The Busy Life of the Insomniac

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I come from a long line of insomniacs. Growing up, after tossing and turning for hours, my dad would make at least one nightly pilgrimage into the kitchen in search of a little snack to help him sleep. This snack would take the all American form of a sleeve of graham crackers and milk. He’d polish them off and toddle back to bed, hoping to get a few more hours of shut eye. For a while, after his midnight snack, he could be found clutching his tape recorder and offering a narrative of all the minute details of his most recent dream. He would replay these dreams the next day to his captive audience, us kids.

The Busy Life of the InsomniacFor the record, dreams are one of those things that are really only interesting to the dreamer. Our glazed-over expression around the dinner table may have been my dad’s first clue. I must admit I appreciated his nightly lurking a lot less when I was home from college break with a boy in tow. I suppose the element of surprise helped to keep us on the straight and narrow. Some summers, I would spend time with auntie, and I could hear the radio playing by her bed in the wee hours. She’d rise in the morning with all the game scores from cricket matches across the planet, further proof that she wasn’t wasting her precious time sleeping.

When the weather is nice, and I am struck with a bout of insomnia, I try to get out of the house. I check out the stars and see what the chickens are up to in the coop. I might hoof it down the street. I am hoping to hear a couple of screech owls talking to each other, or to see a coyote or a family of raccoons checking out the larder by some unsuspecting neighbor’s grill. In fact, I am in the doldrums if I arrive back home without some wildlife report worthy of waking my sidekick.

There is more to it than the furry and feathered friends, and I am perpetually surprised at all the other insomniacs here on the west side of town. I’ll go by neighbors who are wheeling out their trash bins at 2:30 in the morning, or madly at their sewing machine, finishing that quilt. Folks are cleaning their garages and being super productive, all while the rest of the town sleeps. I’ve even had cyclists ride up behind me, or dog walkers cross my path. For some reason, the human encounters seem a little creepier. I can tell by the look on their faces that they are rattled by seeing this crazy-looking woman lurking at all hours of the night. I wave and pretty much agree with their thinking. I am reminded of Andre Weitzenhoffer’s freeing quote for all reluctant people of the night, “The more the insomniac tries to go to sleep, the wider awake he becomes.” Forget about that counting sheep malarky! The next time you are rattling around your house in the wee hours, remember you’ve got lots of company. The middle of the night may just be the perfect time to train your topiary or seal your driveway!

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