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Leisure, Reality


by Tamlin Wightman / 02.10.2010

Insomnia. Few things are as excruciating as the deprivation of sleep. It’s torture. No matter how exhausted you are, you cannot doze off. I might as well have the Men In Black at my bedside playing bongo drums and throwing ice on my back. I may as well have a full blown orchestra tuning up alongside a mariachi band. I’d happily admit to a crime in exchange for sweet slumber. Yet the hours, days and weeks pass and I’ve managed to lose consciousness only for a little here or a daydream there. Sleep titillation. Never the fulsome restorative whack of 8 glorious hours.

In the film Fight Club, the fried narrator, schizo Ed Norton, says: “When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep… and you’re never really awake… With insomnia, nothing’s real. Everything’s far away, everything’s a copy.”

I live this way.

Words collect into mismatched sentences as I try to nod off. Things like: “She carries a vial of Vaseline around her neck”. From out of nowhere. What does it even mean? None of it makes sense. Thank Allah I am a writer, thank Krishna, thank Dreamworks and Random House, that I write. Without it, insomnia would have no purpose. And what is life without purpose? Insomnia!

Lucid dreaming is scary when you have a background in reality. I imagine, in my semi-awake, semi-asleep state, that my dog is a journalist! Why? I don’t freaking know. My dog lies in bed with her legs splayed, snoring and shaking in her dream world, hounding squirrels in a forest, while, next to her, I’m all insomnia.

I no longer know which world I’m in – real or imaginary. It all seems made up, a hallucination in which I’m down the rabbit hole with a light pointed in my eyes.

I just want to sleep. Let body and brain shut down. But there’s no switch. I am not a computer. We got a long way to evolve still. That’s how it feels. Stuck in a faulty, unformed self. The more I crave sweet slumber, the further away from me it runs. A sleep sadist, some spectre, puts matches in my eyelids. Rings bells. The fucker whistles and I open my itchy red eyes.

Insomnia is stronger than I am. Stronger than moon rock. Stronger than you. I am lost in a film that won’t end. No credits. No blackout. Just the machine reeling in the dusty light pointed straight at me. Remembering my childhood. Again! I’ve flipped through my own memories so often they fall apart like dust. Magic dust. Potions putting princesses to sleep.

When you’re an insomniac, you hate the sleep-fed masses. The rest of the world snores on clean cotton sheets while I lay in the dark. Awake. Daytime hallucinations. I’m driving and the road bursts and rolls towards me. A wave of tar and grass and dirt. Hallucinating while driving is not a good idea.

Everything is spiritual without sleep. My dog’s gentle wheeze and the plump bumblebee in the garden. Details seethe. A scraping pencil. An opened tap. The plane overhead. Smells sharpen. You go wolf-like. You’re not entirely human. Humanity sleeps. You’re an extra thing. An add-on. The un-dead. The blinking empty thing at war with the light. Insomniacs are in an unwanted heightened state all the time. I am awake. That’s all there is to say or do or be. As Philip Larkin once put it: “Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.”

I hate daffodils.

In these hours when the world is snoozing and I am here writing, my creativity portal is blown open. It is unimpeded by rationality. Sleep deprivation jumbles the mind so much so that a welcoming home is made for the bizarre.

So while you slip so smoothly, unthinkingly, into Dreamland, I will be here, in bed too, but creating one of the next literary greats. Or a bed time story for my future kids. Or maybe just a reason to be locked away for good.

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