Brand building through storytelling

My kingdom for a good night’s sleep

Back when I could sleep through anything, I waged a nightly campaign to stave off bedtime. Oh, the irony!

Once I dreamed of going to places of mystery and romance. The vineyards of Provence, the parapets of the Alhambra, the half-timbered London pub where Samuel Johnson used to drink his ale. Been there and done that (with detours to Costa Rican rainforests and the red rock canyons of Utah).

Now I dream of going somewhere more basic. I want to go to sleep and stay that way all night. There’s precious little dreaming in my life these days, and fatigue is making my head ache. I pine for sleep the way I pined, all through high school, for long straight hair and the attention of certain swaggering youths in leather jackets.

I get ready for bed like a traveller embarking on a month-long expedition. To call the place where I toss and turn a mere “bed” is to diminish its meticulously engineered comforts. We’re talking a “sleep system” here—a mattress certified by NASA and made from materials developed in space research, with a matching contoured pillow that supports my complaining neck and shoulders just so.

Like an astronaut preparing to blast into orbit, I follow a precise, unvarying routine that begins with a thermostat check (only 20 degrees will do) and progresses to the marshalling of necessary gear (heating pad, valerian capsules, aspirin bottle, hand-sewn eye bag filled with something fragrant and organic).

So begins the journey of frustration.

Last night I was in liftoff position at 9:43. My eyelids fluttered pleasantly; my limbs sank into NASA’s mattress. Victory!

Then came the heavy-footed shuffle to the bathroom, the sojourn on the couch with a book selected for its lulling absence of plot, the return to bed just as my husband fell into it and began, within minutes, to breathe like a man giving in to the deepest, most delicious of slumbers. Rigid with envy, I moved on to the sleep station of last resort, the murphy bed in my husband’s office. Valerian cocooned my body in a tantalizing haze of stillness that got nowhere close to my busy brain.

SleepingronaOh, the irony. As a child, I’d do anything to stave off bedtime, the nightly assault on my liberty. “Five more minutes!” I would plead. Now I miss those charmed nights when I could sleep through anything.

If you’re thinking menopause, think again. I’ve been hooked on hormones ever since they cured my nocturnal hot flashes more than a decade ago. This is a whole new species of wakefulness, a stealthy and powerful beast that keeps my mind on high alert. All night I cling to the day’s preoccupations, which have as much to do with my stage of life as hormonal mayhem did in my mid-40s.

It’s been less than three years since I left my old career, editing Chatelaine, for a new one as a full-time writer. I chose to make the switch, but I still haven’t answered all the questions that come with it. Projects used to land on my desk by the dozen, to be launched with the help of a can-do team. Now I create my own projects and take them forward alone, with a few anxious can’t-do moments along the way.

As a woman of a certain age, I live every day with uncertainty. It’s as if I’ve crossed a border, with no map or local currency, into a lush, hectic, inscrutable land where nothing ever happens as it did back home.

This is not the first border in my life as a woman. Last night at 4 a.m., in the Spartan murphy bed, I remembered a previous crossing. I was a restless teenager then, lying in my antique double bed in a white room with daisy-printed wallpaper. I had thrown the windows wide open to catch the sweet spring noises of peepers and new leaves tossed by the wind.

The night seemed to vibrate with a promise that might as well have come from my own heart, beating under my hand like a creature with a life of its own. I thought of the men I hadn’t yet loved, the words I hadn’t written, the beautiful unlikely places I hadn’t yet seen. I didn’t know if I could stand the ache of waiting for all this, but I still fell asleep and didn’t open my eyes until morning.

What I miss from those days is letting sleep take me, as the ocean takes sunken treasure. What I’ve recovered is the sense that anything could happen—or not. Today I’m lightheaded with exhaustion. Better take a nap, if I can.

I once grabbed some sleep while stretched out across four metal chairs in an airport departure lounge, with my backpack for a lumpy pillow. You’d think I could do as well in my own high-tech bed.

But my mind, unlike the airport, doesn’t have security staff to screen my head for jagged, sleep-disrupting thoughts. Confiscate them, I say. Drop them into your plastic trash can. Lock me up if I utter the dread word “insomnia.”

I want to make my flight to dreamland, I really do. But if the sleep gods won’t let me on, all is not lost. One thing about a busy brain: it churns out plenty of ideas. So I can just sit here, writing.

Posted by Rona

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