stealing time

I’m never the first one asleep. I don’t sleep on planes, or anywhere it would be convenient, and favorable for all, to shed a little bit of my anxiety. I realize people who nap are healthier, that they live longer, but I wasn’t built with this ability. I suppose if I suddenly found myself in the armed forces, I’d find a way to sleep, to get it while I could. I hear that’s how people can become good nappers: when they’re completely deprived of sleep. It becomes a necessity. They become so deft that they can even sleep with their eyes open–something I don’t entirely believe is possible. Doctors are great nappers. The Wasband could fall asleep anywhere, even in someone else’s bed. Budumpbump. Even being that cheeky doesn’t tucker me out. Alcohol might slow me down, but I’ve never passed out.

Some people have stories their parents still tell, stories about how, as a child, they fell asleep at the dinner table, their head, face first, into a bowl of spaghetti. I’m not one of these people. I always resisted sleep, thinking I was missing out on the big moments. I could hear the company downstairs, my father’s laugh, and I could picture his whole head turning red. I hated the idea of missing a second of the living.

When I do fall asleep, it’s always on my stomach, with one leg knocked out. I imagine beds of my past, trying to comfort myself, to leave all the things in my life now and return to a time when there was company downstairs and voices that carried. When I fell asleep in high school, I was boy crazy and dating, so at night, as I willed myself to sleep, if a car whizzed by the house, I always imagined it might be that boy, maybe after a fight we’d had over the phone, the one where I felt he was too quiet, where I asked if he really loved me and it took him too long to answer. I was impossible, and frankly, I still am. Still, I imagined that he couldn’t resist driving to my house, to throw a pebble at my window, the way it’s done in John Hughes films. I’d dart up, and peek through my blinds, hoping to see a car in our driveway. There never was. Then I’d switch sides–still on my stomach, but now the other leg kicked out–and wish my house was like Doogie Howser’s, with an accessible roof and a window that swung open. Even if I had the window and the house, I remember thinking, it’s not like anyone would use it. But by morning, I’d forget things like that and apply my blue eyeliner and tease my bangs, hopeful that today would be the day where my whole life changed.

Now when I’m trying to sleep, I think of my days and try to will the stress away, try to tell myself that I’ll be loved no matter how my book does, that I’m okay just as I am, that everything that frightens me is really irrational, that I’ll see in time. And none of this self talk helps. Then baby songs infiltrate, "let’s all click our sticks today." I change positions again. And I know I’ll never stop worrying if I’ve made the right decisions with my life, with my words, and with my choices, and I wonder if really I’m any different than the girl in her parents’ house who keeps hoping someone will drive up and rescue her.



  1. I'm the exact same way. My mind whirls at night, wondering, overthinking, wishing. When I was young it was wanting to see what my Dad was watching. When I was a teenager, I always wished that the boy I had a crush on would come to my window and throw a rock up at it, or like in Saved By The Bell, I had a picture window that opened up to a tree easily climbed by Zach.

  2. I think we all worry about the decisions and choices we've made. I know I do. And I'm reminded everytime I hear Switchfoot's, "This is your life" on my iPod.

    This is your life, are you who you want to be
    This is your life, are you who you want to be
    This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
    When the world was younger and you had everything to lose.

  3. I can really relate to this. When i was in middle school/high school I wouldn't be able to sleep at night because of all the things running through my head and if i heard a car with a loud muffler i would get all excited thinking it was the boy i was talking to. Now I stay up at night and can't sleep thinking about all the choices i've made, but there's no boy with the loud car. That sound eventually didn't mean anything to me.

  4. I am the world's worst sleeper. Haven't always been though – I was one of those babies who went to sleep when the sun went down and got up at first light. If I had my druthers – that's what I'd do today. That's my goal in life.

    But as it is now – especially when I'm home alone with the babies – I lie awake – I think of everything – nothing – some things. I toss, I turn. I listen for every noise – every breath – every whisper of a bad dream someone may be having. I unfortunately know that the milkman comes by between 3:40 and 3:45 on Wednesday mornings. I know the schedule of the people next door because their car doors close at 4:20-4:25. I know who lets the neighbor's damned dog out, because if husband does, the dog barks and barks and barks…and then I'm even more awake.

    I long for sleep. I dream of sleep when I'm awake. And when the babies are with their dad every other weekend, I sleep a bit better – that sheer exhaustion you mentioned kicks in.

    Oh to sleep – what a gift.

  5. "I'm OK just as I am" – a little sentence of profound truth. We must always at least attempt to believe it. And with that, you really are not the girl in the bed anymore – she was on autopilot, led by her teenage rollercoaster emotions. Even as you feel frightening emotions, you recognize them as illusory, taking their power – that comes with age for those who are awake.

  6. I write the best blog posts while I am falling asleep. When the morning comes, I have forgotten them.

    My husband can take 10 minute power naps. Me? I NEVER feel well-rested.

  7. I'll trade you a little staying awake for my sleep habits. Lately, if I sit down on the couch for a minute, I'm out like a light. I think I passed that exhaustion threshhold sometime in law school and never caught up.

  8. Sleeping, I wish it could be more consistent. Sometimes I can't get to sleep, other times I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. I used to interior decorate in my mind before falling asleep or planning out the flower beds/garden. It used to make me fall asleep, lately it just gets me hyper-organized, too reved up to sleep. We have to play the 'stormy weather' or 'crashing waves' CDs to help get to sleep but maybe I should switch to something else. And 3 teen mom, I hear ya on the damn barking dog! Why would someone let their dog out at 6:00AM & leave it barking for 10 min. to wake up the entire neighborhood. It pisses me off.

  9. The only way I can take my mind off things at night is to read – loosing myself in the characters of great writers. Maybe it can be of some comfort that your writing has provided this solace for me.

    Great post.

  10. I fall asleep nearly the minute my head hits the pillow, but that doesn't mean my brain stops thinking about all the things I need to do/stuff I wish I could change/things I cant' stop worrying about. Instead of keeping me awake with such thoughts, though, my brain converts them into strange and usually disturbing dreams, nearly every night. The grass really is always greener . . .

  11. I absolutely love my milkman – that anonymous Santa-like character who leaves gifts in the cooler on my porch every week. Milk, cheese, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt. Occasionally some bread or homemade jelly. The fact that I pay for it – entirely secondary.

  12. I'm a champion napper. In the days of unfair Russian judging at the Olympics, I would have gotten a 10 for technique and longevity.

    Sleeping at night is another story, and it has nothing to do with napping. I think there's a part of me that thinks I'll miss something exciting, but that's got to be a leftover thought from the days when exciting things happened at night.

    I don't bother with tossing and turning and thinking. It's not that I lack introspection, but I lack the desire to criticize my choices. I did the best I could that day. I'll try harder the next. And in the meantime, Nick @ Nite entertains, unless it doesn't, and then I switch to CNN or MSNBC. NEVER Faux News. That's a choice I'd always regret and always criticize.

  13. "that I'm okay just as I am, that everything that frightens me is really irrational, that I'll see in time."

    I like that quote a lot. I have moments like yours (but mine come while commuting, not trying to sleep), I always remind myself that I'm doing my best, and it's just not that bad :)

  14. That thing about being able to fall asleep anywhere if you're tired enough? Totally true. I flew across the country the day (night?) before my father was having open heart surgery. I can't sleep on airplanes – there are all those PEOPLE. We had to leave the house at something like 3am to get to Manhasset on time.

    While my dad was in surgery, I took a nap on a wooden bench on the main floor of the hospital, where everyone enters and everyone who got past security walked right past me.

  15. This is totally off topic, and truely weird, but Stepahnie you were in my dream last night. We were shopping in a store that looked like anthropologie (but wasn't) and we had just become friends because you moved in next door. And at one point we both picked up these finger cymbals and cracked up when we both realized we were playing with the same thing. I woke up and realized I had just dreamt about someone who's blog I read. Too funny.

  16. "I always resisted sleep, thinking I was missing out on the big moments. I could hear the company downstairs, my father's laugh, and I could picture his whole head turning red. I hated the idea of missing a second of the living."

    You just described me to a T. When I was little, I never slept. If my folks had company, I wanted to be in on the action, to play Trivial Pursuit and sit at the adult table. I'm still the same way. I always feel like sleeping is a waste of time, like there's something else I should be doing, when in actuality sleep is far more important than any chore or task that needs doing. I used to be a terrible insomniac. I'm much better now, but sometimes its still hard to turn my mind off.

  17. I used to have so much trouble falling asleep as a kid that my parents gave up forcing me to turn out my lights and just let me sit up as late as I wanted as long as I stayed in my room quietly (I was never allowed a tv or a phone in my room). I think they just got tired of me emerging from my room every half hour to alert them to the fact that I couldn't sleep and hoped I would just fall asleep from boredom. Usually I would tear through about 2 of those 250-page "young-adult novels" a night, and when I finished all of the books I owned I would read them again. I must have read "Tiger Eyes" and "How do you lose those 9th grade blues?" about a million times each. Not to mention "the trouble with 14" or something like that about a trampy teen model. I always thought those books were just dirty enough to keep 10 year olds thinking they were getting away with something by reading them.

    PS to Stephanie, did you ever read "how do lose those 9th grade blues?"? There was another one, too, something about 5th grade… about a little girl who was heavy but then got skinny in high school and had trouble making the adjustment. Just realized they seemed topical.

  18. Most of the time, I'm like Tay, I fall asleep as soon as I lie down. But, it's always that strange half asleep-half awake thing. I keep thinking I hear Jordan calling for me. My husband started using the intercom system after he had surgery several months ago, a month or so after we lost Jo. My heart still skips a beat every time I hear the static sound of it being turned on–thinking it's my sweet girl.

    Sleep can be a wonderful refuge–or coping mechanism? As close to death as possible while still living. And, you can go there any time (any time you can get your brain to cooperate, anyway).

  19. Beth- you just made me want to go home and read Judy Blume novels back-to-back. Deenie was another good one. I think she had scoliosis and had to wear a brace? I might be blending them all together. I loved when the girls finally got to make out a little. It gave me hope. And a thrill.

  20. Oh my, your post brings back memories of laying awake wondering why some boy didn't call, creating elaborate excuses for him. Or analysing some brief insignificant conversation with such boy, looking for keywords that signaled his lust for me. All it took in high school was eye contact, and I had a 2 week crush keeping me up half the night…
    Did anyone ever read Sweet Valley Twins??? I could always fall asleep after reading those. Funny, I always wanted to be an identical twin, then I married one.
    Now my dentist tells me I'm too young to be grinding my teeth at night. It usually takes about 30 minutes of tossing and turning to fall asleep, then I wake up at least once in the middle of each night to pee. If I'm worried about anything at work or if I consumed anything with caffine after 1:00 PM, I'll have to take Tylenol PM to fall asleep before 2:00 AM.
    And I don't even have kids yet…
    But I've always been an overthinker and a worrier, slightly high strung, and always trying to plan ahead and anticipate any risk.
    When my husband and I travel I can't sleep in the car b/c I feel like I should be talking to him so he won't fall asleep, and also I don't want to miss any cool sights.

    FROM SK: I still read Sweet Valley High books (I saved all of mine).

  21. xanax, lunesta, ambien, not to be used on a regular basis…..ok now discuss

  22. After a very tough breakup recently, I lost my ability to sleep well… think 3-4 hours every night for 2 months! Christmas Eve was the worst as I was in a different bed in a different city. I got 0 hours of sleep that night. My doctor prescribed Ambien… but it was no match for my racing thoughts at night.

    And I was always able to fall asleep at any time, anywhere! – After 2 cups of coffee, in a loud movie theatre… no problem.

    As a last resort (before seeking anti-depressants), I tried Buddhist meditation. It helped tremendously. The night after my first meditation class, I got 6 hours of sleep. It's been 4 months since the breakup and my sleep has steadily returned to normal. Thank god.

  23. I can totally relate. While I have no trouble sleeping, my brain doesn't ever shut off. Ever. It's broken. It doesn't have an off switch. UGH. I can never stop thinking, ruminating, wondering, worrying.

  24. I used to love SVH too– who didn't? They are actually coming back as updated reissues this spring!

    As for falling asleep, when I went through an awful breakup I fell asleep to episodes of Frasier every night. I would need the sound of their familiar voices. Kinda strange, I know, but it worked and now I own the entire series on DVD. Sometimes I still pop them in and it's like catching up with old friends.

  25. Sweet Valley High.. I used to LOVE those books.

    Then my fundamentalist-pastor father found the one where Jessica and Bruce are totally doing it in the woods during some pool party. Dad took them all away and hid them on the top shelf of his closet. As if that wouldn't be the FIRST place I'd look for them.

  26. Oh, sweet baby Jesus, your feeds are back. Whew! This rules. I was having a hard time there.

  27. What a beautiful post. I felt like I could really relate to you. I guess we all share the same fears, and I always thought it was just me!

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