cynthyb


2 Comments

Slow Asleep, OR The Lion Sleeps Tonight (but will I?)

Blog Post # 42 

RFSleepingNymph

“Sleeping Nymph” by Richard Franklin

For me, bedtime has become a carefully choreographed series of contortionist moves and mind shutdown techniques (none of which work), attempting to find a brain- and body-calming remedy that will allow me to drift into that profound state of unconscious bliss called sleep.

Finding_Lincolns_Addr_Phel

“The Gettysburg Address” – Abraham Lincoln

Repetitious “mind static” is a huge factor dictating if I sleep or lie awake. No matter how I tune the dial in my head, I invariably pick up brash, white noise that won’t leave me alone. It might be the same three lines from the theme song to “All in the Family,” a problem without a solution, or a repetitive rendition of the first paragraph of The Gettysburg Address, but whatever it is, I can’t seem to find a station in my brain that is able to either complete a thought, or tone down the volume. Sometimes, my mind is in such a hurricane of inventive, creative excitement, it’s impossible to find an eye of calm. The worst is the (fortunately infrequent) fretting that is easily pacified during daylight, but haunts like a host of demons the moment the moon smiles, mockingly, through the window.

Edmund_Dulac_-_Princess_and_pea

Princess and the Pea by Edmund Dulac  (1911)

Another factor, and lately, the more troublesome, is comfort. There’s nothing worse than a Mexican Standoff with your bed. In this regard, it’s fairly certain I am a very near relation to the royal with the hyper-sensitivity to a tiny legume. No matter how high her mattresses were stacked, she could feel that tiny irritating pea lurking beneath. And so it seems that no matter how many egg crates and memory foam mattress toppers my husband, Brad, stacks on our bed, I can still feel the tiny seam on my nightwear, or a slight wrinkle in the sheets digging into my side.

plane-3-0

To insure no outside noise disturbs our slumber, we have three separate fans going at once, none of which point directly at us. The white noise and wind tunnel effect breezing through our room at gale force readily allows paper airplanes to dart about, but for us, presents a unique set of problems. For one, when they were passing out eyelids, sadly for Brad, he got a set one size too small, preventing him from ever, fully closing his eyes. Like a plastic bag left slightly open, a blowing fan has the same effect on Brad’s poor eyes as air on a sandwich—they dry out. On the other hand, my sheets don’t know if they’re coming or going. One minute I’m roasting, and the next, I’m cold. My feet and shoulders like to feel cool air, but my middle likes warmth. Hence, the bedding goes up and down like a Roman blind all night long.  

47c56-scroll

Recently, as my aging father’s needs changed, we found it necessary to check on him periodically during the night. We settled on a schedule that would allow each of us a chunk of sleep in between each check time, but that meant setting separate alarms to awaken us at our own scheduled times. I knew my old alarm clock’s irritating buzzing would awaken both of us, so I decided it best to experiment with several alarm tones on my phone, adjusting the volume, then tucking my phone into an open drawer next to my bed where I could hear it, but hopefully, Brad could not.

tumblr_lchdm0z7UD1qd7ygho1_1280

I needed a tune that would both wake me up, and motivate me to get out of bed at an insane hour, without disturbing Brad. I thought a cello piece from “Master and Commander” would be both energetic and soothing, but the first few notes doused Brad awake, as if with seawater in the face. The theme song from “Pirates of the Caribbean” cast me over-bed, but was also too lively for Brad. It didn’t help matters that I invariably fell into a profound sleep moments before the alarm went off, blowing like a foghorn next to my ear. Groggily stumbling from bed, I’d heave-ho to the bathroom with the gait of a drunken sailor, before checking on my father.

images

Rousing though they were, the nautically themed alarms walked the plank. Brad asked me to find something less alarming, and I was all for it, as well. It was only natural, then, that the next alarm I chose was Brahms’ Lullaby. Brad wasn’t disturbed in the least by this alarm, and sadly, neither was I—sleeping through its quiet lulling more than once. Obviously, it was living up to its reputation.

Pavlov-and-Dog-393x333-custom

Pavlov and dog

 

 

I was determined to find an alarm tone that would awaken me, but not Brad, while not making me sick of a tune I had once enjoyed, nor making me blunder about as if on sea legs. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I was developing a strong aversion to all of the aforementioned tunes because of the unpleasant association of rising from Davy Jones’ Locker each time the alarm sounded. Finally, I found a generic, nondescript, quiet tune that, even after having heard it dozens of times, has awaken me without lingering like the California Raisins jingle.

14594-1

The alarm tone finally settled, a much weightier problem still existed—that of pain. Certain bodily trials (nothing serious, just the nagging sort) have created a love/hate relationship with bed and bedtime. Aside from the problem with “the pea,” my body creates its own set of issues. The first, and lesser, evil that arises at times is hunger pangs. No, it isn’t a question of starvation, but we do like to eat dinner very early in the evening (usually between four and five), you might even say we’re eating “dunch” (or, if you prefer, “linner”)—a combination not unlike “brunch” but combining lunch and dinner. By the time 2 AM rolls around, if I’m awake, I’m hungry enough for breakfast. I’ve never been one to raid the fridge in the middle of the night, and I’m not about to start now, but if pain hadn’t awakened me, I wouldn’t have thought about hunger until a more reasonable hour of the morning.

Chester

Climbing back into bed after only a minute or two of being up, pain begins, literally, rapping me on the shoulder, ordering me to, “Move over, roll over, put your leg here, stretch your neck there, put your arm on that side, lie on your tummy, lie on your back, sit up…oh, forget it—get up!” To alleviate the problems pain presents, I find myself trying a series of yoga-esque poses, all performed with great difficulty in a horizontal position, further complicated by nightgown and bed sheets wrapping around me in a mighty tangle, creating the illusion of a stalled tornado. During the twisting and turning, the tornado picks up two additional pillows in an attempt for skeletal alignment. This always results in a repetitive rotation through which said pillows are flung about by the tornado, first between knees, then under an arm, then under tummy, then under leg, and so on and on until at least one of the extra pillows is cast aside as debris. After unsuccessfully attempting to find comfort in every possible pose, the whole rigmarole begins anew, until, at last, I find my generic alarm tone startling me awake, and I must presume that, at least for a few moments, I really did manage to fall asleep.

asleep

Sleep itself is always an adventure, of sorts, because, since expecting my first child forty years ago, I’ve had extraordinarily kooky dreams.  Here is a sampling:

  • Bicycle handles coming out of my stomach (which tummy, by the way, was completely transparent)
  • Standing positively still in a box-shaped room full of floating peas
  • Alligators hanging off the ends of my fingers
  • A tornado held up by little cartoonish feet, dancing around trying to balance the spinning cyclone they’re holding aloft
  • An insignificant (now forgotten) dream interrupted by a commercial break featuring an animated skunk named *Sally Rushkin rowing a leaf or nut-shaped boat (*I was so certain that Sally Rushkin was an actual cartoon character from 1950s TV, I did an internet search, which resulted with no hits. Such is the workings of the mind when dreaming.)
Sally Rushkin

Sketch made of “Sally Rushkin” just after waking from the dream

The list of kooky scenarios is unending. Nightmares also have a sense of kookiness, but not wishing to remember them, I don’t record them as I do many of my good cuckoo dreams. One son-in-law acts as my dream analyst, claiming he can read my dreams like a book, because they’re so symbolic. Symbolic or not, it’s a hoot to hear his interpretations of the eccentricities that fill my dreaming hours. It makes me feel that, Plato-like, I’m creatively philosophizing, working out real-life issues throughout the night—and doing it all in my stride, or more accurately, in my sleep.

180px-aristophanes_-_project_gutenberg_etext_12788

Plato

 

Our nighttime schedule has undergone many changes these past weeks, as we’ve experimented with different strategies for sleeping and rising throughout the night. Lately, we are sleeping more, and waking less, which is agreeable enough, if it all works out that way. Brad’s alarm has only roused me once, and I think he, at last, is numb to mine, as well. However, the standoff with the bed, my body, and my mind may never be resolved. I often feel sentimental about the words of the poet Robert Frost:

ravillious

“…And miles to go before I sleep,  

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Only a better rendering for me might be:

…And trials to go before I sleep,

And trials to go before I sleep.

And when sleep doesn’t come, I may be found following Henry David Thoreau’s practice:

“I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.”

i_wrote_in_the_dark_thoreau_quote_stone_coaster-r6893866a0cbb4a788907af376b2dbfbf_zxe2w_630

 Which is precisely how this post came to be.

My First Blog Post EVER!

End Piece

© July 7, 2016

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear Friends, for reading.


11 Comments

My First Blog Post EVER!

This is my first attempt at a blog.

I feel  anticipation–if not a little nervousness–about posting, but here goes!

Blog Post #1: Quiet and Creativity

Have you ever noticed that most of your best ideas come while doing something like taking a shower, drifting off to sleep, or driving alone in your car? In the shower, and that twilight time when I’m between wakefulness and sleep, are the best for me, probably because there are no distractions. In the quiet, or the white noise of the water flowing, my mind becomes a flutter of thoughts and ideas that I must quickly snatch out of the air and pocket before they flit off, never to be thought of again. 

Of necessity, I keep paper and pencil at my bedside and in the bathroom.  In spite of the electronic gadgets that are causing paper clutter to become obsolete, I have sticky notes stacked like pancakes, decorating every flat surface, all over the house. Sticky notes on the mirror. Stickies on my desk. Stickies on my laptop. Stickies on my purse. Stickies on the cover of my Galaxy Note.  Stickies on stickies. It’s ridiculous. Why the stickies? Because these are my best ideas! There’s something of inspiration in some of them. If I don’t write things down, and put them in plain sight, I’ll forget. I don’t want to forget, hoping they’ll bear some rare and precious creative fruit at some future time. 

For me, ideas flow better in quiet times, so I’ve learned to tune out noise. As a mother of five, it was a natural extension of the quest for serenity in a busy life, especially since I home schooled our kids–a creative bunch in their own right. Anyone who has adventuresome kids with many creative outlets, knows that noise is often a natural byproduct of unleashed creativity. 

But kid noise doesn’t compare with adult noise, which may be more difficult to regulate. Ball games, power tools and machines, car radios, hammering, pounding, drilling, and the most invasive: TV noise. We had to find a cure for the perpetual TV racket when we moved in with my virtually deaf ninety-one year-old father. The TV volume had two settings: “off” and “fire engine siren.” You can guess which volume the TV operated at day and night. My father has no real waking and sleeping schedule. Like a baby, he is often wide awake until three, and napping in the middle of the day–the TV (his constant companion) set on “siren.” 

Our family likes to gather at the old “homestead;” when my family is here, we’re twenty-four strong, (not a small group, and not a big house). Being Italian, we know how to make our voices heard one over another, all at the same time. In those first months we were living here, the cacophony of voices had to overtake the sound of the TV for anyone to be heard above the din, so the volume increased until one or the other topped-out at a fever pitch. 

To converse one-on-one with my father is also challenging, since you must repeatedly yell for him to hear you say, “Hood Sue spike the skinner?” Hood Sue spike the skinner?” “HOOD SUE SPIKE THE SKINNER?!” (Translation: Would you like some dinner?He’d follow-up with “Who’s Sue? I don’t know who Sue is.” 

Then! We discovered the invention of the century! Wireless TV headphones! Now, when Daddy dons his headset, he correctly understands what everyone in TV-land is saying. To his ears, however, we still speak a garbled version of English. Especially since he won’t take the headset off to hear what we’re trying to say. I’m still yelling: “DADDY, TISSUE SET A SNUFF?” (Translation: Did you get enough?) We’ve come to grips with never being understood the first time around. Or the second. Or the third. 


But I have to say, those headsets changed my life! The first few days, post head-set purchase, my husband, Brad, and I walked around the house in a stupor of quiet–hearing birdsong outside, and real fire engine sirens blaring on the boulevard a few blocks away. When family members came over, a look of bewilderment immediately registered on their faces. What was this new experience so uncharacteristic of Grandpa’s house? They found a new pastime: making up their own dialog for what was happening on the now mute TV. Much funnier. Much more entertaining. Just as noisy as the siren.

I love being with the family. I love the chatter, the laughter, the sound of children at play, and adults engaged in stimulating conversation. But I also cherish quiet. Being an introverted person, I need quiet from time to time. I purposely turn off the music in the car, mute the volume on the TV (a given), and go for walks without a bluetooth in my ear. I love quiet. I treasure it.

In quiet moments, I have become more keenly aware of the sounds of nature. More importantly, over time, I have learned to fine-tune my thoughts and heart to listen to the whisperings of the spirit–my own, and the Spirit of God, whose voice is a “still voice of perfect mildness.” (Helaman 5:30) It has made all the difference. 


Now, when creative energy surfaces at odd and sundry times–most of which are quiet–I grab my pencil and sticky notes, and clutter up my work space until, one by one, each precious thought and word is recorded for future reflection and use. 

Then, I can finally fall asleep.


© Copyright March 31, 2014