Sleep an escape ... if you can find it

Sleep an escape ... if you can find it
                        

Most of my recent dreams have been based on the same theme.

I’m someplace I know well — a school, a newspaper office, a shopping mall, a ball diamond — and I see people I know well — teammates, colleagues, friends, classmates.

But something’s eating at me, making it impossible for me to enjoy my surroundings or the people in them.

I have to get someplace else — I just know it — but I never do.

Something always stops me from going to that other place, and it’s usually because I simply can’t find my car.

I know where I parked it — or at least I think I know — but the landscape has changed and I’m no longer sure where I am and people I don’t know keep creating obstacles and I’m getting more and more frustrated because I can’t get where I know I have to be.

There are variations on this dream — in my last one, for example, I actually located my ride — but whether it’s my lime green 1976 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed or my dark gray 1991 Honda Civic, it’s nearly impossible to get out the way I got there.

As you can imagine, all this seeming futility and utter pointlessness takes its toll, and it’s rare a thing when I can string together three or four hours of sleep.

The last time I managed to get any sustained rest was after my wife and I had spent all morning and most of the afternoon baking in the sun at out favorite beach.

I didn’t even take a shower, just collapsed on top of the bed. When I came to, she was shaking my shoulder (in an insistent yet caring way) and asking me if I knew what time it was.

“No idea,” I said, and when she said I’d been out since 4 the previous afternoon, I still didn’t understand what she meant.

“Open your eyes,” she said. “It’s daylight again.”

“So?” I asked.

“You slept for nearly 12 hours!” she said. “I think you’re cured.”

Insomnia in some form or another has plagued me since I was a teenager; well, “plagued” might be laying the melodrama on a little thick. Let’s go with “afflicted” or “bothered” or “cursed.”

You choose … I’m too tired.

When it’s at its worst, though, it’s a bad deal all the way around.

Fortunately, my adult lifestyle has always included irregular waking hours spliced together with periods of intermittent down time, so I no longer require what most people do: eight hours of rest.

For as long as I can remember, uninterrupted sleep has been a luxury item — like a flat-screen TV or a new set of JBL speakers — and I’ve never had a problem living below my means. It’s all rooted in Catholic guilt, but I don’t want to go down that road again.

You’ve read it all before.

I’ve talked with several doctors about my inability to sleep for any normal length of time, and they’ve tried everything: medication, meditation, mediation. One fidgety guy even ordered a stress test that involved a treadmill and lots of wires hooked up to my body.

“You’re normal,” he kept repeating, dismayed at all the readouts.

Finally, he shut down the whole operation and said he’d wasted a perfectly good Saturday morning, as if it were my fault.

“So go golfing this afternoon,” I said, pulling on my “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” T-shirt. “Don’t worry about me at all.”

And that’s the unhappy heart of it. In the words of Jackson Browne:

Maybe people only ask you

how you’re doing

because that’s easier than letting on

how little they could care.

The world can be a cruelly indifferent, utterly inhospitable place filled with people who may not actually wish you harm but don’t think twice when disaster arrives at your doorstep, sparing theirs.

It’s just human nature: There but for the grace of God, et cetera, et cetera.

Life is a series of random events, colliding and caroming all over the place, causing actions and reactions, a mischievous pinball machine without a conscience, one that can easily go, “TILT!”

It’s a Magic 8 Ball with no correct answers.

It’s an empty newspaper rack after you’ve inserted a quarter, a Notre Dame football game you can’t see because the local cable provider is airing some stupid ECU mismatch, a canceled flight that somehow hijacks your suitcase to Kansas City and a prime rib birthday dinner more gristle than beef.

It’s a dream you know you have to escape, but you can’t find your car.

The last time I dreamt it, there was a twist: a dream inside a dream.

I was aware of what my mind was doing, fully cognizant of what seemed to be a new dimension, and wasn’t surprised in the least to find myself in a classroom once again. This happens to me a lot.

It was a Dream Seminar, and I was with maybe a dozen others, listening as our instructor asked about our favorite authors, telling us to raise a hand when she hit on one of ours. By the time she’d gone through Stephen King, Dante, Edgar Allan Poe, Tom Robbins, Ayn Rand, Agatha Christie, Lewis Carroll and, curiously, Danielle Steel, I was the only person who hadn’t lifted so much as a finger.

“Let me guess,” she said, looking like Cybill Shepherd in “Moonlighting,” all sass and sex and mystery, wearing a slit skirt and stiletto heels. “You’re favorite writer is … yourself!”

I shrugged.

“Have you ever been published?” she asked.

“Never,” I said. “I’ve only been printed.”

“Let me ask you this,” she said. “Who hired you … a printer or a publisher?”

“Well, when you put it that way,” I said.

Soon enough, I was back in a strange parking lot, looking for a car I knew I’d never find, no longer worried about sleepless nights or missing luggage or ballgames I knew I was supposed to play in but was unable to find my name in the starting lineup.

The whole thing made me so tired that I just had to laugh.


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