Thursday, January 29, 2009

Conversation Starters for Sleepless Nights

Before my schedule looked like 9-5 most days of the week, I could sleep in for forever. Now some annoying internal clock wakes me up in a panic around 7 on weekend mornings, convinced it's doing me a favor by letting me know that I've overslept and will be late for work.

But before, in high school, I could sleep for 12-14 hours a day. If by some strange chance I happened to wake up in the middle of the night (I was a very heavy sleeper) for some water or to go to the bathroom, I might run into my mom, also awake for some strange reason. If I were in an ABC family drama, this might have been the beginning of a story about a rare moment of quality bonding time between mother and daughter – my mom would be sitting at the kitchen table in her fuzzy, worn robe, staring down into the steaming cup of tea in front of her, lines of worry creasing her face. Then I'd appear, awake and looking for a glass of water. My mom's face would clear instantly upon the sight of me, a smile spreading across her face. I would say with concern, "You're up late... Am I bothering you?" Then she would shake her head, still smiling, pull out the chair next to her and say warmly, "No, never. I always have time for you bumble bee." And then we would share the plate of cookies in front of me (they would be homemade oatmeal) and talk about how school was going.

In reality, I never saw my mom when she was awake in the middle of the night. At least, not at first. Without any lights on and no visible signs of anyone drinking steaming tea, when I would wake up in the middle of the night and wander out of my room, it was hard for me to tell if I was the only one up. Because there were never any telling signs of anyone else being awake, I was constantly startled to find my mom was, in fact, awake too, sitting in the middle of the living room in the pitch dark, just sitting. Not making any noise and not drinking anything, the only sign of movement in the room was her blinking. It was downright creepy, but also fascinating. I used to secretly think that maybe she was a creature of the night, a vampire maybe? Then one morning she took all the mystery and excitement away. She told me she was envious of how everyone else had slept through the night; she hadn't been asleep for more than a few hours before she woke again and stayed awake until morning. That was when I learned of my mom's insomnia spells.

I'm no expert, but it seems that the older we get, the less sleep we need and the more likely we are to be struck by bouts of insomnia. As a person who cherishes her rest, this frightens me. I know the evil person I can become on 5 hours of sleep. Insomnia has the potential to destroy me. Because of this, I've decided to start collecting bits of conversations and saving topics overheard – the only requirement being that they must be the complete opposite of excitement-evoking and should instead invoke the level of excitement one feels upon finding lint in one's pocket.

I have two of these precious topics collected so far. And these are actual pieces of conversations I have heard. The first is a topic I heard being discussed by two elderly women sitting next to me in a cafe. The topic was duvet covers. Not duvet cover designs, materials or patterns. Not bargain duvet prices or sales. Not a story about a duvet that murdered its master. No, this conversation topic was about how long it took one of the ladies to put on her duvet cover that very afternoon. The extremely high level of difficulty of getting the comforter corners to fill the corners of the duvet cover was also touched upon, but mostly it was a play by play on the length of time it took to put it on.

The second topic is about spice racks. Not about the best blend of spices to spice a rack of lamb or how to create a magic potion to get someone to fall in love with you. This conversation topic was about how to store one's spices. The myriad of ways! Did you know there are spice-storing methods to suit nearly everyone's particular needs?

I hope that I will always sleep well, but if there comes a time when sleep doesn't come easy, when I must haunt my home in the dark like a vampire mother, then at least I will have these topics to draw upon and discuss with myself to ease me back to bed.

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