Something very strange has been happening lately, something very strange indeed. I am almost afraid to mention it, because it’s the kind of thing that if you talk about it, you can jinx it.
This, before getting to my point, brings me to my word history lesson for the day. I subject you to these lessons because I find them fascinating, and as soon as I learn something new I am compelled to tell everyone else. The word jinx appears to come from the name of a bird, the wryneck. The wryneck is a type of woodpecker that can twist its neck around in a creepy way, as if it’s “jinxing” you. And what is its Latin genus? Jynx! There you go. Consider yourself etymologically enhanced.
Jinxing something by talking about it, by the way, which is also not getting to my point, seems to be related to baseball, specifically to a pitcher pitching something that isn’t, that is, a no-hitter. If you talk about how there hasn’t been a hit, there will be a hit. Hey, no hit! Hit. Or four-letter words to that effect.
My point is, to get to it, I figured out how to get to sleep.
Oh, big whoop.
Stop yawning, all of you. I know you’ve been sleeping since you were infants, and so have I, but I lost the ability to do easily about 25 years ago and it has been horrible. It became particularly problematic when we moved from Maine to the Outer Coast in 2004, 3000 miles and three time zones away from everyone I worked with in Florida, where they all started work before the sun had even cracked an eyeball out here (which, given the weather, was only about one day out of 23 anyway). Suddenly my secret luxury of snoozing until I absolutely had to stumble to the computer in my jammies was cut short.
Working from home, as I had been doing since the early 1990s, is a great solution if you have the right kind of job and the “right” kind of health problem. M.S. is one of those health problems, especially if one of the worst symptoms is fatigue, which it is for me. This is not fatigue like you did a bunch of yard work fatigue, or you hiked the Appalachian Trail fatigue, or you just swam the English Channel fatigue. Unless you had a Bradley tank strapped to your back while you did it. That’s just an approximation, of course. And it only covers physical fatigue, not the mental fatigue and emotional fatigue that comes with M.S. also.
But now that I was in Olywa, my decent arrival of 9:00 AM was their indecent arrival of NOON WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?!?!?!?!? and they understood intellectually about the 3000 miles and three time zones and everything BUT WE HAVE PROBLEMS HERE YOU KNOW and how was your weekend WE HAVE BEEN WAITING ALL MORNING WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE TO REBOOT??? so I usually didn’t talk too much about not sleeping well with my co-workers.
Speaking of co-workers, I once worked for an editor who was very persnickety about the word “co-worker.” He gathered the entire staff around him one day, all 50 of us, and explained in great detail, how we must never leave out that little hyphen between the “o” and the “w” because if we did, you see, we risked, and he said this with all seriousness, we risked people reading it as “cow orkers.” I do not know what an “orker” is. Maybe that is why he was the editor and I wasn’t.
Anyway, years of sleeping pills, sleep routines, mind-numbingly bad books, mind-numbingly bad TV, guaranteed sleep this, and guaranteed sleep that, you name it, done it, tried it, all came to a nightmarish halt during the 20-day vacation at Providence St. Peter Hotel Hospital last August. Somewhere between trying to impress the nurses on the neuro ward by being the ideal patient and trying to get away from Fox News All. The. Time., I stopped sleeping, even with the yummy hospital drugs.
But the yummy hospital drugs did teach me something. They taught me haziness. And for this I have to thank the nurse in the rehab unit, who was always willing to strap me back into bed at night when I tried to wiggle free, and snarl, “Get some sleep,” at me. It was for my own good, really, because she knew I was going to have to gimp-walk the next day in front of incontinent old ladies and brawny young men who’d run their motorcycles off the road and would never walk again. Telling me to get some sleep was really telling me to let the haze from the drugs wash over me until I could at least remove myself a degree or two from my surroundings.
I believe the technical term for this is daydreaming, but I’ve also heard it called dissociation. Depends on what professional degree you have. Since mine is in English, I’ll stick to calling it daydreaming, even though I try to sleep mostly at night, except for naps, which I tend to do during the day. Friends of mine who have practiced dissociating professionally tell me that you can get dissociated permanently if you’re not careful, sort of like crossing your eyes permanently, if you cross them too much, or going blind if you—ahem—do something else too much. I hasten to add that my daydreaming is strictly G rated. Well, PG rated. Well, M sometimes. Never beyond M. Really. What sort of girl do you think I am? My brain is not that damaged.
The haziness lets my thoughts go off into my comfort zone of warm images from my life, off to distant places of fond memory, back to pleasant scenes with friends and family, cozy moments when Band-Aids fixed everything, quiet moments sitting under forsythia bushes and studying pure gold flowers against pure blue sky, an unbreathable time watching a flock of cedar waxwings feast on a tree of apple blossoms, a brilliantly bright time of my son smiling at me when I finally open my eyes at the hospital.
Sleep seizes the moment to steal over me, to claim its power over my worries about all of the cuts and bruises in our lives. Ah, if only Band-Aids still were the only cure for everything!
Well, enough of that. Now, if any of my former cow orkers are reading this, would you mind setting your clocks back three hours? I need a nap.