I have a confession. Well, not so much a confession as more of an admission about myself. Its nothing particularly jarring nor anything that would cause any measure of alarm. Just a factoid that you may even relate to in some form.
I have insomnia.
This is a somewhat new development in my life. Its become more and more prevalent in my personal world for about a year now. However, its also come in jolts at certain points of my existence. During trying times, thoughtful times, fitful times and even prosperous times. Time and time again, I find myself up , generally in or near the witching hour, as awake as I type these words, and for no apparent reason. It goes without saying that this condition lends itself to many issues in my waking life. Poor work performance, subpar exercise, overdependence on coffee and sleeping pills. Oh sleeping pills!
I’m practically a connoisseur what’s the Napa at this point. I can easily distinguish the effects of the one and the other like a sommelier in a fine restaurant can distinguish the best possible wines to go and with what dish to serve them. Yet all I serve myself is frustration. Something only somewhat quelled by reading, dead of night stretches- and on truly bed spells, cleaning. Two weeks ago, at 2:30 am, I experienced an insomnia spell so bad I leapt out of bed and completely cleaned out my fridge-which included polishing the glass shelves and scrubbing the counters as though the Pope were to visit.
As of this writing, this continues to be an issue. Some nights it passes and I sleep fluidly. Others are like some sort of hellish roundtrip where I can only catch vague snatches of rest and hope to god that its enough to see me through the next day, and if I’m lucky- can work in a siesta.
I share this with you dear reader because I would like to indulge you with a bit of personal mythos to which this musing on rest is relatable. The time I had-and this is no exaggeration-the perfect nap. Sound dull? Perhaps self indulgent? Understandable, yet flawed thinking. This nap, reader, was like a perfect string of pearls. This nap, was like a rare and magnificent golden chalice sought and fought for again and again. This nap was as exquisite as a crème brule conceived by a master chef who toasted the top with the finite detail of a jeweler. This nap however, was much longer and dare I say infinitely more savory. Some things must be shared. This nap, and the circumstances about it- are one such thing.
My very first trip abroad. I can smell the rain outside as I get this down. I’m staying a a modest hotel near Paddington Station Called “The Admiral Inn”. Its no resort. No shuttle. No Tariff and certainly no frivolities. My room is small. Very small. Obscenely small.. My room is a water closet with a twin bed, a tea pot, just enough room to stretch out and a small bureau in which to lay my clothes, of which I’ve over packed. Assuming this was once a private residence, as is most likely, I’m most likely staying in the servants quarters. Poor servants. regardless, The room is clean and unmarred and the bed serves me well.
I spend my London excursion as any high minded wandering soul from abroad would as you imagine. I visit the Tower of London twice. I walk the Docks of St Catherine. I eat fish and chips as a small pub near Holbart,( as a side note, if you ever want to find Americans in London- go to any fish and chips establishments. Its like moths to a flame) I visit Bath with its Roman Antiquity- and get a private crack dawn tour of Stonehenge which is sublime and mystic and ear splittingly cold. Now, here I am, in my servants quarters, only a traveler- not a servant.
I’m tired and don’t know who to fill my time.
I write simplistic journal entries. Very “Here’s what I did, than I did this and than did that” type fare, free of any mystery or nuance. I’m slowly reading a few biographies but have a rough go connecting with the narrative of the authors. Not yet owning a smartphone, I can only document what my digital camera has captured and that’s after I upload it into a computer, and given the prices for the internet cafes and my aggressive fatigue, I decide to pass for the moment.
So I sit. The rain falls as it would. It is after all London. There’s a chill in the room, but its not bad. More like a shift in the air that actually envelopes me and wills me to rest. Literal cold comfort. I’ve no plans. No itinerary. One more day left. I switch off an episode of ” Coronation Street” that I have on as background noise. I slip off my day clothes, all but for a shirt and trunks. Cracking the window open just so. The rain gently wisping in. There’s noise outside, though its more of a lingering white noise that slowly merges with the puttering rain so as to create a lilting soundscape that informs my mood. My eyes get heavy. I drift. Further on. Further on. The sleep comes on gracefully, as though some spirit has silently snuffed a beeswax candle. An old world sleep. The chill of the rain puttering outside transports me into a perfect slumber.
I’m gone. I could have been stranded in Krakatoa for all I knew. In any case I drifted. Lord knows to where-but I’m happy.
I open my eyes. No headache. No fatigue. No headrushes. No noise. 4 hours have passed since I ventured off to wherever it was that I drifted off to. My whole body is as a purring cat. Alive, yet in a state of unfettered contentment that I didn’t yet up until that point, know existed. Never was I more refreshed. Never was I so clear. Away I had faded and when I arose again the mental burdens had gone with me. Not to exaggerate too much reader, but this nap was -sublimation. In every sense of the word.
That was in Fall 2007. I still clearly remember it. A few days after Guy Fawkes day. 13 years as of this musing. How I’ve attempted without avail to recapture this rest, yet it evades me like a hopped up monarch butterfly. I’ve tried . God, how I’ve tried. On rainy days. With candles lit. With certain scents. With windows both slated and cracked. With seemingly perfect cups of tea dancing through my body. With fine music. In the arms of a beau. In front of a fireplace. Near the ocean. While traveling and setting up similar circumstances. Near the trees. With meditations. With lamentations. Through heat and cold. With breathing exercises that were all for naught. Yet, she still evades me like a mocking wandering djinn.
So now, as I go in circles with this insomnia, my unfortunate new companion, I’m given some recompense when I think about that perfect late afternoon 13 years ago on a rainy day in London. When 4 mere hours attained legend and an ideal slumber was mine for the asking. No props, no fan fair, no bargaining, no pleading.
It just -was.
One of the most perfect moments I’ve ever been privy to, and I wasn’t even conscious.
Its been over a decade folks
-and I still haven’t given up the chase.