Drip, drip, drip — that’s what insomniac thoughts feel like, a leaky faucet behind the eyes. Last night the ideas were plinking; forehead-pounding regrets over past deeds, horrid fantasies, car crashes of expectations, unrealizable longings. It’s sheer torture. I don’t deserve it! Drip: Or maybe I do.
For decades, I have been spending my nights flopping around the bed and finally stomping to the medicine cabinet for anything that will put me under the waves. The story I recite to myself, often in the grips of sleep deprivation and to the rumble of garbage trucks, is that it all goes back to being awoken constantly as a kid by parents battling like Vikings in the living room.
I have done my share of meditation in that frayed state of wired exhaustion, but unlike the Romanian writer E.M. Cioran, I never learned to take serious instruction from sleeplessness. Born in Transylvania in 1911, Cioran hardly ever shut his eyes. In fact, at his death in 1995, there was exaggerated talk that he had not slept in half a century. Whatever his hours of slumber, the night watchman’s systematic reflections on the existential meaning of insomnia warrant the attention of our nation, which outpaces every country on earth in the consumption of sleeping medication.