I woke up this morning at 3:30.

I don’t know whether it was the too-warm room or the need to go to the bathroom which had the upper hand. I do know I spent a good twenty minutes dealing with the bedcovers: off – shoulders too cold; on – shoulders too warm; pillow lumpy, turn it; flip to the other side. After about the third repetition of this, the latter functions of my digestive system decided to weigh in, so I padded through the darkness to the bathroom, in the hope that if I didn’t turn on the lights, I could fool my body into thinking it was still asleep. I Brailled my way through the proceedings, but by the time I got back to bed the lights in my brain were well on and blazing away.

Yesterday was a busy and rather relentlessly social day. At noon I had a rehearsal for a one-nighter I’m doing next Monday. I got home around three, had a late lunch, caught up with email and other business, then headed to my musical theatre audition class. I harangued, coaxed and wheedled my students for two and a half hours, then headed to a party in honor of some friends. It was a day wherein I talked, talked, talked, and once I was back in bed all the things that came out of my mouth during the day began to rattle back through my head in the pre-dawn darkness.

It’s a unique form of torture, this reviewing the endless loop of things past, and it only happens to me when I’m beset by insomnia. I hashed through the events of the day five or six times, picking apart everything I’d said and done. In the pre-dawn hours, every perceived gaffe had a clarity that only became more crystalline upon repetition, and in the möbius strip of my mind, my self image progressed from “fairly competent and intelligent” to THE WORLD’S BIGGEST IDIOT: stupid, wicked, thoughtless and unlovable. I wanted to wind my pillow around my head and moan: Make it stop! I promise I’ll be good if you just make it stop!

I tried to distract myself by outlining a scene for the play I’m writing, but that didn’t help. Eventually all my flopping about with bedclothes and pillows began to disturb John, and I knew that there was nothing for it but to get up.

It’s a quarter of six now. I’ve had a cup of tea, checked my email (the New York Times daily just arrived, with its morning dose of mayhem), read a few websites and in general started my day. My leapfrogging brain has settled into its normal patterns, and what Edward Gorey referred to as “the blue horror of dawn” has faded. After my bout in the mental confessional, I’m calmer and upon reflection, reassured I’m not so rotten after all. There’s even an upside to being awake so early: I’m hoping that once the light gets stronger outside, I may see the red-tailed hawk my neighbor claims has been hanging around the house in the early morning hours.

Something to look forward to. It’s a new day.


  1. Tony Westbrook

    Ah yes the head gets up and STAYS up…and the naysayers seem to go full blast at that hour!!!I’m sure you did a fantastic job at all, and hopefully you’ll get a better night’s sleep tonight.

  2. Anonymous

    Gah. I hate when this happens. Once the brain gets rolling you just can’t stop it.Mom once suggested breathing slowly and deeply and counting your breaths. It works sometimes, if I can really make myself do it. I guess it’s like counting sheep — the idea is to busy your mind with something repetitive so it can’t work on the other stuff.And the hawk?xoP

  3. Anonymous

    When you can’t sleep, don’t fight it. Just get up, drag out an old book and read it. The point is to give your poor mind something uncomplicated to focus on so it will settle down. Maybe heat up a mug of milk if the weather is cooler.ZZZJML

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