Insomnia has bothered me, off and on, all my life. Sometimes when I'm trying to catch the 10:45 to Dreamland, whatever has been percolating that day in my subconscious resurfaces, making me fret the night away-and usually for nothing.
Even as a child I had sleepless night. One Sunday night, when I was 10, I tossed and turned for hours, worried that my parents would discover that I'd skipped out between Sunday school and church that morning and hastened to the candy store nearby for licorice whips, root beer barrels and wax lips. (I believed that the sermon would go down easier if I had some refreshments … like at the movies.)
But all the worrying in the world didn't help. The next morning our pastor called to snitch — er, tell my parents — that he'd seen me in the front pew- (he only seat available by the time I got back with my sweet contraband) with both knees raw and bleeding. I'd heard the church bell and started running. On the way I tripped and fell onto the roadside gravel. That'll teach me.
He also mentioned an intermittent rustling, coming from my direction, during his oration. He said it sounded like a child digging around for something in a small brown bag … say, a bag of candy.
I should have gotten more sleep that night, because my punishment was to write, 500 times, "I will not leave church, walk down a busy road alone, and buy candy with my 50 cents for the offering plate."
As time passed, other concerns would occasionally keep me awake, such as: Will I be able to find my way around a new school? (Yes.) Will I be asked to prom? (No.) And what I should major in at college? (All these years after graduation, I'm still working on that one.)
As a young adult, I discovered other doubts to contemplate at night: Will the wedding come off without a hitch? Will the baby finally sleep through the night so I can stop feeling like a zombie? Did I stifle my child's sense of inquisitiveness by making him stop eating worms? Will the younger one wake up sick in the middle of the night from eating six cupcakes and four ice cream sandwiches at that birthday party?
Having kids reach adulthood doesn't insure a good night's sleep. Any one of the following — and more — can cause dark circles under my eyes: Worrying what the kids are up to, because they haven't called; worrying why they haven't called; worrying what they'll tell us what's wrong when they finally do call; and wondering what's making that chewing noise under the bed at night.
(That last one isn't related to the kids … at least, not that I know of.)
Retirement only makes insomnia more likely. For example, Doug and I finally decided to downsize, since we rattle around in this large house like a couple of graying marbles in a can. That decision alone was good for two sleepless nights.
We've put our house on the market and we're considering new ones from contemporary ranchers to 19th-century farmhouses to smaller versions of our current home. And with every house we look at — and I fall in love with — I lie awake mentally arranging our furniture in it.
You know, I'll bet if I added up all the hours of sleep I've lost worrying … well, I shudder to think what it would come to.
I'll probably lie awake tonight, worrying about that.
Email Cathy Drinkwater Better at firstname.lastname@example.org.