How and why does the time so fly? It has been six days since my last post and I don’t know where they went. The days whisk past like leaves blown off a calendar: I can hardly remember what I did during those six days apart from hosting a 60th birthday party – the rest is a bit of a blur. Perhaps because of said birthday party…
But alas! The same cannot be said of my nights. The nights do not fly by. The nights crawl on bloodied knees like penitents on pilgrimage; they slouch towards Bethlehem like Yeats’ rough beast; they ooze and creep like lava: in short, I have only to lie my weary bones down in a darkened room for the brain to get up and stand over me with a long to-do list and insist on checking off every item and discussing them in detail. Then, having allowed me to doze fitfully until the small hours, it wakes me again with a completely black canvas labelled ‘The Future’. There’s no arguing with this blackness: I know very well that at this hour the blood-sugar levels are lowest, conspiring with the lack of daylight to produce Unbalanced Visions, but still it refuses to go away. And once I’ve spent an hour or two wrestling with it, the clock is creeping uncomfortably close to seven.
At such times, catching up with sleep becomes the main purpose of my day. Normal life is gone and will resume at that point where sleep is sufficiently caught up with: but that point recedes like a desert horizon as I advance towards it. It’s as if my mind is being managed by the most tyrannical of bosses. Whatever I try, he’s got the answer. Meditation? – all I need to do is hit you over the head enough times and you’ll soon stop. Relaxation? Fine, go ahead – you’ll never manage to relax me. And so on. I feel for insomniacs, I really do – because it takes over your life. Sleep becomes your raison d’etre. Sleep and only sleep.
And yet no-one really knows why we do it. It’s not just in order to rest: if it were, we’d feel sufficiently replenished after an afternoon’s sun or an evening’s telly. No; as a yoga teacher of mine used to say, the body needs rest, but the mind needs sleep.
Everyone knows that without sleep you eventually go mad. It’s the easiest form of torture and nowadays sleep seems harder and harder to get: we are more stimulated, more subject to noise and stress than ever before, and our sleep suffers.
I’m not like this all the time. I have periods where I sleep quite well: I know what it is to wake in the morning feeling refreshed. And my techniques do work – at least some of the time. But when that bastard brain gets it into his head to torment me – well, then I’ve had it. But I’m not giving in. I’ll beat the bastard yet.