I remember (vaguely) when sleep came easily and I could embrace it passionately. In my youth, and I suspect this is true for just about everyone, I could plop down on my bed and (with very little to trouble my mind in those halcyon days of homework being the biggest concern) sleep would rush to me like a lover who had met me in the middle of a meadow covered in flowers…cue the soaring romantic theme music, and together we would tumble into a fade-out.
These days I am frequently, cruelly stood up by sleep. I am dressed (or undressed) and ready to go, and sleep decides to not show up. Some nights are better than others, but -mostly- sleep meets everyone else in the house, and teases me from a distance. Dada, book in hand, is off to dreamland before he has read so much as a whole sentence. J, bless him, can easily segue into slumber…the whirring of his fan is all that I can hear through his baby monitor.
I breathe deeply. I relax. I cleanse my mind of all concerns and worries, all distractions. If I have been reading and I feel like I’m about to conk out, I put my book aside and get ready to surrender. If I feel like releasing the weight of my body into the covers, the pillows, the warm body next to mine, I do it with gusto.
An hour later I will be sitting in bed, wide awake and anxious. Either pain wakes me up (pick a body part…this chronic pain crap that no medical professional will give a name to is so random a drinking game wouldn’t work for it,) or I am sitting in bed thinking it’s a heart attack (it never is,) or a stroke (nope, not that either,) and wondering if I should scribble a note to Dada…”I went peacefull….agh!”
Once the anxiety, palpitations, aches, tingling, confusion abate, I settle back in…breathing deeply (never did I use Lamaze for childbirth…now I alternate between that -except for the pushing- and yoga breathing,) I nestle back into my spot…letting go…letting go…letting…
An hour later, bolt upright in bed…
I wonder if I should amend the note: “The previous one was a false alarm…alas, this time…it isn’t. I didn’t go as peacefully as I wanted…agh!”
I have pondered what wakes me up. Aside from my body having a ridiculously mean sense of humor, the only thought that crosses my mind is that my mother’s choice of a name couldn’t be more apropos: Dolores (after Our Lady of Sorrows, but also Aches, Pains…)
Why don’t I wake Dada up? Well, for one: I know I’m not necessarily dying. As my dad, may he rest in peace, used to say “we ALL are dying.” Every breath is one less. If I made a habit of waking Dada up every time I wake up suddenly in the middle of the night, I would soon turn into The Middle-Aged Woman Who Cried “AGH!!!”
This morning I actually didn’t get up for coffee with Dada. It is a running joke in this household that Dada pulls his best Carl Fredricksen (from Up) sitting alone in the kitchen, looking forlorn and sad, until I emerge from bed to have coffee with him. I refer to it as “the residue of our Jewish ancestry guilting me to get up because I hate the idea of you missing me, and I can totally picture you old as dirt doing this because I’M DEAD!” This is part of the grumbling that precedes me as I walk down the stairs every morning. The grumbling has been preceded by protestations regarding the need to have me present when coffee is consumed. Why, I snarl as I climb out of bed, must I be awakened by kisses and mussing of the hair while sweetly(and insistently) whispering “your coffee is ready” when it’s not even six-thirty in the morning and I have absolutely nowhere to go…snarl, grunt, growl, grumble, roar, hiss…and then caffeine enters my body and I am glad to be sitting there in the half-light holding hands with my husband.
But this morning, no, I couldn’t. Last night the sitting-bolt-upright involved thinking “shit…if something happens in the middle of the night, and we call 9-1-1…what happens to J??? Who will sit with him? Who will soothe him while one of us is being seen to by medical professionals?” Going back to sleep was not possible. I kept sitting up with the same torrent of worries streaming through my mind: TGG works an hour away, and cannot leave his patients to come see to his brother; we have no family nearby other than TGG; we are as friendless as friendless can be.
When Dada came to gently jostle me out of bed I said “I just can’t…I can’t…” At 7:10 I woke up alarmed by the quiet. We’ve reached the age when we call out MARCO! waiting for the POLO! to let us know the other person is fine if the house grows too quiet. I thought he was downstairs, and it was past his time to get ready…so I leapt out of bed, alarmed, and found him getting ready to shave already.
You build this life, see, and suddenly realize that you’ve built it all wrong, I guess. No. Wait. Our life is fine. Our method is faulty. Circumstances have sort of forced us, and we haven’t really fought it because we are the way the are. That makes more sense, and we are accepting blame.
Every day our lives revolve around each other, and around J. We are not sociable people; we enjoy the introversion that is natural to each of us (although, with each other, we are outright extroverts who can’t seem to shut up or stop laughing around each other,) and we accept the isolation that is built into J’s placement in the Spectrum. People, for the most part, are awkward about interacting with him, and about understanding us. There isn’t really a full grasping of what this means, and not everyone is cut out to handle it gracefully. Not even TGG could after a while. People don’t fully understand that, even if we wanted to, we can’t interact and socialize in the way that society finds optimal. If people come here, J will be here. If we go to people, J will either come with us, or will be left with a caregiver (ours is a little MIA right now…she hasn’t called, and we had given her some space thinking “midterms,” but figured that’s long gone…J hasn’t asked for her either. We don’t know if they had some sort of disagreement, or if he’s just not feeling the company vibe lately) who might have need of us suddenly.
Dada said, when I told him how I was feeling, that he thinks about that, too, and that his take on it is that, whether we are inclined to or not, we might have to make friends. I was crying when I said “we can’t move to where we don’t know anyone,” and he said “well, it’s not like we can stay here either…”
Tonight, for my sake and everyone else’s, I’ll take my valerian. It might help. Sometimes it does. That, however, won’t change the fact that, as we ran down a list of people we could call in the middle of the night, we couldn’t find one single person who would a) respond quickly, b) know what to do with J, c) J would want to wake up to find here, or d) we would feel comfortable leaving with J.
J spent the better part of the morning looking at his bleary-eyed mother and asking if I was happy. I told him I’m happy, but tired…he wasn’t convinced…that kid is too perceptive…