It’s not that my boyfriend is a sumo wrestler or anything, but he’s bigger than me, and heavier, and when we are sleeping in the same bed he weights down his side. I either roll towards him all night long, or I have to try sleeping on an incline, which is very annoying.
When I complained about this the other morning, Paul laughed. “Oh no. You poor thing. Having to sleep on an incline.”
“You don’t understand.” I buried my head under a pillow, feeling sleep-deprived and moody. “It’s very difficult for me. I’m going to join a support group.”
“A support group?” He laughed even harder, which made my grumpiness take a turn towards anger. (It is not, by the way a good idea to goad someone when they’ve had a bad night’s sleep and they blame you for it.)
I flung myself out of bed and stomped towards the living room. “I’m sure lots of people suffer from this problem. I’ll prove it to you!” I spent the next hour googling “sleeping on an incline” and “boyfriend weights down his side of bed,” instead of working on my novel as I had planned. It wasn’t because I actually wanted to find a support group (there doesn’t seem to be one anyway), but because I’ve been doing anything and everything to avoid my novel. I’m afraid to start working on it again. I’m worried that after having taken a three-week hiatus, I won’t be able to get back into it, or I’ll realize it’s not very good. As silly as it sounds, I fear that I’ve forgotten how to write.
* * *
The other night I went to sleep before Paul, which meant the bed was blissfully flat. I should have been able to fall right to sleep, but instead I lay there with my eyes closed, not sleeping, for hours.
I don’t know if the problem was the strong espresso I drank in the afternoon (I’m not usually a coffee drinker), or the fact that I knew I had to wake up early. My Ukrainian student, Sergey, had bullied me into a Saturday ESL session at seven a.m. I wanted to get a good eight hours of sleep and be refreshed for a day of tutoring and writing and exploring my new city of Seattle.
But, of course, feeling pressured to fall sleep made it even harder to fall asleep. It was by now one-thirty in the morning, and I thought that if I didn’t fall asleep soon, my entire Saturday would be a waste. I’d be too brain-dead to work on my novel. I’d be too grumpy to enjoy an outdoor adventure.
I had tried all of my normal tricks: deep breathing, doing math puzzles in my head, imagining every room in my childhood house. With these exercises, I would grow drowsy and get tantalizingly close to drifting off. But I was too aware of my own desire for sleep, and this awareness made it impossible to find unconsciousness.
I felt as if I’d forgotten how to fall asleep. I knew this was absurd. I’d done it thousands of times in the past. Usually I just relax and let sleep wash over me. It’s like seeing the image in a magic eye picture. You don’t have to try that hard. Just unfocus your eyes and wait for the sailboat to appear.
Paul was next to me, sleeping like a baby and weighting down his side of the bed. I couldn’t handle being so close to someone who had mastered sleep when I couldn’t figure it out. I got up and went into the living room. I ate a bowl of cereal, checked my email, lay down on the couch with a blanket.
I wasn’t just stressed about waking up early for tutoring. I was stressed because I’d sworn to myself that Saturday would be the day I really and truly would start working on my novel again. That was why it was so important for me to be well-rested. I was worried about my writing. I was worried that I might have forgotten how to do something that is normally so natural for me.
I knew that the more stressed I was about writing, the harder it would be to get back into it. Just like a magic eye picture, I need to relax in order to reach the happy unconsciousness of sleep. In the same way, I need this this relaxation, this slightly fuzzy focus, to access my creative side: that realm of my mind that lies just behind the surface, where images bloom and solidify and become a new reality.
I finally fell asleep around four. I woke up two hours later for tutoring, and then I wrote this blog entry. I spent the next two and a half hours working on my novel. Then Paul and I went for a hike. I guess Saturday wasn’t ruined after all.
*P.S. Paul would like it to be noted that his character’s depiction in this blog is filtered through my creative lens, and though scenes and conversations are the way I (mostly) remember them, they may not always be one hundred percent accurate.