Ah, life. As the saying goes, it’s a bitch. After a week on vacation during which I managed to get my body clock back on track, it took three days and one phone call with my old boyfriend (a.k.a. the Love of My Life, or LOML) to screw it up again. Even my mildly sedating anti-depressant couldn’t knock me out before 4:00 a.m.
In my younger years, I didn’t even understand what insomnia was. You’re tired, you sleep. Who the hell couldn’t manage that? The only two times I can remember not being able to get to sleep were when I had my tonsils out at age 7 and stayed awake during my entire admission except during the actual surgery (my younger brother had died five months earlier and to me, hospitals were where children died, so I must have decided that I’d better stay awake just in case) and again in my mid-20s when the aforementioned old boyfriend called to tell me he was getting married (it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re sobbing uncontrollably for about 12 hour straight). Besides those incidents, I never had trouble sleeping until maybe my late 30s.
For a while, I took a nightly tablet of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. That worked reaonably well and I was able to stop taking it after a few months.
Then came menopause. I couldn’t fall asleep, couldn’t stay asleep, and never awoke feeling rested. It was my psychiatrist who, in the context of a review of my meds (better living through chemistry!), suggested adding trazodone, a mood elevator that can also help insomnia related to depression. I’ve been sleeping pretty well ever since.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t things that can and sometimes do make it harder for me to drift off into dreamland. I have a tendency to use my laptop or cell phone right before going to bed, a habit that is considered a significant contributor to sleep disturbance. Apparently the electronic glow of the screen stimulates something in the brain that keeps us awake. It wasn’t such a problem years ago when the only lighted screen we watched at night was network television, but such screens are ubiquituos now. And come to think about it, I did sleep much better when I read a chapter or two of a good book before turning out the lights.
Technology aside, another major impediment to sound sleep is mental activity. Most people experience occasional times when their minds run like a freight train and prevent them from relaxing. It could be because of stress at work, worry about a sick family member or friend, or even just having attended a high-activity event after which it takes a while to unwind. If such a mental marathon meets the physiological effects of looking at an electronic screen, watch out.
Which is apparently what happened to me Tuesday night. After talking to the LOML for over 45 minutes, I proceeded to turn it over and over and over in my mind,, analyzing and trying to make sense of every word. Then I journaled about it, which might have helped me untangle it and usher in a restful night if I hadn’t done it in an online journal. Yep, the lit screen again.
It had been so long since I took that long to fall asleep (did I mention it wasn’t until about 4:00 a.m.?) that I had forgotten how miserable it was. It was enough to make me get serious about laying off the electronics before bed. And if I must, I will follow it with a half hour of reading a book or magazine (paper, not virtual) or listening to relaxing music with the lights dimmed.
Those things I can control, unlike the situation with the old boyfriend.
(* Pat yourself on the back if you got the Beatles reference in the title.)
Long-time regular readers of this blog might be aware that I have an ex-boyfriend whom I’ve never quite been able to put behind me. I learned several years back that he wasn’t able to put me behind him, either. Without going into details, he isn’t available. Nonetheless, we have maintained a very occasional communication, more or less limited to major holidays and each other’s birthdays, usually a text message, very rarely a phone call.
I told him a while back that such an arrangement wasn’t acceptable to me. I also told him that he had to be the one to end it because I did so 30 years ago and have regretted it ever since. I’ve tried to be patient while he comes to terms with what he has to do.
Yesterday was my 52nd birthday. For the first time since we reconnected in 2009, I didn’t hear from him. I can think of a few possible reasons:
- He is dead or otherwise incapacitated,
- Some other grave matter has kept him from communicating,
- He is somewhere without cell service, or
- He just decided not to call.
I pray it isn’t 1 or 2. I would understand 3. But my fear is that it’s 4. Our situation is such that I have decided not to initiate direct contact right now.
Once, he read this blog regularly. I don’t think he has for quite some time. But just in case he’s reading now, here’s a message:
LOML, don’t be this cruel. Please contact me, if only to let me know you’re OK.
Gone but not forgotten:
Although we are apart,
Your spirit lives within me,
Forever in my heart.
Forty-five years ago today, my uncle died in a car accident. He was 18. In addition to his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and friends, he left behind his fiancee. She posted the above quote this morning on her Facebook page.
Janet has never forgotten my uncle, and she has never pretended that she doesn’t miss him every day. She eventually married, had children, and is now a grandmother. She and her husband seem to have a strong, loving marriage, despite the fact that he knows she will always love someone else, too. Or maybe because of it.
Love, if it’s real, doesn’t end when the other person goes away. It took me a long time to understand and accept that. I am thankful to Janet for reminding me.
From the novel Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross:
Strange, the workings of the heart. One could go on for years, habituated to loss, reconciled to it, and then, in a moment’s unwary thought, the pain resurfaced, sharp and raw as a fresh wound.
A Zen koan:
Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master.
Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.
Eshun did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written to her, she said: “If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.”
It’s hard to be loved in secret. I realize that more acutely as I watch my friends, a couple I met I college, prepare for the death of one of them. The end of his life is near. She sits by his bedside, holding his hand, even though he sleeps most of the time.
I envy them. Not what they’re going through right now, which is agonizing and heartbreaking. But they are together. They can express their feelings freely to each other in the presence of friends. When they are no longer together, it won’t be by either’s choice. And the one who is left will be able to grieve openly.
Not everyone is so fortunate.
When I saw you, I fell in love. And you smiled because you knew.
It wasn’t quite that simple; it took each of us a little to realize how the other felt. But in retrospect, it seems that it was clear from the start. When he left after three days, I had a sense—the significance of which I was too young to recognize—that my future was leaving with him.
Thirty-one years ago today, I first met the Love of My Life. They haven’t been the easiest 31 years, but I wouldn’t give them up for anything.
Happy anniversary, LOML, and please excuse the minor liberties I took with these Eric Clapton lyrics.
If I could reach the stars, I’d pull one down for you
Shine it on my heart so you could see the truth
That this love I have inside is everything it seems
But for now I find it’s only in my dreams
That I can change the world
I would be the sunlight in your universe
You would think my love was really something good
Baby, if I could change the world
If I could be queen, even for a day
I’d take you as my king, I’d have it no other way
And our love would rule this kingdom we have made
‘Til then I’d be a fool wishing for the day
That I could change the world
I would be the sunlight in your universe
You would think my love was really something good
Baby, if I could change the world
To most people, today is just another day. But the more enlightened among us know it as the birthday of some of history’s most important and accomplished people:
- 1475 — Michelangelo Buonarroti Simoni, painter, sculptor, and architect
- 1619 — Cyrano de Bergerac, playwright
- 1806 — Elizabeth Barrett Browning, poet
- 1900 — Lefty Grove, Hall of Fame pitcherr
- 1906 — Lou Costello, comedian
- 1926 — Alan Greenspan, economist
- 1937 — Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space
- 1944 — Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, operatic soprano
- 1946 — David Gilmour, rock guitarist
More significant than all of them, however, is the Love of My Life. Happy birthday to him.
Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope those of you who have someone special with whom to celebrate enjoy yourselves. I can count on one hand the number of Valentine’s Days for which I’ve had a boyfriend, so it’s just another day for me, working all day and then doing nothing unusual at home this evening. Maybe I’ll pop in a DVD. Or wash my kitchen floor. Or something.
In 21st century culture, Valentine’s Day, at least as celebrated in North America, is a hyper-commercialized excuse for florists, greeting card companies, and chocolatiers to make a buck. But it’s also a good opportunity for people in love to remind each other of their feelings, which they can do sincerely at little or no cost. I have done so for the Love of My Life here, for his eyes only.
For the rest of you, I’m happy to provide a (very) little historical background, because I consider it my solemn duty as a blogger to edify my audience every so often. Saint Valentine was a third century Roman priest who, tradition states, aided jailed martyrs and was subsequently himself martyred for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. How he came to be associated with romantic couples is not certain, but the pairing of love and martyrdom gives new meaning to the phrase “I love you to death,” doesn’t it?
…virtual mistletoe and a long distance dedication to the Love of My Life, who can click here to login.
The rest of you are welcome to avail yourselves of the virtual mistletoe by taking your tablets or laptops and holding them over the heads of those you’d really like to kiss.
Three weeks from today, I will host my first ever Thanksgiving dinner. Some of you might ask how I got through 24 years of post-collegiate adulthood without ever having had to cook dinner for a houseful of people. It was simple: I had an apartment that couldn’t accommodate more than three people at the table.
Now that I’m a homeowner, I have a dining room table that can seat six, plus a folding table that I can set up on the other side of the living room-dining room doorway for four more. Using all my fingers, I realized that I could have the Den Son, the Den Parents, and the Den Brother’s family, and still have one spot left for a friend who might have nowhere else to go for the holiday. That realization triggered a moment of delirium in which I announced that Thanksgiving 2011 would be at my house.
Planning a big holiday dinner isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. In recent years, I have taken on an ever greater share of the cooking at my mother’s house; last year, I did everything except the turkey itself, plus all the setting up and cleaning up. My mother insisted on holding on to the turkey, stuffing, and gravy. I made my award-winning spiced pumpkin cheesecake, but we ordered the pies from a bakery.
But I can’t very well have someone else roasting a turkey in my kitchen. So my order is in for a 16-pound fresh turkey from Bob’s Turkey Farm of Lancaster, Massachusetts. I spent this evening going through recipes for vegetables of many colors, flavors, and textures (just to make it interesting) and even found a cornbread and fruit stuffing recipe that, if it tastes as good as the recipe sounds, I will adopt as my own for future years. The pumpkin cheesecake will be there, as will apple, pecan, and pumpkin pies from DMM, who insisted she could do that much, and of course I agreed. She makes great pies.
As any gracious host or hostess knows, there is more to entertaining than merely food and drink. The atmosphere is important, too. That’s why this weekend, nine months after I moved, I will paint my living room and dining room. And if anyone decides to help, maybe the family room, too. No more spackled holes in the walls, no more artwork and knickknacks shelves and clocks lying around waiting to be hung, no more paint chips taped up to show visitors what it’s going to look like eventually. I even got an accent chair to fill the space in the living room that’s been waiting for just the right piece.
Most importantly, the fireplace is ready to go. I’ve been saving old newspapers in my cellar for fire starting, gathering twigs and sawing fallen branches for tinder and kindling, and amassing a neat stack of split firewood in the garage. By the time I got all the boxes cleared out of my living room after the move and got my new furniture, it was well into spring and too late to use the fireplace, so this will be its maiden voyage, so to speak, unless I decide to give it a test run before then.
It’s natural around this time, at least for me, to start thinking about things for which I am thankful. The list is long; my life isn’t perfect, but I am fortunate in many ways. My family, health, and home are at the top of the list. I have wonderful friends. I have a job that I don’t particularly like, but it’s more than a lot of people can say right now. Yet despite—or maybe because off—my many blessings, the lone dark spot seems particularly obvious.
Why is it that matters of the heart manage to color everything else? I remember a time, not all that long ago, when my happiness made the whole world seem more beautiful. Now everything is drearier. Every social occasion reminds me of someone I wish were there but isn’t. Good news is blunted by the absence of the one person I most want to share it with, and burdens feel heavier without the sounding board I used to have. Mostly, I’m just lonely. I wish I could be satisfied with a substitute.
Fourteen months of this, with precious few bright spots, and no end in sight. You’d think it would get better. I wonder if I’m supposed to find comfort in knowing that, since I’ve survived a broken heart before, chances are that I’ll be able to do so again.
The January selection for my quarterly book group is a series of books collectively called The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The three books—The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay—were written as “Young Adult” fiction but, much like the Harry Potter books, appeal to older people as well. I’ve already finished the series even before almost anyone else in the group has started. The ending of the third book gives me something to hang onto. The protagonist is trying to rebuild her life after a series of monumental physical, mental, and emotional trials.
What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again.
[ . . . ]
That’s when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do. It’s like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.
But there are much worse games to play.
I guess that’s what I’ll try to do, too. Maybe Thanksgiving will help.