Take me back, sleep

It’s a scale that runs only from “none” to “poor,” but some time in the early afternoon every day my body and outlook tell me in terms indisputable what kind of night’s sleep I had the night before. You’d think I’d know sooner, but the combination of caffeine and the golden span that morning has always been to me masks the truth until sometime between 12:30 and 2 p.m., i.e., right now.

Today’s report: none, or close to it. Forge on through the fog with dead legs, scant joy, duty only.

That nature still vouchsafes me those morning hours is a blessing I do not take lightly. They are when language runs cleanest; music and its challenges seem comprehensible, surmountable; people are cool; and the trails of the summer mornings beckon me in deep. Real consequence and import attend the decision I must make every day. What to spend the morning on?


I suppose I am fortunate that the answer is not expense reporting five days, lawn care two. I have a lot to do, but, at present and if I have my way straight up to the day when I’m ashes in the hourglass of an urn, I decide when to do it.

I have made progress with sleep lately with some inverted Poseidon Adventure meditative praxis. I go up to go down. If I feel I have hit the place of futility and despair where there is no natural path back to sleep, I wake myself up enough to perform, in bed, a lengthy deep-breathing exercise with some visualization and incantatory self-messaging.

At first, this requires an investment of energy and will, which wakes me more, but as the breathing becomes the focus and verbal and visual thinking settle and still the body begins to float, and I become content that if I cannot sleep this is second best.

After a spell of no fixed length and with no clear cues or benchmarks, I roll over and, in the high diction and performative humility of supplication, I say something like, “Sleep, take me back, if it is your will.”

Not only does sleep usually come when so bidden. It’s the other sleep, the one that is more than surface deep, a sleep I haven’t known consistently in decades.

Often, I come to in exactly that rolled-over position, uncertain whether any time has passed at all, and find it is three hours later. I note the waterlogged inflammation in my joints and know I have gone deep. Detailed memories of bizarre dreams then flood back, like they did when I was 14, and I am encouraged that the day ahead might feature more than four good hours and a brighter aspect.

But that didn’t happen last night.

Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.