Insomnia

I fell asleep at 5am or thereabouts last night, or, this morning, if you want to be specific. My dreams lately have been anxious. There are worries hiding in there that I can remember and talk myself out of when I’m awake, but in my dreams, I behave logically in relation to the situation I’m in. Example, I dream my cat is ill. Response, I take her to the hospital where she escapes, I panic, she’s found and upon waking, I remember that she’s young and in perfect health and sitting on the living room sofa. There is no animal hospital and everything is fine.

Next, I’m at university, about to attend a lecture and I haven’t studied and I’ve missed a few classes. It’s unclear whether or not they’re going to let me continue, but it’s the fear of being called upon in class to discuss reading I haven’t done. Can I blag? Can I pretend to be ill and sneak out before the Q&A starts? I then wake up and realise that I’m not in formal study at the moment and no one is going to catch me out for anything. This dream is the one I have the most often.

Finally, I dream that I’m at work and there’s nothing for me to do, so I study, I write letters and browse the internet. My boss catches me and we have to discuss the fact that they don’t have enough work for me to do, so we need to agree my terms of redundancy. At the same time, I receive a job offer that is below my skill level, but insanely well paid in Portugal. Portugal? I’ve never even been there. This dream is not so hard to understand. I’ve been off work for over a year because of this wretched disease and now I’m afraid to go back to a business that doesn’t need me anymore, or that I wont be able to go back and perform to my previous level because my energy is shot to pieces.

So, I was up half the night playing with the thermostat (why do people insist on sleeping in an inferno?) and drinking water. I listened to soothing sounds of the ocean and tried meditative breathing. Still, despite my efforts, all I could do was notice the heat running through my body and reflect on my anxiety dreams. Why is it that night time is when your mind chooses to mess with you and ponder the fears we have hidden the rest of the day? I’m sure many have pondered this question, but when you can’t sleep, all you want is for the voices in your head to shut the Hell up.

I’ve had breakfast, prepped dinner for my brother and me (I’m his house guest) and now I’m looking at the LA skyline and trying to enjoy a few hours of peace. The sun is out and the sky is clear over the city. I can see Santa Monica and a thin strip of blue that I imagine is the Pacific. Beyond the balcony I can see cars zipping along what I think is the 5 Freeway. Culver City is in the distance and if I look across the rooftops, I can see Brad Pitt’s house (sans Angelina), I hear she bought Cecil B De Mille’s place.

OK, now that I got that all out of my system, back to writing. As I’ve been sitting in the house in silence, I’ve still been able to pick out some unfamiliar sounds and tried to identify them. I noticed that sound is one of the senses we don’t often describe in writing. We are visual creatures by nature and I believe that that is were we tend to focus on our attention, and our writing is ironically less colourful for it.

Try this, sit perfectly still and try describe the sounds this make around you. For inanimate objects that are inherently quiet, give them sound, like a chair, silent until it’s dragged across a stone floor, or until someone sits on it. The leather sinks and makes a squeaking sound from the person’s weight. The decorative throw pillows, rustle as he or she pulls them out from beneath their backs and are tossed on the nearby rug.

In the lower range of my hearing, I detect the sound of the clock in the kitchen ticking. My stomach makes a little gurgle as my breakfast, makes it’s way through and it does its work. There’s a hum from the air conditioner, struggling through contradictory instructions. He says keep it toasty, I say, send me a cool breeze. There’s some steam building up in the pressure cooker in the kitchen, where some chicken chilli my brother is fond of is simmering away. I can imagine the chicken, beans and corn cooking through and later, my hands shredding the breast meat with two handy forks in each palm.

I can almost hear the traffic down below, but that’s just my imagination. The balcony doors are shut and no sound come in. I’m alone with the appliances and limitless coffee. Not a bad way to spend the remainder of the day. Now, if I can just keep from worrying about how I’ll sleep tonight….

Happy writing. (write sounds)

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