Surprise! I’ve actually written something this week.
While I hesitate to bring my wife’s illness into these editorials (as anything other than an excuse for not getting the job done), the fact is, my life has contracted to being little more than caring for her, caring for my mother and monitoring the site as others do a fine job of maintaining it for me.
Other than the horror of watching your loved one suffer, there are two aspects of this illness/care-giving duality that are absolute hell on any creative process. The first is being completely and totally unable to schedule…anything. Personal needs may arise at any moment; medical needs as well, not to mention the 3 am need for a hug, a talk or simple commiseration. Between sitting down to write this and now, a span of approximately 40 minutes, I have had to serve breakfast, twice, clean up food spills
three four times, hold a cup that was initially too heavy (+now twice), deliver two emergency head scratches and shortly I will have to collect the breakfast tray, prepare medication and assist in a trip to the bathroom. Other things may happen as well…unplanned for other things that have no specific duration. This regimen normally takes place starting around 7 am, but today began at 9:40 am
Having previously worked in a few environments where emergency response is required, I have a few threadbare coping skills that allow me to (mostly) handle this with good grace.
What has been killing me though is the loss of regular sleep.
I have never been able to fall asleep easily, nor wake up easily. This is compounded by the fact that sleep is one of my favorite things. My record is somewhere around 28 hours.
Yesterday we had cause to deliver some fairly strong pain killers and this allowed Karen to sleep far longer than usual at a single stretch, which meant I was able to as well Five and a half glorious, uninterrupted hours, followed by a little over four more.
Unfortunately, all this did was remind me of how little uninterrupted sleep I am getting the rest of the time.
The kicker is we all have a sleep rhythm that lasts about 90 minutes and it seems that I am always awakened in the middle of my deep REM period. (The Walking Dead has nothing on this zombie!) Even before her illness, Karen always said that I was “scary” in the morning…I look mean, I’m definitely not operating on all cylinders and my hair takes on interesting forms and shapes only suitable for institutionalized mad scientists named Lazardo.
The worst was approximately a week of bathroom calls every 104 minutes. Karen’s system is nothing but regular, apparently, even despite the cancer. The phrase sleep deprivation does not even begin to convey what this does to your brain. Among the milder effects was finding myself standing in the middle of a room, having absolutely no clue as to why I was there or what I was supposed to be doing. Trying to treat a wound, involving numerous bandages, blood-staunching nostrums, and other medical devices on no hours sleep after five days of no hours sleep and I am sure you will have a greater appreciation for the medics who worked Omaha beach. I know I do.
Incidentally, the above two paragraphs were interrupted by medication time and a bathroom call, as well as re-arranging the bed and pillows for a more comfortable lie-down. This editorial, in the normal course of events, would have been finished far enough in advance of 11 am for me to be able to find and format the image of sleeping cats I want to use for the Featured Image. It is now 11:23….
Karen has taken her normal course of after breakfast meds, including what we call “sleepy time” and more of the aforementioned pain killer. I ought to be able to look forward to at least four hours of unwinding. The operative word here is “ought”.
I guess my point is this: sleep is an often unsung component of the creative process and now, not being able to get any of what one would call “quality sleep”, I have a much greater appreciation (and desire for) of it. All of you out there who write and edit and draw for my pleasure please make sure you are getting plenty of it, because if I can’t sleep, I need to rely on you all to help me get through it.