LOSING THE SNOOZE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Snooze


I think I got maybe two hours of sleep last night. I have a few annoying ailments and three dogs who usually bark only at delivery people, my son, and any other dog.

Our neighbors have a couple of big dogs. In the past, they had a matched pair of mastiffs, but time marched on. Now they have a couple of boxers.

When The Duke barks an alarm like that in the middle of the night, I have to get up and see what — if anything — is happening. I’m pretty sure the neighbors aren’t walking their dogs. I doubt anyone is delivering. Not even Amazon.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I get up, limp to the living room. It turns out, they want a cookie. And some play time. They get the cookie, but I’m not feeling playful. I just want some sleep. Having been awakened, usually after just falling asleep, I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth again, and climb into my cozy bed.

That’s when I notice I itch. My undiagnosed eczema — or is it dermatitis? No one knows. It’s a wildly itchy rash with no known cause and I’ve been getting it off and on since I was in my twenties. You’d think, after 50 years of itching, I’d have a handle on it.

I don’t. I can deal with pain better than itching. I have chemical goop, over the counter chemical goop, natural goop, aloe growing in its own pot. Powder with something anti-itch in it. Everything works sometimes, nothing works all the time. During the day, I get involved in other things and it doesn’t bother me as much, but at night? Trying to snooze into dreamland? Hah.

And then there’s my back which only lets me sleep on it. I am, by nature, a right-side sleeper, but I can’t sleep on my side anymore. When I get a rotating combination of pain and itching … and the dogs bark too? A whole night passes and the big snooze eludes me.

Anything could happen!

I think I get most of my sleep during the day when I’m trying to clear out my email. Yesterday, I got almost 300 emails. One hundred and twenty-seven of them showed up in a batch and the rest kept dribbling in until finally, I deleted anything that wasn’t marked “payment due” and was more than 24 hours old.

Sleep? Great idea! Maybe I’ll get some tonight.

COMFORT LATE AND BED – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Comfortable

It is late. I am in bed. My mattress is new, but the bed is not. It is nearly 20 years old but if it is not the most comfortable bed in the world, it’s pretty close.

Tinted doll in the bedroom

The room is air-conditioned. Lightly air-conditioned. I’ve always been averse to heat but lately, I’m cold. The breeze from the fan means I put on long sleeves.

I’ve taken my sleepy medications and my eyes are closing. It doesn’t get better than this.

See you all in the morning.

FEAR OF SLEEPING, FEAR OF DREAMS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Fear

I thought maybe that buying a new mattress would help at least by lowering the level of a backache which wakes me up every couple of hours. A

Yesterday, we got the new mattress. It’s a honey. Soft enough, yet with an underlying firmness that probably means it will be with us for a while. It’s got a lot of soft top layers that will soften further and in a few months, it will be as comfortable as a mattress ever gets.

Sometimes during the middle of the night, with my left hip throbbing (I’m a left side sleeper and no matter how hard I try, I can’t convince myself there’s any other way to be comfortable) from the pressure on the sciatic nerves, I reconfigured the bed so I would pretty much have to sleep on my back, like it or not. That’s the advantage of an adjustable bed. You can make it the perfect place to watch TV or read or chat or any other thing you and your mate — or cat or dog or kids or everybody in one great heap — can do whatever. Or, in my case, sleep on my back which is the only way I can sleep that will get me out of bed able to stand up and limp.

I finally realized my back is too far gone. No mattress is going to solve the problem. The damage is severe, permanent, not repairable. There are no drugs to make the pain go away and no exercise will do more than ease it temporarily.

Moving around helps more than anything else — so part of the problem of going to bed for me is staying in a single position makes my back hurt worst. There have been many evenings when I’ve wondered if it’s worth going to bed.

I’ve developed a serious fear about going to bed.

Then, there are nightmares. These are dreamscapes of reality. Since November 2016, I have almost continuous and nearly real nightmares. These are utterly different than my old nightmares which were typically about stress at work — or my father.

These new anxiety dreams are about The World. It is falling to pieces. I travel someplace beautiful only to realize it is crumbling as I watch. Tall buildings fall. Cliffs collapse. The river turns an ugly glowing green. Fish float to the surface. Trees fall over.

I have political dreams. The most terrifying creature in my dreams used to be my father or some dreadful boss at work. Now? It’s you-know-who and his band of sickos. That DJT is a narcissistic sociopath we already know — but who are those people who (apparently) eagerly serve him?

What are they? Are they even human?

I’m ready to travel into the past, outer space, or some imaginary parallel universe. This one isn’t working for me.

A QUINTESSENTIAL NIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

A quintessential night and I’m too tired to hold my eyes open.

The quintessential night. My back hurt when I got into bed. I hurt slightly less when I turned on my left side but a few hours later the dull, throbbing ache had moved from quintessential to OWWWWW.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Only one thing helps and that’s moving the bed into an almost sitting position, taking much more aspirin than I should, a couple of tranquilizers (to get the muscles to calm down) and passing out for a couple of hours. I was really counting on NO phone calls and NO visitors. Lucky me. None showed up and Garry, one of the rare moments in our lives, got up before me.

Parked cars

By the time I got up, other than being zonked from an OD of over-the-counter medications, I was not screaming in pain. I wonder how much longer I can go like this?

Quick trip to the grocery. Frozen pizza for dinner. I was in no mood for cooking.

And it’s probably time for a new mattress. It has been 15 years and even a latex foam mattress grows weary.

The problem is, I’m weary. Trying to avoid getting whiny about it, as a life, this sort of sucks. Between the fibromyalgia, arthritis, heart, and a general sense of decrepitude, this is the quintessential stage when all the things that are wrong with me gang up and say “GOTCHA!”

I’m sure by this afternoon, I’ll be in a better place. Or maybe tomorrow. But right now, on a day that is the first cool and comfortable one in weeks, I HURT.

Just saying. And I really need to spend an hour in the grocery store, too. That will probably help. I may not want to do it, but going out and doing something helps. I hate the process, but the results are usually (overall) pretty good.

THE BALM OF WOE – Marilyn Armstrong

 There’s no making up for a lifetime of too little sleep.

A while ago, I asked Garry if he thought I would ever catch up on the years of very little or no sleep.

He said “no” and I think the same goes for him. We lived for many decades on short hours and long days. I still don’t sleep well.

There’s no way to make up for a lifetime of lost sleep. Some morning’s are better than others, but in the end, there’s always tiredness, the wistful feeling a couple more hours of sleep would have been so nice.

Have you ever met a dog with insomnia?

In answer to this morning’s question, I think the last time I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to dive into life was before my son was born — more than 49 years ago …

Come Sleep, O Sleep …

Sir Philip Sidney

Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
Th’ indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
Of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw!
O make in me those civil wars to cease!—
I will good tribute pay if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.


NOTE: If you read this sonnet aloud, “press” in Elizabethan English was pronounced “preese” to rhyme with release. At least, that’s what they told me in college.

NO TIME TO SLEEP – Marilyn Armstrong

Brain to Marilyn: Hey, get up. I’ve got stuff to do.

Marilyn to Brain: Shut up. I’m tired. Let me sleep or I swear I’ll take a pill and shut you down.

Brain (sullen): Fine. Be that way.

Marilyn drifts off to sleep for half an hour.

Brain: How about that dream I sent you eh?

Marilyn: That was horrible. Why did you do that?

Brain: I thought it was cool the way I turned butterflies into flying monsters. You didn’t like it?

Marilyn: No, I did not like it. And right now, I don’t like you.

Brain to Marilyn: Logic and Emotion are going at it again. Wow, this one’s a real knock down drag out fight. Loud, huh.

Marilyn to Logic and Emotion: If you guys don’t cut it out, I’m going to stop this car and you are both getting a time-out.

Logic and Emotion in chorus: HE STARTED IT MOM!

Marilyn to Logic and Emotion: I don’t care who started it. SHUT UP! I need sleep!

Logic and Emotion together (meekly): Sorry Mom. Don’t be mad …

Brain to Marilyn: I have a message from Spine. She says you need to take something for pain. Spine is unhappy.

Marilyn to Brain: Spine is always unhappy.

Brain to Marilyn: Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Oh, and Bladder needs a trip to the bathroom.

Marilyn: Oh fine.

Muttering all the way, Marilyn gets up, hauls self to bathroom. Comes back with Tylenol. Takes pills, crawls into bed pulling covers over head. Sighs and settles into the embrace of the most comfortable bed in the world.

Brain to Marilyn: Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a story! How about you write about our morning chats, huh? Wouldn’t that be neat? Come on, get up before you forget everything. Lazy daisy get your butt outta bed.

Marilyn to Brain: I haven’t had 6 hours of sleep yet. I’m too tired to write.

Brain to Marilyn: You are never too tired to write! Get up, get up, it’s morning.

Sounds: Dogs howling, yapping, more howling.

Marilyn: Can you make the dogs shut up?

Brain: Sorry, no direct access to doggie brains.

Marilyn to Brain: Okay. You win. I’m up, I’m up. Coffee. I hope we aren’t out of half and half. I’m never going to get a whole night’s sleep. I’m going to die of permanent, chronic sleep deprivation. I hope you are all proud of yourselves.

The mournful howl of canines is heard in the background. Day has begun. Soon there will be coffee and all will be well. Tired, but well.

Conference!

THE SIMPLICITY OF SLEEP AND WAKEFULNESS

COME SLEEP, O SLEEP …

Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
Th’ indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
Of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw!
O make in me those civil wars to cease!—
I will good tribute pay if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.

Sir Philip Sidney


I remember when going to sleep was simple. I changed into a nightgown or pajamas. I took off my jewelry. Brushed my hair. Brushed my teeth. Washed face and hands.  Plumped up the pillow, pulled up the covers — and went to sleep. Sometimes, I read for a while … and then fell asleep.

Last night, I went to bed. I did the whole nightgown, hair, wash, brush thing. Of course. Then I adjusted our electric bed trying to find the angle which would give me the least amount of pain in my back while keeping me sufficiently upright to continue to breathe.

I then took the various medications I take before bed — some for blood pressure, others for pain, and one for actual sleep. That was when I realized my rash was acting up. Damn. I put some cortisone cream on it, but that didn’t do it. So I went into the bathroom and used the other, stronger gunk. I stood there for a few minutes waiting for the gunk to dry, then went back to bed.

I realized I couldn’t breathe. I used the daily inhaler. Still couldn’t breath. Used the emergency inhaler — twice. Breathing restored, I realized my eyes were dry enough to feel like I had gravel in them. I found the eye-drops.

“Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch,” I said as the liquid hit the gravel. Garry couldn’t hear me. He had the headphones on and was deep in a western.

I tried another round of eye-drops. “OW!” I yelped. Two rounds of eye-drops later, the gravel had diminished. I realized I needed to do something about my incredibly dry lips. One round of chap-stick. Another round of chap-stick. One more round of chap-stick and by now, I’m wide awake. And my back was killing me.

I found the lidocaine cream. Applied it to my right hip. My left hip. Up and down the spine. Then — again — I waited for the most recent gunk to dry.

By now, a full hour had passed since I put on my nightgown and brushed my teeth. I had been sleepy, but by now, I wasn’t sleepy. Not a bit. I thought wistfully of those long ago days when going to bed was just … going to bed.

Worse, I still had to look forward to the thrill of getting out of bed. Convincing my legs and arms to wake up. Making sure my spine was going to let me stand  up and hopefully, walk.

Eyes – very dry!

The getting up ritual is a whole other thing, starting with around four in the morning when I start readjusting the bed. Because during the night, my spine will congeal into a solid lump of misery. I have to decide what — if any — medication will help. I have to be careful because I can only take a specified amount. If I take meds at four in the morning, I can’t take them later.

You get the idea.

Sometimes, the complexity of going to bed then getting up — first for medication and going back to bed. Next, rearranging the electric bed, trying to go back to sleep, hearing The Duke hit the door, knowing if I don’t get up and give everyone a biscuit he’s going to keep hitting the door until the door breaks or I get up and do the “Good Morning, beloved Dogs” thing.

Nothing is simple. Especially not simplest things.