One of my friends affectionately calls me “Tyler,” a reference to the formidable character in Chuck Palanhiuk’s novel (later made into the film), Fight Club. Rest assured, the nickname has not come about because I organise underground fight nights—at least, not that “I” am aware of—but rather because I have a tendency to split into one of two parts somewhere between 11pm and 2am. If you suffer from insomnia, intense dreams, or both, then you’ll likely have a sense of what I mean by this. Between this window of time I become one of two characters: one who performs her sleep poorly but adequate-just-enough, or one who slips into a dream-world ruled by a sardonic third-eye that’s more obsessed with carnage than peace.
I have lived with this condition for so many years that it is a common-place object of my life. Over the past eighteen months, however, I have attempted to change that. I have been working persistently to undermine the deceptive night time character. Yoga, meditation, journaling, stretching, deep breathing exercises, counting, visualising, natural sedatives, artificial sedatives—you name it, I’ve tried it. Sometimes, one of these things, or perhaps a combination of them, seems to work. This compels me to keep trying, keep organising my days, keep counting my cups of tea, keep avoiding stimulating night-time activities (like reading the news, or watching an emotionally-upheaving movie).
So when I feel the stitch holding my body to sleep unpicking, more than just my sleep is unravelled. In the morning when I try to slide out of bed, exhausted from fighting all night—either against my conscious mind’s perpetual humming or against my subconscious mind’s perpetual attacks—I am undone. At this moment it becomes clear that it matters not how well-managed my days are, how meticulously I compartmentalise my study routine, my exercise schedule, my commitment to ‘spiritual health,’ my caffeine intake; when those restless monsters of the night visit, my organisation, commitment, time management and for want of a better phrase, my optimistic outlook, is dismantled. Upon waking I am destroyed and my gaze is folding only inwards, into itself. I see inside this house, this room, this bed, this body, this head, this forehead, this twitchy eyelid, this itchy eyelash. Beyond these things is incomprehensible; beyond these things does not exist.
In a recent dream, my friends and family were celebrating my birthday, a milestone, well before I was at the party. I arrived very late, distressed, a feeling that became exasperated as I watched myself play the birthday girl all wrong: I brought my camera but no memory card (oh no, I will never remember it, now!), I forgot to thank everyone for coming and my Dad for hosting, I spoke only briefly to some guests and failed to see others at all. The guests were having a rollicking good time— well-fed, drunk and laughing. And then it was the end of the night and I was melancholy watching them leave before anything had “happened.”
This dream felt just like the slippery shapeshifting I do between waking life and sleeping parade. As I wrestle with this double-life I feel that “I”—as a person in the world—is somehow being left behind in its own narrative. Or perhaps, inversely: the “I” is somehow moving ahead of who “I really am.” My body is moving forward, talking, smiling, turning days into routines and travel into maps, and my sleep shadow is sliding further and further behind. It is tired, agitated, cynical. It is the soul of a sleep-deprived person trapped between the material and the dream-world. Just like at the party—the celebration of dannijean is moving forth, but dannijean is absent.
Of course I know what Jean Baudrillard would say! He’d say: ‘that’s because dannijean did not take place!’ And of course I know he is correct. But that is not what I wish to know; what I wish to know is simply this: consistent, restful sleep. If only Baudrillard or Palanhiuk had written a book about that.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/crackle-g/3477155811/”>G Crackle</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>