A recent weeknight, 2:42 a.m.:
My eyes open slowly to the soothing blue numbers on my clock radio. My mind is empty. I see that it’s not time to get up yet – there are several sweet, heavenly hours of sleep left before the morning rush. The whole family is currently at some stage of recovery from the Horrible Flu of 2013, and sleep has proved to be the best medicine. I relax and let my upper eyelids drift down to meet their partners below, and snuggle down into the cozy covers.
As I drift off, I hear Ellie cough once from her bed in the next room.
A single thought inside my mind hears the sound and opens its eyes. It scowls, stretches, and sits up in bed. Then it gets out of bed and starts turning on lights. It pulls on some pants and grabs a rumpled shirt. It stomps around, looking furtively for a cup of coffee and someone to scold.
All the commotion wakes up a few more thoughts. Before long, about a hundred half-conscious thoughts are lined up and shaking their fists at me, demanding my attention. There’s no choice now. I’m doomed…to start…THINKING.
Ellie just coughed again. When will this illness ever end? We’ve all had it for so long. I’ve missed so much work already, I really can’t stay home with her. (Insert 5 minute work project thought diversion.) The Daddy can’t stay home either after missing so much work when he was sick. I guess I’ll have to take her to Grandma and Papa’s house. Although it would be really dangerous if THEY got this illness – you know all those stories about how the flu really can bring the elderly down…man, they would probably DIE. So if she has to stay home, what will we do? The Daddy and I can’t afford to risk our jobs. God forbid. If one of us lost our job, we’d lose all our savings, and then we’d lose the house. Of course we would! There’s no other way. I guess we could sell it. Houses in this neighborhood are selling well. We certainly wouldn’t make any money since we just bought it last year, but we could probably unload it pretty easily. I guess we could look at the condos near Ben’s school – those are really nice, and they even have that awesome pool! Although we’d need a down payment which we wouldn’t have after losing everything. I guess we’d have to look at apartments. I liked living in apartments. Although Ben & Ellie might have to share a room if we couldn’t afford a three bedroom. Or one of them could sleep on the couch, I guess. Maybe we could get a pull-out couch, or even a futon. I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of that futon we had when we first got married – that one was nice. It wouldn’t be so bad. But, geez, I can’t imagine any apartments would take a dog as big as Maya. They probably have weight limits, or size limits, or they charge an arm and a leg for deposits and extra monthly fees. That wouldn’t work out. What would we do with her? Maybe someone could keep her for awhile until we get back on our feet? OH GOD EITHER GRANDMA AND PAPA WILL DIE A PREMATURE HORRIBLE DEATH OR WE’LL LOSE EVERYTHING EVEN THE POOR SWEET INNOCENT DOG THIS IS UNBELIEVABLY HORRIBLE AND UNFAIR AND HOW IN THE HELL DID THIS EVER HAPPEN!!!!!
I sit up and try to make the thoughts stop. I consider waking The Daddy up to tell him that Ellie coughed so we either have to 1) callously sacrifice the lives of his wonderful parents or 2) move to a seedy, low-rent apartment and get rid of the dog. He’s sleeping so soundly, though, that it seems like it would be best to save the bad news for morning.
I get up and walk around a little. I get a drink of water and look out the window. Finally, I wander down the hall to Ellie’s room. There she is, there’s my beautiful little girl, pouting in her sleep a little, one hand tangled up in her silky brown hair. I climb in bed next to her and snuggle close. She finds my hand and laces her little fingers in mine. I listen to her breathing, and I manage to match my breath up with hers. Soon I’m drifting away with her, a stowaway on the peaceful voyage of her dreams.
The next morning, the whole thing was mostly forgotten, as these things usually are. Seems unbelievable, but it’s true. In fact, I didn’t give it much thought at all until my friend at work was talking about being tired because she was up in the middle of the night worrying that she and her husband were going to have to declare bankruptcy.
I said, “Oh my gosh – I hope that’s not really true, is it?”
“No!” she said. “I started thinking about one single bill I had to pay, and it all spun out of control from there. That’s what happens when I start thinking about things when I wake up in the middle of the night.”
SWEET FANCY MOSES! Just how widespread IS this crazeballs disorder? If there are two of us in the same small office, there must be tens of thousands in the general population who fall prey to this nighttime brain gobbledygook business. It only happens to me a couple of times a year – normally I sleep like I’m being graded on it – but my guess is others dabble in nocturnal catastrophe fantasies on a much more frequent basis than that.
If you’re one of them, I wish I had helpful advice, other than snuggling your four-year-old. If you don’t have one of those…well…bourbon? Ambien? Although I understand Ambien can cause unconscious night eating, as in someone I know personally took Ambien and WOKE UP WITH HER MOUTH PACKED FULL OF CHEWED UP GRAHAM CRACKERS with no idea when or how they got there. (Not to be too graphic, but the texture apparently suggested that the cracker remnants had been there for a significant period of time. Possibly hours! In her mouth! Dangerously close to the neighboring body parts responsible for breathing that must never ever ever be blocked!) That my friends, is a reason not to take Ambien if I ever heard one.
Anyway, here’s hoping for a peaceful night. Sweet dreams to me and all the rest of you crazy demented nutjobs out there! See you in the looney bin.* If you get there first, save me an Ambien and some graham crackers, mmmkay?
*Please forgive me if you feel that I’ve been insensitive here to anyone actually suffering from this kind of thing on a regular basis. It must be AWFUL, and I recognize that I’m only free to be so flip about it because it hardly ever happens to me. And the thing about bourbon being a solution – I was really kidding about that too, it just made me giggle when I wrote it is all, so I apologize if you are struggling with alcohol as a result of anxiety and it seemed like I was making fun. And if those of you suffering from infertility felt that I was insensitive for suggesting snuggling with a child as a solution, I’m sorry for that too – I’m such a jerk. And to the company that makes Ambien – I did not mean to suggest that your product would cause similar graham cracker capers in other people too, it’s just that it was such a dramatic and amazing side effect that I couldn’t help but mention it. I mean, that lady is probably the only one that ever happened to, even though her doctor said night eating was a known undesirable side effect. But what does he know? In fact, everyone just go ahead and forget everything you read here, okay? Don’t read this blog ever again, and just…don’t even look at me. Look away. LOOK AWAY!