me relax. I toss him off the couch but he jumps right back. I spend the next 15 minutes playing Toss the Kitty until he finally gives up.
I must sleep. I cannot function without sleep.
Insomnia is not a stranger to me. We have been enemies for years. When I’m in the midst of sleeplessness, I usually try to figure out why I can’t sleep and blame it on whatever is going on in my life at that moment — hormones, family problems, physical illness, insanity. But the truth is, insomnia has plagued me since childhood. My super-turbo-boosted thinking, which activates as soon as the lights go out, was my worst enemy then, just as it is now. When I was about 7 or 8, I began to ask the Big Question that has also plagued me all my life — why, why, why?
As I’d try to fall asleep at night, I’d think about that one specific illusive moment when awareness became swallowed by unconsciousness. Why could I never remember the exact moment when I slipped into sleep? Insomnia used my inquisitive mind against me, and I’d like awake for hours questioning the motives of the universe.
When I wasn’t asking unanswerable questions and trying to grab hold of invisible sleep barriers, my fears kept me awake. I was especially afraid of UFOs, thanks to an often-told family legend about my older sister’s encounter with a cigar-shaped spacecraft that allegedly landed in our backyard in San Antonio. My practical jokester brother took every opportunity to use my UFO-phobia against me, and even built a miniature flying saucer out of plywood, Christmas lights and sound effects recorded on a cassette tape deck. He and his best friend “launched” the UFO outside my bedroom window late one night and took great delight in my subsequent screams of terror.
Now that I’m an adult, incessant thinking still haunts me in the middle of the night, but I’m pleased to say my fear of UFOs is gone. Speaking of fear, a fish just leapt in the aquarium. The splash sounded unusually loud in the dark, quiet room and made the cats jump. I think they’re scared of the giant plecostomus, a large unattractive creature who earns his keep by sucking the gross stuff off the aquarium glass. The cats probably have nightmares about him slithering out of the tank and taking over their deluxe carpeted multilevel kitty penthouse with two scratching post options. I know I do.
Maybe that’s why Clark takes his baths at night: Insomnia induced by fear and anxiety resulting in an OCD-like need to lick, lick, lick.
The fish and the cats have returned to their beds, and I’m starting to feel sleepy now. I close my eyes and drift away from the shore of consciousness, no longer reaching for the invisible thread between now and later. Sleep, glorious sleep, takes me away.
Or so I assume. As usual, I just don’t remember a thing.
KRISTI PARKER JOHNSON is metro editor of the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7548.