[. . . ]But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Back in the day, when the late great Tommy Evatt suffered even the most trivial of disappointments, he would ironically assume a woebegone expression and sigh aloud, “I’m no stranger to heartache.”
Well, brother or sister, allow me the indulgence to channel Tommy, to assume that same sad-sack expression, and announce that “I’m no stranger to insomnia.”
Not only am I no stranger, I’ve been sleeping with Insomnia – check that – lying with her almost nightly for the past 28 years. The times I have awakened in the fell clutch of dark outnumber the kisses politicians of both parties have bestowed upon the ass of the Reverend Billy Graham, the number of recorded malapropisms uttered by former President George W Bush, the combined number of times the Atlanta Braves and South Carolina Gamecocks have broken my heart.
In other words, even Pieter Bruegel the Elder couldn’t cram the personified nights of my insomnia onto one of his grotesque canvases.
Virtually every weekday morning between 2:54 and 3:57, a circuit breaker trips in the fuse box of my mind, and – zap – I’m wide awake and know immediately there’s no use trying to reenter the dream that has abandoned me, that counting sheep would be the adult equivalent of a letter to Santa, and that I have at least an hour (sometimes two) of wakefulness to endure.
Now, if I were a Northern European, I might very well go all existentialist and project my disability onto the cosmos, but, goddamn it, I’m an American, and Americans are optimists, can-doers, money makers, so, of course, I’ve transformed the water-boarding my mind suffers in the wee hours into something positive. I have alchemized the belladonna of my brain chemistry into an elixir that can cure any disease short of – well, insomnia.
However, even though I haven’t yet found a way to free myself from insomnia’s web-like entanglements, I have developed techniques to transform the excruciatingly slow crawl of minutes into a space where you can do some heavy duty psychic lifting and develop plans for self-improvement.
In other words, I’ve written a self-help book for insomniacs, and because you who are reading this cri de coeur have not abandoned me up to now, I’m going to provide you this sneak preview absolutely free of charge.
This self-help bible begins with a personality test to pinpoint the chapters that are going to be most immediately beneficial to you. You know the tests I’m talking about, those fill-in the bubble surveys high school seniors take to determine if they’re better suited for engaging in armed combat or opening an antiques shop.
Here’s an example from the book:
Which one of the following activities is most likely to provide you with the most satisfaction?
1. Taking a long walk with that special someone on a pristine South Sea beach beneath a full moon.
2.Flying in your private Lear jet to address an auditorium teeming with adoring followers.
3. Enjoying a couple of lines of uncut Columbian cocaine.
4. Reorganizing your hopelessly disorganized friend’s lifestyle habits.
5. Reading and correcting reams of inexact writing from entitled adolescents prone to magical thinking.
Just for fun, let’s see if you can match those choices with the chapters most likely to benefit the chooser.
A. Starting up a Televangelism Empire
B. Careers in Pharmaceuticals
C. Overcoming Abusive Diaper Training
D. You, Too, Can Write Romance Novels
E. What If You Had Majored in Business Instead
Answers: 1. D 2. A 3. B 4. C 5. E
Each chapter provides a series of progressive mental exercises that are at once simultaneously mind-numbing but provide a foundation for steps up a staircase that leads to success.
For example, the first step in each of the chapters is “Writing Your Own Obituary.”
The next time you awaken in the middle of the night and realize that sleep, like the proverbial father who goes out for a pack of cigarettes, isn’t coming back, rather than flailing around fruitlessly cataloguing the mundane tasks that must be completed tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, compose in your head your own obituary. This positive exercise not only helps put those mundane tasks in perspective, but it also offers hints as to how you ended so fucked-up that now, even though you possess the godlike power to conjure on a whim whatever movie you want to watch at any moment, you’re so maladjusted that you can’t sleep six hours in a row.
Of course, I provide, an outline for an obituary:
[euphemism for dying]*
cause of death [optional]
spouse if any
date of death
- career and/or marriage
and also a model:
After a cowardly skirmish with cancer, Wesley “Rusty” Moore, husband of Judy Birdsong, entered the godless realm of oblivion on Thursday April 1 2023.
A son of the late Wesley E Moore, Jr. and Sue Blanton Moore, Wesley/Rusty was born 25 December 1950 in Summerville, where he attended public schools. Upon earning is BA from the University of South Carolina, unable to find gainful employment, he immediately entered graduate school where he met his future wife Judy Birdsong at a bar where they both worked. It was, as “Rusley” liked saying, “a marriage made in Milwaukee.”
After the wedding, the Moores relocated to Charleston, South Carolina. Although a graduate school dropout with a checkered transcript, “Rusley” was able to secure employment at Porter-Gaud School, thanks in part to his hobby of hypnotism. At Porter-Gaud he spent 30 years reading and correcting reams of inexact writing from entitled adolescents prone to magical thinking.
Wesley never met a stranger he wasn’t leery of and always had something cynical to share with the few friends he cultivated during his life.
Surviving in addition to his wife of Folly Beach are two sons, Harrison Moore of Washington, DC, and Ned Moore of the Khovsgol Province of Inner Mongolia.
In Lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Communist Party, 44 Ginsberg Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209.
Each specific chapter offers exercises that could possibly lull curable insomniacs to sleep but also provides incurables with a chance to turn a typical time of anguish into something positive. For example, an early mind numbing exercise for aspiring romance novelists involves cataloging chronologically people they’ve kissed. One later visualization exercise guides the initiate to imagining cinematically the first kiss of her catalogue blooming into the 52nd shade of gray.
The general idea is to transform wasted hours into time well spent.
Let me seal the deal. This very blog post is the fruit of last night’s insomnia, and, presto, already, I’m climbing that stairway to stardom.