Oh, hello there, Deadline.
You’ve been giving me nudges, telling me to sit down in front of the computer and write something — anything — because it’s that time of week. But here’s the problem. I can’t think of something — anything — to write.
Why, you ask?
I know. As a former teacher, I would have NEVER accepted such a lame excuse from a student. Seriously? I would have said. You can’t write a comparison and contrast essay due tomorrow BECAUSE AUTUMN? Dude. Grow up. Life is full of deadlines and you better get used to that fact right now.
But still. Autumn.
I know, I know. It’s a gorgeous time of year. Round, ripe pumpkins fill the bins at Trader Joe’s. Hints of red appear on the hillside. Halloween (a holiday I adore) is right around the corner. So is the World Series. The light shifts and burnishes everything it touches with a soft gold glow. Sigh. Beautiful.
Except that’s the problem. The light shifts. And something happens to my brain when it does. My brain feels like a sponge slowly soaking up ink, blotting out everything else. So then I start worrying about what comes next when autumn arrives, including sleepless nights.
You know that kind of night, right? You just lie there, checking your clock, calculating how much sleep you’ll realistically be able to get now that it’s 2 a.m. Or 3 a.m. Or 4 a.m.
(ANSWER: Not much.)
This is why I don’t have anything to write about. Because my brain is too busy worrying about not sleeping.
Knowing that I do this, a friend gave me a workbook called “I Can’t Sleep: a journal for passing the time when insomnia strikes and my brain is circling in on itself, cannibalizing the trivialities of the day and exaggerating the ticking of the clock, reminding me that every minute spent awake is another minute closer to when I’ll have to get up, though many of the great artists and sages were insomniacs and that’s part of how they got so much done, so if I can’t sleep I might as well write and channel my misery into something productive.”
Each page has a quotation from famous insomniacs about sleeplessness, followed by a lined page for personal journaling with the following prompt: “Why I Can’t Sleep Tonight.”
The quotes are great. Take this one from Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz: “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’” Or this one from Jules Feiffer: “I told the doctor I was overtired, anxiety ridden, compulsively active, constantly depressed, with recurring fits of paranoia. Turns out I’m normal.” Or this from C.S. Lewis: “Many things, such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly — are done worst when we try hardest to do them.”
The wisest observation, in my opinion, comes from Colin Powell: “It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.”
So will I actually get out of bed in the middle of the night from now on and do the journaling part? I doubt it. In spite of Lewis’ observation that trying too hard to sleep is counterproductive, I’ll probably just lie in bed and — you know — try to sleep.
Meanwhile, I hope something to write about occurs to me before my deadline has passed — because if it doesn’t, I WILL BE IN TROUBLE.
(In addition to being tired.)