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Sleepless in America


“I’m going to move.”

“You’re going to move?”

“I should move.”

“Why should you move?”

“Where will I move?”

“Where will you move?”

“Am I serious?”

“Are you serious?”

This is the dialogue Frisbee-ing through my mind when I’m attempting sleep.  These are some of the thoughts and questions that twirl like a hula-hoop, hitting the interior of my skull until my head feels as if it’s moving with the motion already in motion.  Finally, finally, when the playground quiets to a couple of shudders from badminton shuttlecocks, I dream for a while and then awaken to a blaring alertness like someone’s taken a croquet mallet to my chest.  Occasionally, I chant a trail to a couple more hours of tranquility.

As I keyboard, my left eyelid twitches from fatigue and maybe stress.  I tell myself it’s similar to a wink and not unattractive.  Despite this involuntary spasm and those dark, sunken crescents underneath the lower lids, I go out to run through the Kingdom of Mixed Signals.  Have to exercise soon after drinking espresso. If I wait, I won’t.  Odd thing is that even when I’m sleep deprived, I seldom shut up and shut down to relax.

I am “one of the seven million Americans that have [sic] trouble sleeping and feel [sic] tired all day long.”  This is what Ann Williams told me (actually, she asked if I am one of the seven million) minutes ago when she spoke to me from the computer after I did a search for natural sleep remedies and found Somnapure.  I responded, telling her, despite the lack of sleep, I don’t “feel tired all day long.”  In fact, I drink from the drug mug, slap on some sunscreen, tie my running shoes, and take off, almost soaring.  Later, a little raggedness descends, but I don’t nap.  My body says no-no to napping.  Then, fast forward to night.  This is when the ready-to-rumble announcements begin.  The voices in my head that comprise team sports are breaking news of the weird and woeful: greed and Fukushima and shrimp without eyes and war and inhumanity, and what the future holds for our children.  Plus, my own small world of aloneness and what I’ve done with that—including some disturbing choices.   This leads to thoughts of escaping, moving, and angst-ing about where, when, and why.

Okay, I wrote the above and waited. To watch and examine hours walk by, so I could assess how tired I am after tending to my bedtime ablutions.  And my brain is ablaze as if someone’s striking matchsticks. I started to write: rubbing sticks of dynamite together, but it’s not that explosive. More like strobe lights.

I am one among seven million Americans who has trouble sleeping, but I don’t feel tired all day.  I am wide-awake when it’s time to approach the memory foam mattress.  I look at some of those words, turning them into memories foment.  And therein dwells a problem.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore.  Email:  

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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