My days in the night

I am making two weeks in Syracuse, and save the first two days, I haven’t slept since. Not joking. I get to sleep and my mind, which a friend of mine says is in overdrive, keeps working nighttime, throughout the day, nighttime, until it is morning of the next day and time to get out of bed. The first day I ‘woke up’ without having slept at all I said to myself, you are in a new environment. You have a lot to sort out; you need the nighttime on your side, while your mind and body need time to adjust. So I went about my business, clearing this, getting that, finding where what is on the campus…all the stuff a new student goes through. By the end of the day I was so tired I thought I would have a good night’s sleep. Nothing. Instead, I felt my brain stretched like guitar strings I was ready to bounce off and make music.

It’s been like that. I’ve taken on walking, morning and evening because it’s my hobby to walk long distances but also a good way of discovering and measuring Syracuse on foot. One would think my muscles would be in need of sleep by the time I get home. I have dinner—between 7pm-8pm, I read for some hours, write emails, skype, plan my route for the next day, make a list of any purchases I need, tie my day nicely in hope of a good night’s sleep. Nothing. Now I think I’ve given my mind, body and spirit enough time to re-adjust but for some reason they are in overdrive, heated, giving me reviews of my days that I do not need in my nights. In short it’s a conspiracy against me. It’s now a habit for them to bring me Clinton Square, music, food vendors and all, and take me through E. Washington, W. Fayette, Armory Square, E. Genesee, W. Genesee, N. Franklin, S. West, Adams St, Crouse Ave…streets I’ve been, of course, but places I do not need in my sleep.

I went to Farmers Market last Saturday, and got really excited seeing fresh produce my parents would have been happy to check the contents of my shopping bag: broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, green pepper, red pepper, mushrooms, and when I came across kiwi’s and realized I could buy four cute ones at less than a dollar, why, I sat on the street to steady myself. The berries I used to gather as a child but which for some reason had vanished from my familiar environment were all there before me. I wasn’t excited about the mangoes, apples and pears, my system could go for seven years without them, I felt, but those little black, red, and blue berries had my head turning. Now for three nights I’ve been ‘taken’ to the farmers market I am almost regretting why I went there in the first place. But that morning visit was glorious and it brought me childhood memories of food in abundance. To crown the day there was also a pumpkin cake, which tasted just as fine. It’s just that I didn’t think I was going to revisit the farmers market a hundred times in three consecutive nights.

Today I started to ask myself questions that psychologists normally ask: Am I anxious, worried or troubled in any way? A big No. I’m I emotionally burdened and restless? No. I’m I overly excited? No. On the contrary, I am at peace, for real. I feel grounded. Steady and very stable. Why then am I making two weeks of sleeplessness?

I’m now beginning to blame my lack of sleep on my studio apartment. Don’t get me wrong. It’s efficiently designed and beautiful. I like it. But psychologists tell us (I listen to psychologists, I used to be one of them) that you should not sleep and work in the same room. The computer, books and worktable should be in a place called Study Room, and the bed should be actively and purely for sleep, and may be…yes, just sleep. I’ve broken that rule, and being a light, night sleeper anyway, am suspecting that’s why when it’s time to sleep my mind stays at the computer table, and when I literally shift in bed and turn the other side my eyes rest on the books. They do not stop there. They go ahead to open what I have not read; bringing all kinds of images and stories it’s useless counting the legendary sheep, goats or donkeys. Trouble with me is that those goats and sheep become real, worsening my problem. When I begin at 200 downwards, 199, 198, 197…I arrive at 022 and wonder, what’s going to happen to all those goats I’ve been counting? Do they have enough grass to eat? Can they help themselves in a storm? What about in the fire? I’ve been listening to news of the California fire and the thunderstorms in central New York it’s only natural to pity the goats and sheep that would be out there when nature intensifies and brings attention to self.

Since am trying to minimize my journal writing, am blogging away my sleeplessness. I will log onto the Chinese alternative meds site and read all about Suan Zao Ren Tang Wan…I understand it calms the spirit, which helps to restore sleep. There’s also stuff from a friend concerning electrolytes, melatonin, why and how my brain chemistry is playing wakeful games. On the side he has ideas and biases about what might help. On my own I’ve given up lentils at night. I’ve noticed that if I need nine straight hours concentrating on a manuscript, essay writing, whatever, lentils will keep me energized, at my desk come rain or shine. That’s the message from my body concerning lentils. Therefore I can eat them as my morning/lunch boost but not at night. Whatever happened to the tea-tranquilizers? They work the opposite. Alert, alert. There’s a chapter in a management book on how to sleep in eleven seconds. 1. Close your eyes. 2. Imagine opaque. 3. My mind is already saying unless its figurative, it’s not wise, later on possible for a fiction writer to imagine opaque. Now am entering a debate with my mind what things one can imagine opaque and before I know it it’s not eleven seconds but two hours and am wide awake. Anyway, for now I’ll stay on the safe side of home remedies, Chinese therapy and grandma’s pumpkin cake. No matter what, life tastes better as a piece of pumpkin cake.

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One Response to My days in the night

  1. Charles August 26, 2009 at 1:29 am #

    Mildred,
    First welcome to the USA! Its nice to know you are closer than you used to be back in Dakar Senegal. I have really enjoyed reading about your experiences in the first few weeks of being in Syracuse! You are such an amazing story teller! But you are even more than that! There is something about the way you tell your stories that makes your reader a part of your very experience in such a way that they begin to see their own unwritten stories about their own lives! I mean you are just amazing! You are going to keep me coming back here simply to read everything you have written! It is very exciting to read your stories. I saw myself with you in Farmers Market, looking at those blue and black berries and I remembered mine in the refrigerator and wanted to go and make myself a smoothie! I loved the sense of humor exhibited through out the blog especially when you described how the smart advice on how to sleep in eleven seconds turned out to be a terrible remedy for sleep deprivation!
    Okay later dear.

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