And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked, “But when do you sleep?” I used to answer, “I don’t.” Now I answer, “Whenever I can.”
I love to sleep. I love the feeling of falling asleep, I love being asleep, I love dreaming. Waking up isn’t always a joy, no matter how many hours of sleep I’ve had. The combination of fibromyalgia with the medication I take for breast cancer means my body aches everywhere, and it aches the most with my first movement. So when I wake, I often want to cling to sleep, to put off that first bolt of pain that brings me alert better than any cup of coffee.
I’m a lifelong insomnia sufferer. Except I don’t usually consider it suffering. It is, or was, just a part of who I am. Even in high school, I would collapse into bed around ten o’clock, but then rise at around one. While the rest of the house slept, I wrote at my desk or I prowled from window to window, looking out at the night and wondering what was out there. What was out my window, and also what was past the darker line of the horizon. Sometimes, I would crawl back into bed before my alarm went off, but most times, the alarm just meant it was time to get dressed for school.
Cancer changed all that. Or at least, radiation did. Partway through radiation and even today, over a year since radiation ended, I will get hit with a fatigue so profound, there’s nothing for it but to lay down and pass out. When that hits, it’s dreamless. A lot of times, I don’t even remember going to sleep or sleeping at all. I’m just suddenly awake again and startled that time has passed.
But beyond that, since cancer, I have been able to sleep. I’m still a night owl, going to bed usually between two or three in the morning. I try to keep my first morning clients at ten o’clock, but there’s a few now who are slipping in at nine. I meditate before bed and once I’m tucked in, I’m out. Usually.
This past weekend, I revisited insomnia. On Saturday night, I went to bed at three in the morning. So I guess I should say on Sunday, I went to bed at three in the morning. My eyes were still open at six, so I gave up and got up. This is different from before – when I used to be awake at night, I’d just get up right away. Now, I fought to sleep. I squinched my eyes tight, and I thought over and over, Go to sleep! Go to sleep! Which just left me agitated. So I got up and went to my desk.
Where the magic, pre-cancer, returned.
Six o’clock in the morning on a Sunday in March isn’t the middle of the night, but it feels like it. It was still dark. Everyone, from husband to child to cats to dog, was sleeping. There was no sound. The buses from the bus garage across the street weren’t running yet. There were no deliveries at the Walgreens in our back yard. There was no traffic. There was only silence and dark and me, sitting in the light from my computer at my desk. My keyboard lights up and I pretended there were stars beneath my fingers.
And I worked, in absolute isolation, but surrounded by all that I love.
As I worked, the sun came up, slowly easing light into my room and introducing the day. By the time I crawled back into bed, it was full daylight and I was exhausted. But happy. It was a Sunday, so I could sleep more than a few hours.
When do I sleep? Whenever I can. And whenever my body tells me I absolutely have to.
But when do I stay awake? When do I rejoice in awareness, in alertness, in the ability to work without interruption, but also without loneliness, when am I most fully myself, with only my expectations to be met and not the expectations of others?
Whenever I can. And whenever my body tells me I absolutely have to.
And now it’s nap time.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.