Sleeping Single Terrifies Me
January 8, 2010
If you follow my blogs, you know that I’m newly single after 24 years of marriage and four kids. I write about it now because Sleep is the theme this month and my sleep has definitely been affected. For one thing, I have become a bit phobic about going to sleep. I love going to bed, but I’m afraid to go to sleep.
As a wife and mother, I expressed much of my love for my family by making beds for them that were irresistibly soft and silken, not too warm/not too cold, with the top sheet untucked at the bottom so that their feet wouldn’t be forced to point down when they lay on their backs, double pillows of down with the loosest stuffing so that they stayed punched down in the middle after you got them just right and, my secret ingredient—sheepskin pelts on top of the mattress and under the contour sheet.
But I was never a particularly extravagant sleeper myself. Ever since my first child was born nearly twenty-two years ago and joined the “marital bed,” I’ve slept like a fireman; fully dressed and with shoes beside the bed. Call me a buzz kill if you’d like, but I lived in Malibu, a.k.a. “Shake and Bake By the Sea” because we were either enduring earthquakes or wildfires most of the time. My girlfriend Lili may have ended up naked on the sand with the rest of Malibu Colony after the Northridge Quakes, but not me. I was dressed and shod and holding a kid under each arm as my husband grabbed his mother and another kid.
Since none of my kids was ever successfully “Ferberized” (do they still call it that?), our bed resembled a life raft at night, with four tiny kids sprawling in the middle and their father and I clinging to either side of the mattress like two climbers on the granite face of Yosemite. I recently watched a few hours of home video of our family during the early years and noticed that I had laryngitis for about ten years straight. A scratchy voice for me is a clear indicator that I’m sleep-deprived, so you can imagine what that decade was like for me.
Even after the kids cleared out, I continued to sleep on my edge of the bed, (no matter what may have happened in the middle earlier in the night), flat on my back and with my hands crossed on my chest—just like a properly laid out corpse. Exhaustion overcame me and I didn’t move until some little person’s fingers, smelling of Honey Nut Cheerios, opened my eyes for me.
Now I sleep alone. My bed only smells like me. It is only spotted with the pistachio nutshells, or a Peanut M&M from my own nocturnal eating. Beside me rest my warm laptop, my glasses, my Kindle and, occasionally, my blackberry. Yes, I realize that I’m too close to too many poisonous rays with all the electronics I turn to for intimacy, but that’s the least of my concerns these days. Oh, did I mention that the television is also on?
What worries me more than irradiation is how desperate I clearly am to distract myself from the frightening journey from wakefulness to slumber. I may not suffer from nightmares, but I can scare the hell out of myself in the five or ten minutes before unconsciousness. Most nights, I don’t want to be alone with my mind in complete silence and darkness. It always starts the same; I go through the mental slideshow of my failings. I should have written more pages for my next book. I should have exercised instead of wasting an hour on Shopbop.com. I should stop backing out of social plans I make enthusiastically during the week and then cancel by the weekend. I should be prepared to be happy without a partner. I should recommit to my own career and revel in my freedom to spend my time as I please. Most of all, I should stop fantasizing that all of these thoughts would be silenced if someone were beside me to hold me until I fell asleep.
Anyone have an Ambien on them?