Sleep/Swim

What happens when a girl from Boston moves to Japan? What happens when two friends try to fall in love?  What happens when you write a book?

My recent life has been an experiment.  Sometimes it has been thrilling.  Others, completely terrifying.  But mostly I am left with a feeling of quiet satisfaction.  There’s nothing out there like chasing a dream.

This September, I gave myself a little break.  Writing, for me, is a grueling process.  You can read through past entries and see my struggle to find balance.  I am at my most productive when I focus on my writing– just my writing.  There would be moments when I felt like I could keep all the juggling balls up in the air: my writing, my marriage, my other job, my other interests, and–most importantly–the people I care about.

But these moments were just that, moments.  I could have one day in a week where I felt like I could give my attention to all of those things, and would feel disappointed for not being able to maintain that for the other six days.

So for the past couple months, with my book finished, I decided to consciously put down my pen and try to tend to those other parts of my life that have been neglected.  I’ve been spending time with my husband, and hanging out with friends.  I’ve been painting and playing video games and reading the news and cooking new recipes and exercising.

Let me tell you, after two years of irregular exercise, working out is hard.

If the past two years have been an experiment in writing, the past couple months has been an experiment in living.  And I have been happy.  But, as the weeks went on, a new challenge arose: insomnia.

I blame video games.  Nothing makes you lose track of time like the addictive quality in killing off the next demon or walking corpse (my video game of choice these days is Diablo III).  Start playing after dinner and the next thing you know you’re trying to convince yourself to go to bed at 2am even though you’re not really tired.

I started wondering if that was my new normal.  Could I be the kind of person that did her best work at night?  Could I brew some coffee at 6pm for a long night of writing?  I returned home from the afternoon job and nights kept slipping by, not writing or working, but water coloring and watching TV.

And that buzzing joy I felt in the days spent living-not-writing was starting to fade, and a murky feeling of dissatisfaction started to creep in until I finally had to intervene.  But when my usual bedtime– midnight– came, I could not fall asleep.  It was a two hourbattle before my mind and body finally gave up the fight and I could rest, for a little bit.

I had never had trouble sleeping before.  Not like this.  I used to not understand why people would complain about insomnia.  It didn’t seem so bad to me– you had more time to do work!  This little bout that I’ve dealt with has showed me how frustrating it can be, how you can come to dread night.  I reached the point where I would be tired, but wouldn’t want to go to bed because I feared not being able to sleep.

After almost 2 weeks of this sleep performance anxiety, I went to my doctor.  I am not usually one to turn to my doctor for advice, but this new habit around bedtime really had to change.  He did what I suspected: hand me a bottle of pills and send me on my way.  My bottle of sleeping pills remains unopened, but I have been taking melatonin.  At first I was skeptical, but it has been working.  And I wake up in the morning, ready to write.

I try to remind myself that there is a difference between what you do and who you are.  I have been trying to live without relying on writing for a sense of identity.  But in this little experiment, I realized, quite literally, that writing is my reason to get out of bed in the morning.

 

P.S.  The title of this blog comes from band Mum, one of my favorite bands, who has a song with the same name.  Listen below–

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-s4UJrcgWM&w=420&h=315]