Running the Gauntlet to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

I actually wrote this blog post in my head a few weeks ago at 3 am when I should have been sleeping. I should have written it down, but instead I repeated it over and over again in hopes that I’d remember it, because I’m actually 5 blog posts behind in my queue, and that’s a personal record that has me stressed out beyond belief.

Yes, this is a self-imposed deadline, but not missing a post since I started this blog in December of 2012 puts a certain amount of self-imposed pressure on me, especially since I know that several people consider reading it a part of their routine. You’d think that when I switched a while back to only posting on even numbered days, rather than daily, it would have reduced the pressure by half, but no. Now my blogs seem to be longer and require more research than they once did. Again, that is self-imposed.

Since I knew that repeating posts in my head was part of the reason I could not sleep, this post is about the many things that can prevent me from sleeping. Most of them are thoughts. Some are noises.

My husband, and the vast majority of the men I know, won’t be able to relate to this at all. They can fall instantly to sleep and not wake up ‘til morning. I find this quite annoying, because they’ll say to me, “Why are you so tired? It sounds like we both went to bed at the same time.”

All I can do is tersely reply, “Well, we most definitely did not go to sleep at the same time.”

So here are the many challenges I have when it comes to getting a full night’s sleep.

  • My CPAP machine breaking its seal on my face and whistling loudly.
  • My CPAP machine breaking its seal on my face and blowing a jet of air that flutters my eyelashes.
  • My bladder.
  • Soreness in general.
  • My dogs, wanting breakfast at an ungodly hour, and therefore doing an impatient tap dance on the wooden floor.
  • The sun rising at freakin’ 5:11 in the morning and setting at 9:11 pm in the Seattle area around summer solstice.
  • The sun rising at freakin’ 7:57 in the morning and setting at 4:17 pm in the Seattle area around winter solstice.
  • My dog, snoring, and why I find it annoying sometimes and endearing other times.
  • Hearing a random, subtle sound coming from the other side of the house.
  • My dogs barking at the least sign of any sound.
  • Wondering if I remembered to lock all the doors.
  • How intensely I love my dogs.
  • My feet scratching on the sheets.
  • Funny things I forgot to tell Dear Husband.
  • Delightful conversations I had that day.
  • Negative conversations I had that week.
  • Young men with tiny little penises motorcycling or drag racing down our street at random hours.
  • Grown men with tiny little penises shooting guns or fireworks off in our neighborhood at random hours.
  • Things I’m looking forward to.
  • Things I’m dreading.
  • Am I forgetting anything?
  • The beeps of our computers or phones when one of us forgets to turn them off before bed.
  • Am I good at this marriage thing?
  • The things I do that I’m glad are not qualities that my Dear Husband possesses, and how lucky that makes me.
  • How much this blog post will upset DH, because he wants me to be able to be as positive, optimistic, and carefree as he is.
  • At what point did I lose all ability to keep things organized, and why is that?
  • What I need to do tomorrow.
  • Upcoming social obligations, and whether I’m dreading them or looking forward to them.
  • What I was supposed to do today but did not.
  • Health issues for myself and my loved ones.
  • The state of this country, and the state of the planet.
  • My next vacation, and how much of the world I still long to see.
  • Past vacations and how wonderful they were.
  • The many ways I feel I have fallen short.
  • The many ways people want me to change but I find myself incapable of doing so, despite my best efforts.
  • Did I remember to water the plants?  
  • Do I have my lunch ready for work tomorrow?
  • Which drawbridge will I be working on?
  • Which shift will I be working on?
  • Work BS.
  • Am I forgetting anything?
  • How lucky I am, generally.
  • Potato chips.
  • My imposter syndrome.
  • Do people think I’m weird?
  • Why do I seem so much weirder than most other people?
  • How can I convince people that I’m not weird?
  • Why do I care what anyone thinks?
  • OH SHIT WHAT TIME IS IT? DID I OVERSLEEP?
  • My irritation that my eyesight is so poor that I can’t always reliably see what time it is without putting on my glasses.
  • My disappointment at not being able to read more books.
  • The many new and unsettling things I’ve learned about myself in the past few months.
  • How grateful I am that I can still learn new things.
  • Aging.
  • The future.
  • The past.
  • My understandable love of naps.
  • My bladder again, and whether I should hold it until the alarm goes off in an hour, or just admit I need to pee, get up and do it, and then return to bed and try to sleep for that last precious hour, knowing I won’t achieve REM sleep in that timeframe.
  • Am I forgetting anything?
  • Attempting to change positions as quietly as possible so as not to wake the dogs.
  • Cheese.
  • My desperate need to meditate before bedtime, which I never quite get around to doing.

Welcome to my brain.

After that, I usually remember to do a body part relaxation exercise, and I fall asleep for what little time I have left.

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Blogging Before Blogs

We have a longstanding tradition of putting our thoughts and ideas out there for the world to see.

A friend and I were musing about who can take credit for the first blog ever produced. (Certainly not me. I jumped on the bandwagon rather late.)

If you stick strictly to the idea that blogs, by definition, are web based, I suppose with a little bit of digging one could find the first one. But really, blogs (short for weblog) tend to be highly unique to the writer. Some are random musings, such as mine. Others are highly researched. Some include commentary, others are all about the photographs and links to other articles. So how on earth would you begin your search?

To add another layer of complexity, humans did such writing before the worldwide web existed. They wrote diaries. They kept scrap books. And surely people of note must have realized that their personal letters would be kept and reviewed by others. We have a longstanding tradition of putting our thoughts and ideas out there for the world to see.

One of my favorite examples of this tendency are the colonial almanacks that were very popular in the 1700’s. The most famous of these, of course, is Poor Richard’s Almanack, written by Benjamin Franklin.

I have no doubt that Franklin would be a blogger if he were alive today. In fact, he put out this almanack annually from 1732 to 1758, and I happen to own a copy of the collected works. I love pulling it out and reading it from time to time. In the era of the horse and buggy, it was much more efficient to publish the thing once a year. But he’d probably be blogging and tweeting on a regular basis, if given the opportunity today.

His almanack included poems, sayings, astronomical and astrological information, a calendar (of course), and information about the weather. His writing was all about being frugal and working hard. Much of his work is still popular to this very day.

If you speak English, odds are you’ve quoted Poor Richard’s Almanack at least once in your life, whether you knew it or not. Here are three of his more famous lines:

  • A friend in need is a friend indeed!

  • Fish and Visitors stink in 3 days.

  • Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

I’ll be the first to admit that some of his sayings, especially about wives and servants, are controversial in modern times. But viewed through the lens of his era, Ben Franklin is one of my blogging heroes. I’d follow him.

Poor_Richard_Almanack_1739

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Melatonin Dreams

My dreams are strange at the best of times, but when I take Melatonin to help me sleep, I seem to descend into a Seuss-like subbasement of my subconscious, a place where only Salvador Dali would feel at home.

One time I dreamed that there were several giraffes walking on water, headed straight toward my drawbridge. I was afraid I wouldn’t get the bridge opened on time, but I did. As a matter of fact, I opened it so quickly that it flew apart and came crashing down, tons of concrete and steel missing me by inches. And yet the giraffes ambled on, without so much as a fare-thee-well. They must have been late for a very important date. The nerve of some water-walking mammals.

Dreams like that make me avoid Melatonin. I only take it as a last resort, when I’m so desperate to sleep that any warped delusion is superior to tossing and turning. It never fails to knock me out. It just leaves my unconscious mind to fend for itself.

But I can’t really blame the Melatonin, can I? I mean, it didn’t put that imagery in my brain. It had to have been there all along. The Melatonin simply sets it free.

And that makes me wonder what else is lurking in my mental warehouse. I bet there are creatures in there that I have yet to encounter. Beings with magical powers that I hope are used for good, not evil. People and things that are capable of walking on Escher’s staircases. Floating islands of thought, drifting in a psychedelic sea of creativity.

It kind of makes me feel as though I’m carrying around, deep within me, a savory stew of untapped potential. It’s strange to think that there are places in my head where I have never been, where the rules of physics are merely suggestions, and anything could happen.

How exciting! How scary.

19 Salvador Dali Mysterious Mouth Appearing in the Back of My Nurse, 1941

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Having Something to Say

It occurred to me recently that before you can be a writer, you must first have something to say. You have to have opinions and thoughts and ideas. You have to be good at explaining and/or describing things. You can’t be hesitant to speak your mind.

I’ve always had something to say. No doubt about it. Even when I would take those tests at school that are supposed to help you decide what career path to take, mine would always come out “writer” and nothing else. I mean, seriously, while my friends would have 5 or 6 suggested career paths, all I’d have was writer. (I strongly suspect bridgetenders are not even on the list of careers for those tests. Most people don’t even know we exist.)

My whole life I’ve been told that I have very strong opinions. But that was meant as an insult. As in, “Shut up, female, and leave the thinking to the rest of us.” People rarely accuse men of having strong opinions. And I would get that criticism from men and women alike, because a lot of women don’t realize how complicit we can be in our own oppression.

Well, I thank God for my strong opinions. Without them, this blog wouldn’t exist. And I’d be a heck of a lot less interesting.

Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who expects everyone to share my opinions. People like that are insufferable (in my opinion). I don’t think I’m very good at pointing that out, though. It’s definitely something I need to work on. It never occurs to me that some people view opinions as coercion.

I don’t see opinions that way. I also don’t think of them as being right or wrong. Opinions are simply points of view. No two people will see things from the same angle. The world might be easier to live in if we did, but it would sure be monotonous.

If you want to be a writer, I urge you to get out there and experience life, and, yes, form opinions about those experiences. Listen and learn as much as you can. Be open to unique people, places and things. And most of all, don’t be afraid to express yourself, even if the whole world tries to shut you up.

oh-i-offended-you-with-my-opinion_-you-should-hear-the-ones-i-keep-to-myself

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Random Thots

Sometimes I’ll post the weird detritus of my mind on Facebook, but I rarely blog about these things, because there’s not enough meat on the bone, so to speak, to make an entire blog post. So here are some thoughts, in no particular order, and absolutely unrelated to each other, just to give you something to think about.

  • Why does the word “thought” have “ugh” in the middle?

  • I just figured out why dogs are so afraid of vacuums. They see that most of the stuff in the bag used to be attached to them.

  • Just saw a live National Geographic broadcast. While I’m freezing my butt off in Seattle, 4 lionesses are hunting warthogs on the Masai Mara. Somehow that makes me feel better. But not for the warthogs.

  • Does anyone remember that old ad campaign from the 60’s? “Kruppenheimer suits everybody!” It’s stuck in my head. They apparently don’t suit anybody anymore.

  • You know that Blue Buffalo dog food commercial that says dogs have the spirit of wolves inside, and shows them running with wolves? Wouldn’t it be more fun if the dog they used was a dachshund?

  • I just bought Quagmire a rubber wiener dog that squeaks. He absolutely loves it. Give me strength.

  • You know you’ve got a lot of bat guano in your attic when even the professionals you hire to clean it up are saying, “Ewww, gross.”

  • Oatmeal for dinner. Because sometimes you just want oatmeal for dinner.

  • I vaguely remember, before internet, JUST watching TV, without doing other things at the same time. It’s a distant memory…

  • There’s something inherently cruel and unusual about having to get up before the sun does.

  • I just got some spam that said, “Guess what I’m not wearing?” Uh… your thinking cap?

  • I’m always kind of amused when an obnoxious person thinks that not speaking to someone is a form of punishment.

  • I love opening my drawbridge in the rain. How many people can say they make waterfalls for a living?

    Smile often, dear reader.

    thots

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Honne and Tatemae

Recently a dear friend introduced me to the Japanese concepts of honne and tatemae. I had never heard these words before. Without her, I would  probably just have assumed they were the names for a Japanese pop culture couple or something. (They do say that opposites attract.)

After reading several articles on the subject and watching this interesting little video, I think I have a grasp of it now. Honne is basically your true feelings and/or thoughts in any situation. (I will have no trouble remembering that word, because it kind of looks like “honest”.) I’m quite good at honne most of the time. If you ask my opinion on something, I’m always happy to give it to you, often to the point where it gets me into trouble. (Because, sorry, those shorts actually do make you look fat.)

Tatemae is what I struggle with. It’s kind of the public face you show the world in order to avoid conflict, spare feelings, and/or further your goal. It can be as innocuous as saying, “I’ll call you!” after a particularly bad date, or as insidious as, “Corruption? No corruption in this organization!”

Tatemae definitely has its uses. Unfortunately, it will often get you further in the work environment. “Yes, boss, you are doing a pathetic great job!” (This is probably why I’m a bridgetender instead of a CEO. I just can’t do it.)

And if you are trapped on an island with 127 million other people, avoiding conflict is all the more crucial. Not that tatemae is exclusive to Japan. In fact, I seem to be over my head in a sea of it here in Seattle, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever adjust to it.

But perhaps I’m better at it than I think. As I blogged the other day, friends tell me that the things I write here are not like the person that they know. That has a lot to do with editing, and my desire not to be perceived as a nut job. So, hey, there’s hope for me yet, if one considers tatemae to be a hopeful thing.

Corruption? No corruption here…

Tatemae

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If Our Thoughts Were on Intercom

As I was walking around doing routine maintenance on my drawbridge today, I decided to keep track of the things that were going through my head.

  • The song Cover of The Rolling Stone by Dr. Hook.

  • The idea for this blog entry.

  • I should have worn a jacket. I was wishful springing.

  • Wow, he was good looking.

  • He’s also young enough to be my son. Get a grip.

  • People don’t say hello in this town.

  • Let’s try not to get mowed down in the crosswalk for a change.

  • Traffic in this town is out of control.

  • A conversation I had with a friend recently in which I laughed inappropriately. I really need to learn to control myself. But I’m laughing even now, just thinking about it.

  • I wonder if I’ll ever be able to buy a house here.

  • I miss my dog. He’s probably home playing poker or something.

  • Hostile work environments.

  • Did I remember to bring my lunch?

  • Outstanding stuff on my to-do list that I know I’ll never do.

Basically, if my brain were on an intercom, it would be spouting trivia that no one would really care to hear. But lest you act all superior, that’s most likely the case with you, too. Can you imagine walking down a crowded sidewalk, having to listen to the minutiae of everyone’s daily life? It would be maddening.

It would also force us to be honest. That would be interesting. And potentially dangerous. Because while those shorts don’t make you look fat, c’mon. Plaid is soooooo 1972.

intercom

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Hiding Your Light under a Bushel

I used to be in a relationship with someone who wrote a diary every single solitary day for decades. That’s pretty darned impressive. He wants to donate it to the Smithsonian someday.

The thing is (yeah, yeah, there’s always a thing), no one will want to read it except the most steadfast historians. His diary is as dry as toast. It was an arid recounting of the facts. “Today I had eggs for breakfast.”

I used to say, “Why don’t you tell them how you felt about the eggs? Or how they tasted, or smelled, or looked?” People in the future will care about the way we perceived things, not just what we did. But no. Just the facts for him.

The readers of this diary will never know his opinion about anything, or what he thought about, or what his dreams were for the future. (As far as I could tell, he had none, which is one of the many reasons we went our separate ways.)

Even though I didn’t agree with his writing style, I knew how much writing meant to him. I think that’s why I shied away from writing when I was with him. In some twisted part of my brain, I sort of felt as though if I wrote too much, I’d somehow overshadow him. So I hid my light under a bushel. I refused to take flight. Or something.

I thought I was being kind, sacrificing for someone I cared about so as not to crush him like a bug. Sometimes the dam would burst and I’d be compelled to write an article for a local paper, and I’d always get tapped to write company newsletters and things of that nature, but I didn’t start this daily blog until a year or two after we called it quits.

I made the wrong decision. By not allowing myself to shine, I was damaging a part of my soul, and I was depriving him of the opportunity to adapt and change and grow. And let’s not overlook the fact that he missed out on knowing a really special part of who I am.

But he was complicit in my self-warping behavior. He must have seen the signs. He refused to acknowledge them or nurture them in any way, but surely on some level he saw them.

If you feel the need (or are passive-aggressively encouraged) to hold yourself back for someone, please know that that’s very unhealthy. It harms both you and the person who is acting as the wind above your wings.

Always try to fly as high as you can. Otherwise you’ll never get where you deserve to go.

sun-1235897_960_720

My Brain on Cruise Control

With an 8 hour drive ahead of me from Seattle, Washington to Missoula, Montana, I wondered what my brain would do with all that “down time”. So I decided to take a digital recorder with me and whenever I started to think about a new subject, I’d take note. I have no idea whether I’m typical or completely out there on the lunatic fringe, but I thought it would be an interesting little experiment. So what follows is a look into my idle brain.

In between long periods where my mind seemed to simply hum along with the sound of my tires, I recorded these thoughts:

  • Did I leave burners on? I’m sure I checked… But did I?
  • Have I forgotten anything?
  • I hope my dog Devo doesn’t pee in the car.
  • I wonder if I’m passing Bill Gates on the highway?
  • It’s so nice to see something different for a change.
  • Why is my GPS not speaking to me?
  • Raining so hard I can’t see out the window. Wish I could afford a car with a working defogger.
  • Devo insisted I stop to let him pee less than a half hour down the road. I suppose it would be worse with small children.
  • After listening to an NPR story, I need to add The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat to my “must read” list, which is becoming so long that I fear I’ll never catch up.
  • My windshield wipers refuse to turn off. Great.
  • Do dogs’ ears pop when we come down from the mountains like mine do?
  • Devo is sitting beside me. He’s my best friend. Blue is sound asleep in the back.
  • Heading into Big Sky country. I can breathe again. I never realize I’m not breathing until I start breathing again.
  • Drove for 2 hours before I remembered I have cruise control. It’s not something I can use in the gridlock of Seattle.
  • I wonder what farming life is like? Lonely. Fulfilling. Hard.
  • I took this same route in reverse a year ago when I drove across country from Florida. I was so different then. What a year it has been.
  • Lots of talk about the forest fires on the radio. A sign outside of someone’s house: “Firefighters, it’s only a house. Take care of yourselves.”
  • Ideas for blog entries.
  • After seeing an out of date billboard on the subject: There’s a TESTICLE festival? Seriously?
  • You know you’re in trouble when the only radio stations you can get are gospel and traditional Mexican folk music. Radio is now off.
  • I begin humming “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson. Over and over and over and over…

[Image credit: larryrebich.com]
[Image credit: larryrebich.com]

Silly Thoughts

Quite often I have too much time on my hands and my mind wanders. I never quite know where it will go. You might say I suffer from a preponderance of ponderings.

After a while I’ll wind up with so many unanswered questions rattling around in my brain that they cause me to lose sleep. What follows are three of my typical trains of thought that seem to have recently jumped the tracks.

  • Who was the first person who thought it would be a good idea to put a tiny little umbrella in a cocktail? Why? Did they want to keep the ice cubes cool? Why did they think this would be more attractive than, say, a flower? There must be companies out there that do nothing but make little tiny umbrellas all day. Do they have a special holiday for the inventor of this frivolity? Is his or her picture on their factory wall? How many acres of rain forest have been destroyed so we can have tiny little umbrellas?
  • On several occasions I’ve read mystery novels or seen movies in which the detectives notice that there’s a knife absent from the victim’s knife block, so surely that must be the missing murder weapon. If that’s the case, if a detective ever visits me, he’s going to think there’s been a massacre. My knife block has several empty slots, which I’ve filled with knives from other incomplete sets. Am I the only one who has a knife block deficit? What do other people do, throw out the whole set when one knife goes missing? Wouldn’t that provide the general populous with even more murder weapons?
  • The other day I was packing my suitcase and it occurred to me that suitcases must have originally been cases for suits. I can only think of one occasion in which I’ve packed a suit in a suitcase. I suppose people must still do so when they are going on business trips, but thank God the concept of formal wear in office environments seems to be slowly going the way of the dodo bird. As I stuff my sweat pants and jeans and t-shirts into my suitcase, I get a little thrill that I’m misusing this handy device, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that I don’t need hat boxes, and will never have to worry about gloves, high heels, panty hose, and corsets.

Now, get out of my head. It’s already crowded enough. Here. Have a cocktail.

[Image credit: myrtlebeachholidayinn.com]
[Image credit: myrtlebeachholidayinn.com]