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Friday, July 25, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 9/13/2003

Insomnia awakens me to a new realization

“I almost called you last night,” said my friend Shelly.

This was back in June, at the reception following her daughter's bat mitvah. I was admiring her artful decorations, knowing how hard she'd worked to put together this milestone in her no-longer-little-girl's life.

Yes, Shelly continued, she and another friend were up late - absurdly, ridiculously late - administering the sorts of final touches these events always seem to require.

To tell you the truth, she said, leaning closer for a quiet confession, they probably could have used another pair of hands.

“Well,” I shrugged, “really, you should have called me. God knows, I was wide awake.”

And I was.

And I am.

I'm starting this column at about the same hour most of you are entering the night's final REM cycle, and as it is, I've been up for hours. H-o-u-r-s.

This insomnia of mine (and I always think of it this way, as some kind of personal possession) has plagued me, on and off, throughout most of my adult life.

But lately - as it becomes more and more conclusive that I am A Woman of a Certain Age - it's just plain outta control.

Other people wake up in the morning and have breakfast.

I wake up in the morning and spackle on under-eye concealer to hide the dark circles. (Alas, there's not much I can do to hide the under-eye bags, which can be so big they come with their own carry-on luggage.)

Shelly, my other aging female friends, me - we all report similar searches for that elusive good night's sleep. I know, because I've started asking around.

Just this week, Joanie said the middle of the night is the only time she can write without interruption. And with Sue, we've got it down to verbal shorthand: “It was 3:30 for me. How about you?” And what we mean by this is: Here's what time I got up this morning. At what deadly silent hour did you finally give up and roll out of bed?

Now, as a rule, I recognize it's a worthless undertaking to formulate theories based only on one's own small circle.

But in this case, I just know I'm right: Each and every night, there are legions of middle-aged women padding softly around houses where a single light burns, trying not to wake anyone, wishing fiercely they could simply lie down and drift off, knowing the daylight hours will be forfeited to a sleepiness of narcotic proportions.

“What we ought to do,” Shelly once said, and I think she was only 15 percent joking, “is all sit around and IM each other. I mean, that's what you do in the middle of the night - go online. Right?”

That, and a few extra loads of laundry.

Insomnia is a lonesome condition, but it's a certain kind of lonesome that, truth be told, I've never really minded. Sitting in the kitchen when it's neither night nor day, looking out the window at that exact moment when the stark silhouettes of the trees seem to step out from their blue-black background, is rather delicious. It feels at that moment like I'm the only person on the planet who's awake.

Of course, now I know just how wrong that is.



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