Insomnia is a gross feeder. It will nourish itself on any kind of thinking, including thinking about not thinking.
– Clifton Fadiman
Wise words from a man of whom I have never heard – so often the case when one searches for a sentiment that matches one’s own on the WWW (the not-so-Wise and sometimes-Wonderful Web). Thinking about not thinking, last night – or this morning – inspired the entry you are now reading. In retrospect, this little section of coding in the humungous waste-dump of pages of waffling nonsense that is the blogosphere would have had more potency if it was written immediately. However, as usual, technology was not on my side as my Mac had run out of power; hence the time of its publication is not in Real Time. Whatever Real Time actually is.
The bells of the old church – which sits about a hundred metres away from my front-facing bedroom window – counted down the hours of acceptable consciousness. The increasing peals seemed an unfair reminder of my own worsening situation, particularly as the clock was allowed to rest between its hourly activity. The silence of the bells echoed rather unfortunately with the resounding silence of humanity. It was one of those sort of nights where not even the cats of our street had the energy to venture into the cold, the revellers in my student household had finished retching (and the applause had abated), and it was just me, my headcold, and my insomnia.
I was about 9 or 10 when I first suffered from insomnia – up until that point, I could have slept anywhere. Even as a baby, I only woke up to be fed (I was a very fat toddler – more of a waddler). The frustration of not being able to sleep is extremely difficult to relate if, dear reader, you have never been blighted by this accursed dilemma. The nights of sobbing into the pillow until four in the morning have thankfully abated, and I now only experience little periods of sleeplessness from time to time to serve as a reminder for that period of my life – that, and the irrational hatred I hold for the smell of lavender, and a fairly concise knowledge of the plot of Tom’s Midnight Garden, a particularly over-listened-to audio-cassette.
It’s remarkable, however, how difficult it is to think of anything useful in such a situation. Sometimes moments of revelation, creative works of genius and spiritual epiphanies burst forth from the restless grey matter; but mostly one is too tired to think of anything but sleep. Time seems to speed up and slow down in a way which defies Physics – just as there is no way that those snooze minutes on the alarm clock in the morning are even vaguely reminiscent of Real Time. The rational amongst us will provide plausible reasons for both this skewed perception of time and my own sleeping complexes – in fact, the morning after, even I can provide reasons (overdose of adrenaline, migraine, stress), but at the time, the only real reason which holds any weight is that the want of sleep prevents sleep itself. Irrationale (possibly a neologism, there) prevails – one is cursed, one is fated to fail in that play tomorrow, someone spiked my decaf coffee – and vicious circles of thinking and trying not to think dance the hoopla around the caverns of the mind…
And so, amidst all that silence (a theme which is never far from the surface at the moment, playing a Psychiatrist in Shelagh Stephenson’s adapted radio play, Five Kinds of Silence), I thought I would send some of this ineloquent expounding into the ether – in the hope that perhaps there will be some kindred echoes. Until then, I will continue to listen to the bells toll…