Insomnia, Dreams, and the One Good Night’s Sleep I Once Had

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had trouble sleeping. I’ve never really understood why. At different times in my life, different answers have fit. But like jeans, they don’t always seem to fit for very long. At least, not comfortably.

Tonight, it was a dream that woke me. I’ve always had vivid dreams, for all that, I generally don’t remember them much. This one though has been recurrent for years. With slight variations. Someone is always hurting- loudly. And I have never yet woken up to find anyone doing so. In tonight’s dream, it was my youngest son. Whom, if his bébé monitor can be believed, is flat out spread eagle, and snoring, which is about as calm and quiet as he ever gets.

I’ve never been sure which is worse, the vivid dreaming that wakes me once or thrice or more a week, or not dreaming at all. Sometimes my dreams inspire stories, one went so far as to inspire a novel series, the first book of which is partially written. The idea is straightforward enough, the core of the planet Neptune is a giant space ship, built upon epic space opera dimensions. Sometimes it is simply a missing friend, like Ms. Seal. Those bug me, mostly because there is very little I can do about it, as they went missing years before, and don’t want to be found. But mostly, wakefulness just arrives as a sudden jarring car wreck. Those are the ones that I cannot stand. They are not productive, not even interesting. Just wakefulness.

When I was thirteen, I got really strung out on my sleep. It got so bad that I hardly knew what was going on, and my parents became frustrated with doctors, and a son that couldn’t tell them anything useful to help correct the situation. Finally, it was an Army Doctor, a Major I remember, although his name is long gone, that diagnosed me as sleep deprived. After listening for a while, a skill more doctors need to invest more time in developing, along with everyone else in our species, he dispensed his advice to me. “Try sleeping with ear plugs.” I thought that was stupid, and said so. I remember the man shrugging his broad shoulders and saying that which I’ve said a million times since. “I sleep with ear plugs. My wife objects to giving up breathing for several hours at a time. I can’t imagine why.”

It was about a week later that I finally gave earplugs a try. I used a pair of squishy yellow Army earplugs, made by E•A•R. This would have been sometime in 1987, and I was highly amused to find that the same company was providing the Army with earplugs in 1995, when I joined myself. Anyway, that first night, I slept like a dead man, and woke-up with cramps in my legs and back from not moving much for more then nine hours. Even now, a full eight hours at a time is like a vacation for most people. I’ve slept with earplugs most nights since then. When I was diagnosed with Central Auditory Hearing Dysfunction three years later, I was told that sleeping problems was a common symptom of CAPD. I’ll skip what I thought of their input at the time since it wasn’t their fault I took so long to find them.

As of now, I am going to go back to bed and think about Basil Berry’s drive through the countryside of the Infinity Plain, with the Box of Teeth, which contains one tooth from every human that ever lived- all 777 sextillion of them. Which incidentally, because the Creator loves a joke as much as the next person, also happens to be the numbers of stars in our universe.

See, the numerologists were right all along. Stars are souls.

I don’t remember where I heard it the first time, and I know it was thought a long time before I embraced it, but I have always thought that “in His own image” meant that we, people, were endowed with imagination. Imagination and the desire to create. Our creations do not have to be good- just look at the venom of the Blue Krait snake, or cancer. But we imagine, and we build, and we create, and we dream- even at the expense of a good night’s sleep.

Pax Tibi, James



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