Sleeping or Getting There

Sleep has been a hard thing for me all my life. Like every other child who waits for Santa, Christmas eve was particularly hard. I must have been maybe 4 at the most. I couldn’t sleep. I’d been told he wouldn’t come if I didn’t sleep. I was one of those children who wouldn’t be able to sleep or I’d wake in the night and roam or play. It drove my parents nuts, especially my mother. At any rate, this particular Christmas eve when I couldn’t sleep I got up to pull the shade down so he couldn’t see I couldn’t sleep. I pulled so hard I pulled it down or broke it or something like that. I was so upset that he’d see me that I cried myself to sleep. I’ve hated pull-shades since that night even though I bought a pair of black-out shades for my room a few years ago. No light is more critical to my sleep than what kinds of window covers I have.

Mom made sleeping even harder for me. She wasn’t a patient person. She brooded. When she got to a boil you really weren’t sure what she’d do. My Dad worked evening shift, not getting home until after 11:00. I suspect he wasn’t home one night when she got mad about something. She stormed into my room as I was sleeping and started hitting me. I don’t recall anything except that explosion of fear I felt, not knowing what was happening. Many years later she said she regretted it. That night and until she threatened to punish me I slept on the floor on the other side of the bed from the door. She might even have apologized told me it would never happen again, I don’t recall. I wouldn’t have trusted anyway. The damage was done because she was so unpredictable. I don’t think I ever told her it was because of her I slept on the floor.  I was afraid to go to sleep for the longest time. She must have known but I think I was afraid to bring it up. To this day if someone suddenly opens my bedroom door I jump and my heart beats wildly. If I’m asleep and am startled I feel like I can’t breathe. Of all the things that have happened to me this one has stuck most tenaciously with me unlike things that sound more dramatic. What happens to small children really does count. Now I have trouble sleeping if my bed is next the door. The slightest noise outside will wake me. I always try to get the bed next to the window in hotels.

I recall waking up one morning, I was maybe 9 or so, with one leg under the covers and one leg over the covers. It was a revelation that you could do that. I’ve always slept hot so mostly slept without blankets and sometimes no sheet. I grew up before the age of home A/C so we sweated a lot during the summers. With this new idea I found I could get comfortable with my feet outside but cover over my body. I came to snuggling with my pillow and my feet waving outside the blankets even in the winter. As a hyperactive kid I was always moving, even in my sleep and the feet wiggling at 90 mph was why no one would sleep with me when we traveled. Another thing people complained about was I’d laugh in my sleep, which I’ll still do.

I’ve always been nocturnal. My mom said I was that way before I was born, sleeping all day and keeping her up all night. I suspect that is why night sleeping is still hard. I get my best sleep from about 4am to about noon. I worked swing shift in several jobs. In the  days of VCRs I programmed them to record the shows I liked and I ‘d be watching TV at 3:00-4:00 and going to bed when daylight appeared. I don’t like facing sun-up at the end of a day.

When I was in  my late 20s I went to a psychiatrist about tensions and sleep issues. He gave me pills saying I was missing some body chemical that kept me asleep. They worked wonders. I recall the first morning after taking it and saying to my sister how wonderful it was to get a good night’s sleep. I stayed on that medication for years. I don’t recall why I stopped. Maybe once I was on a regular pm shift I wasn’t as bothered by my odd sleep pattern.

I also made sleeping hard for myself. For years I drank iced tea by the gallon. It was cheap and sugar free but I never considered how much caffeine was in it. For at least 10 years I used Excedrin PM to go to sleep most nights. It got to the point where I was taking 3 a night instead of the 2 they recommended. I also had to recognize that any coffee in the evening didn’t help, that took several more years. In fact I’ve kind of gaven up all but my morning mug of coffee. Any night when I’d had more than a glass or two of wine I’d again have trouble. This is all quite normal but I had to learn it all the hard way, by losing sleep.

Another thing I had to change was that I had been sleeping with a radio on for years to block out outside sounds. This was before the age of digital and white noise machines. I now have one of those playing the sound of rain. What was happening was that the news voices woke me. When NPR classical radio came about in the 70s I played that and it didn’t bother me as much because they didn’t increase the volume for things like ads. I still found some of the voices intrusive so the white noise machines have been a blessing.

I’m fortunate because I’ve learned how to mostly keep worries from keeping me up. Once asleep they may surface in my dreams but I mostly know I’m sleeping and can push them away. Now that I’m retired I don’t have the stresses that really can make waking life, much less sleep a burden.

Every night I try to remember to count my blessings. You’d be amazed at how that changes your outlook. It sounds trite to say to count your blessing but it works because most of the time we gripe about the stuff that is hard. I go to sleep or at least bed with gratitude. I start with being thankful for my full size bed instead of a twin, or no bed. Then I snuggle under the puffy down comforter that is so warm and feels so luxurious. I go on to think about the privileges I’ve experienced that day like eating when I was hungry, being able to pay the bills that came in the mail that day, having a spouse whom I love and who loves me, having the cutest dogs and so on. I marvel at the internet and how much it has added to my life and knowledge.  If I’m still awake at this point I start to make up stories that are fun from plans to make something to plans to take a trip or even just thinking about the last good book I’m reading. From there more drastic measures are needed, like turning on the light and reading until I’m sleepy. I have to read something that isn’t the best or it just keeps me up. Rarely am I still awake by 4:00 am.



Insight: Magic

When I was a child I was unhappy or at least very confused and unsure of what was going on. I couldn’t figure it out. I understood that mom and I were not friends, I didn’t trust her or like being around her but I needed someone to get out of my inner insecurities.

I was thinking about how kids like magic. They believe in it. They believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and elves and faeries. I remember my delight in them. I wished we had a back porch so I could set milk out for them.

I recall going to Sunday School in Calf. I know I went to it back here. They taught us about this god we couldn’t see who would answer our prayers. They taught us about how to say the prayers. They taught us about Jesus who could do these magical things of healing people and feeding people and other stuff. What we had to do was to learn to say the right things and to go to Mass and perform the rituals just right and our prayers would be answered. So, to try to fix things, I worked very hard at learning all of this to make things in my life better. I got all As in religion. But being the curious, pushy person I was I started recognizing the inconsistencies of the beliefs of the church and in that questioning I moved out and beyond.

One of the goals of my life has to be not bound by rules and expectations as much as I could. That opened doors to incorporating ideas from everything from the RC dogma to fairy tales in my thinking about the inner life and the process of existence. I’m thinking “unbound” is one of my functional words.


I’ve been retired for a bit over 2 years. The first year I spent dealing with my own and my wife’s problems. The second year was better but fell apart after a June trip she took to Calf. to visit her family. She cobbled herself back together and the last 6 months have been quite smooth but my walking has deteriorated to the point that I can’t walk more than 100 yards at most and I’d need 2 or 3 breaks in that 100 yards.

I like to stay up late reading. In recent weeks it’s been about 4:00 so I don’t get up until noonish. That way days feel off kilter, running late. I kind of live with the feeling I’m running out of time. Maybe that is a function of age as well as circadian rhythms. I’m working on addressing this slightly uncomfortable feeling by establishing a pattern to my days. I have this “flow” list I’ve made. Flogging order into the way I do things is so hard. I’ve mostly gone with the flow so things got done or not. Now I don’t have that much that has to happen so I need to fill it with something other than pontificating on Facebook all day and night, which I’ve been doing now for over 3 years. I did it the whole 5 months I was off work because of my back. I am quite the addicted it seems. But with the election over there isn’t as much that I want to read or say. I’m very worried and saddened by what I see in Trump. It’s kind of easier to not be on FB because I don’t want to read or write about him particularly.

My pattern is to make these great lists or approaches to problems and promptly forget them. I have to have it in front of my face, not under a pile of papers and magazines and books and such. Right now on my list I’m only at “think about the day” and it’s 3:45! I have accomplished things like getting dressed and a bit of housework, but I have a meeting tonight so I had things connected with that and the printer wouldn’t work so I had to play with that and Mardi needed a few minutes. When I think about the day I recall what I needed to do and instead of just writing it down I ran and did it so the day planning never got completed <sigh>. Anyone cleaning house will recognize the pattern. You take dishes into the kitchen while dusting the living room, and instead of setting them down you start washing the few that are in the sink, then you recall you left some in the den, so you go in there but you recall you said you’d email someone some information, so you sit down and do that, then you check Facebook and recall you were going to donate to the ACLU, but you want to get your check book to make sure you can do it today, so you go to the desk in the living room to get it and realize 2 hours ago you were dusting. The dusting isn’t done, the dishes aren’t done, ACLU doesn’t have its money and you have to go back to the beginning.

What’s on my mind is how to keep some systematic way to organize my days so I don’t live feeling I’m running out of time.


Tin God

He can do it all
He’s so sure he can,
no matter what it is
or how awfully hard.
Just his words are enough
to make it real,
They do believe
When they cry
too many people
not like me
he yells, build a wall,
Mexico will even pay
…to make it so.
They scream on cue
a wall, a wall, a wall
They do believe
Your jobs got sent away
We’ll make them
bring them back
No minimum wage
No safe conditions
I know you’ll gladly
die for me because
I’ve got to make
a profit first.
They do believe
I know you love me
so I can do or say
most anything
even if I do my worst
you’ll follow me
to hell and back,
Truth isn’t such a friend
I love that you are mad as hell
I’ll even be your guide.
They do believe