Sleepless In Suburbia

Sometime during the Obama Administration, I stopped sleeping.

Perhaps it began during my daughter's high school years, when I lay awake in bed on Saturday nights, waiting for the reassuring scrape of her key in the front door. There's a chance it followed the 2:45 a.m. emergency call from my mom in 2013 when my dad had a stroke. Or maybe it's a Pavlovian response to forgetting to shut off my iPhone one too many times, the muscle memory of incessant, round-the-clock buzzing as emails stack up like virtual cords of wood in my inbox.

Whatever the cause, nowadays the minute my head hits the pillow my senses go into overdrive. The rhythm of the ceiling fan ricochets in my ears. I think I smell something burning. My leg itches. I'm blinded by the tiny sliver of light peeking out from beneath the window shade.

And that's nothing compared to my train of thought, which goes something like this:

Do I hear a radio? I wonder if it's coming from next door. Sounds like Queen. I miss Freddie Mercury; I should send Jenna that Youtube video pitting him against Kanye West singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Wait. Is Bohemia called Czechoslovakia now? Damn. I should know that. Why did I never learn geography? It was always my Achilles Heel in Trivial Pursuit. Hey, we should play that the next time my family comes over. Or maybe Scattegories. I really should sort throughout all our board games in the coat closet. Crap--I need to pick up my coat from the dry cleaners. How many years has it been since our neighborhood dry cleaners closed? Time really flies. Time like an ever-rolling stream. Or is it ever-flowing stream? What is that from?

I get up and pee.

I return to bed, determined to think loftier thoughts. But then, unfortunately, I do.

I think about the election.

And then the day's headlines run like a ticker-tape through my mind.

Syrian refugees drown in the Mediterranean.

Another child killed in a drive-by shooting in Bronzeville.

ISIS burns women alive for refusing "sexual jihad."

Orlando. San Bernadino. Charleston. Sandy Hook.

Taliban starves town into surrender.

Former Speaker of the House convicted.

Boko Haram forces 50,000 to flee their homes.

IDF uncovers new Hamas attack tunnel.

A shriek rends the night. It is our elderly tabby, prowling the house and yowling like a drunken yodeler. The vet thinks she has dementia. Who knew that cats get Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's; ugh. Horrible disease. And how scary is that Zika virus? But those Rio Olympics? Amazing.

The clock blinks at me: 12:39 a.m.

I get up, do plantar-stretching exercises and lie back down.

I close my eyes, practice my yoga breathing and will my mind to go blank.

I awaken at 2:58 a.m in a miasma of dream fragments.

And this is how it goes. Every night, instead of sleeping, I take a series of naps.

In between, I contemplate whether it's too late to prune my lilacs and if Jenna needs a meningitis booster vaccine, why it seems impossible to find dresses with sleeves or a live person to answer the phone at a doctor's office, how to make a vegan version of my daughter's favorite pasta and if Alice Hoffman's newest book will be out before I go on vacation.

I worry about my mom. And global warming. And honor killings.

I rifle through my mental inbox, weighing themes for the next annual report and annual campaign, framing stock photo shoots and video concepts, outlining speeches and solicitation letters. Sometimes I get up and write little notes to myself, which in the morning light may be comprehensible, but rarely prove the brilliant insights I perceived them to be at 4 a.m.

Then, sometimes, I pray. For an end to sickness and famine. For the eradication of war and hate. For peace.

And I sleep.

A version of this post first appeared on JUF News.