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.

LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE

WE LET THEM LIE AND CATCH THOSE ZZZZs. We wouldn’t want them too exhausted to beg for cookies or race around tearing up the joint, would we?

Rest, sweet Duke
Blizzard in January!
Sleeping swan with head under his wing

Sleeping dogs are a favorite subject. They are quiet and I can focus the camera! Yes, focus. And no one tries to stick his or her big wet nose up the lens.

Arizona desert – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Yellow stone Arizona desert – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Gibbs
Bonnie

TO SLEEP, PERHAPS TO DREAM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Falling asleep is usually not a problem for me. I can nap during the day and when I wake up during the night, I can usually fall right back to sleep.

I have had training for this. My first child, David, was not a good sleeper. He gave up napping early and stayed up late every night. He also woke me up three times a night for two solid years. And he would only go back to sleep if I nursed him. I let this go on way too long. But our pediatrician kept reassuring me that David would stop nursing when he was ready. I was convinced that he was not going to give up my breasts until he found someone else’s he liked better!

Reading at bedtime with David

Anyway, I trained myself to go back to sleep three times a night. It wasn’t that hard because all I had to do was pick up a baby and sit with him in a comfy chair. I could close my eyes and keep myself from fully waking up. Sometimes HE had trouble falling back to sleep. Then I would have to walk with him and sing to him for a while. The one song I sang for both kids, every night, was “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, by John Denver, also recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary. I don’t know why I picked that particular song, but that became “our song”. But most nights, our routine went smoothly and post midnight serenading was not required.

Nursing two-year old David

I have a similar problem now. This time, I’m not wakened by a baby. It’s my dogs. One dog. She wants to eat breakfast between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM. She jumps on me and sticks her nose in my face. If I ignore her, she whines and paws me.

So now I get up at the crack of dawn every day. I am not an early riser. Tom and I are retired so we stay up very late and sleep late. I want to go back to sleep as quickly as possible after feeding the dogs. My experiences with David have served me well.

Remy, the dog who wakes me up every morning

However, to feed the dogs, I have to go downstairs, get out the dog food, measure it out and put the right dose of medicine into my older dog’s bowl. The whole process takes maybe three minutes. Then I’m back upstairs and back in bed.

The problem is that I have to be awake enough to do a precise task correctly. Because of this, sometimes my adrenaline kicks in and I wake up completely. When that happens, it’s hard to go back to sleep.

Parts of the morning feeding ritual

When I can’t sleep, I use a Yogic breathing exercise that relaxes the nervous system. This usually works pretty quickly. When it doesn’t, I often get a head start on the morning’s news on my phone. Eventually my eyes will start to get heavy and I’ll be ready to fall back to sleep. I don’t usually toss and turn for hours in the wee hours of the morning.

That only happens when I can’t go to sleep at night. That’s when I have to get out of bed and read or write till 3:00 AM. I watch the clock tick off hour after hour and get anxious and upset. That sucks. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often. My forays into the wee hours of the morning are mostly limited to my daily doggie breakfasts.

Now, when I’m feeding the dogs, I think back to when sleep deprivation involved an adorable little human. History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.

SHARING MY WORLD HAVING PASSED MID-SUMMER

Share Your World – July 17, 2017


What is your favorite cheese?

Still-life with cheese

Bleu cheese is my favorite, with Jarlsberg right behind it. Any good Swiss cheese will improve my sandwich. Third place? Very sharp cheddar. But to be fair, I like almost all cheese.

Are you left or right-handed?

Absolutely right-handed. My mother could do most things with either hand, including writing. I did not inherit that. I wish I had.

Do you prefer exercising your mind or your body? How frequently do you do either?

I used to love both. Then I got sick. Now I am gradually getting better, but at this age, it’s a lot slower than it was when I was younger. “Bouncing back” from illness is a rougher road in your seventies.

Meanwhile, my brain gets a lot of exercise. I often wish I could simply turn it off, especially at night.

Sleep tight

Have you ever noticed that cats and dogs do not get insomnia? Just saying.

Complete this sentence: Hot days are …

I’m okay in relatively dry, hot weather, but we get hot and humid and I hate it. Even if it isn’t very hot, it’s super sweaty weather. Sometimes, the air doesn’t feel like air. It feels like hot soup and I can’t breathe. I’m a big fan of air conditioning!

COME SLEEP, OH SLEEP

On a morning like this one, “create” hardly seems relevant. Late to bed and early to rise isn’t a good combination for the most tired amongst us and my lids are heavy with sleep … and the contractors — for whom I rose so early — are not here. Why am I not surprised? Although it isn’t raining — yet — there is a promise of rain later. If they don’t get here soon, the whole process will be deferred until next week. This rain, like so many others this year, will be several days before clearing.

The best sleepers are fully furred … Have you ever met a dog or cat who had insomnia? Me neither.

The tiredness factor plays a much bigger role in creativity these days than ever in the past. One of the big differences that comes with aging is the “limited bounce-back” effect. The younger you are, the more you bounce back from adversity. Tiredness, colds, flu … just about everything. The three-day sniffles of your thirties become the several week-long coughing, sneezing exhaustion of your seventies. It’s not that you don’t recover, but it takes longer. The tiredness you could sleep off in one long night takes a good many nights today. Sleep is less deep and mostly, briefer.

The experts, whoever they are, say we need less sleep as we get older. I don’t doubt their well-researched beliefs, but I have a nearly constant sense that a few good hours of really deep sleep could go a long way towards fixing what ails me.

And with that, while still optimistically awaiting the contractors, I think I’ll get another cup of coffee.