aging sleep

Sleepless in Suburbia


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Previously on Damages

All my life I have put myself to sleep with a novel, eyes pulling down as I struggle to read, dreams wending vine-like into whatever story I am reading. Sometimes I awake and try to settle myself on the page again, only to find that the words on the page don’t match the story in my head. Proust writes about this in one of his interminable Remembrances novels, this being the only thing I remember about them. I’m sure I fell asleep to him as well. Presumably he would be forgiving.

These days (or nights I should say) I get into bed with my laptop, watch the red Netflix page download and, soon enough, delight to the introduction: Previously on Damages. No matter how cold-bloodedly conniving Ms. Close is I fall asleep to her too.


These are my grownup and plugged-in bedtime stories. Proust and Damages, however different they are, they have the same soporific affect.

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Sleepless in suburbia

They happen, these sleepless nights, to women of my age and stage in life (by that I mean menopause). My mind wanders to The Change, that vague euphemism that would describe any kind of passage: adolescence, middle age, death. Passages, how dated must that book sound right about now? Here’s another, of the packaging persuasion: Kotex…Because. (Because you have your period, it goes without saying, so why hint at it at all?) Let’s not even get into how they were once called “feminine napkins.” Why all this coyness, people?


These are the things that go through my mind as I lie awake, eyes open to the darkness, with only the LED readout on the cable box (3:34, 4:06, 4:23) to keep me company. Worrisome things loom large in the dark, assuming menacing shapes, just as a hatrack becomes a crazed and skinny meth addict, most probably with a knife in his hand, and the shadow made by the armoire might just be a hulking animal, poised to pounce. A boneless gorilla ghost, as Ramona would say. (This is a reference to Ramona Quimby’s night terrors, during her first experience of not sharing a room with Beezus.)

One kind of crazy-night-head is filled with a to-do list of tasks that are large and small but don’t differentiate themselves in that way: pack up computer charger — the work of just a moment — has the same heft as do something about the novel my agent declined to represent and learn Spanish. More common are the anxious nights when I think about Oliver’s health and my career and marriage and money and other massive topics that can’t really be “done.” Especially not while lying in bed in the dark.

Like so many women of my age (defensive much, Diane?), I have tried medications to remedy my poor sleep quality as my doctor, now my ex-doctor, put it. My first few months on Ambien were miraculous: one pill infused me with the deliciously druggy heaviness of a cup of Theraflu, my prior sleep aid of choice. Better still, Ambien kept me under until Steve stirred in the bed next to me at dawn. A revelation! A night passed without effort on my part!

But Ambien’s effects faded after awhile, just as my ex-doctor said they would. So it was on to the next, an  older— this adjective was from him and it struck me as odd — antidepressant that worked less well on moods but better as a sedative, knocking me out cold and leaving my mind pleasantly blank, at least at first. It was June, I think, and day after day the weather was pleasantly mild and the sky was a pleasant, untroubled blue and my mind was pleasantly empty and unruffable. The kind of mind that might call menopause The Change and might enjoy the book Passages.

I think I stopped taking sleeping medications round about the time I broke up with my doctor, which had to do with a fight I had on the phone about scheduling a mammogram. (No, it was for another reason, but I won’t go into that now.) I also never liked the guy. I didn’t like that he was a guy (not his fault) and I didn’t like that after treating Oliver for ADD, without success, he couldn’t recall who Oliver was a couple of years later.

“I have so many patients,” he said. “Maybe if I saw him.”

Oliver called this doctor Pazer (his actual last name) and then Paze and then Pazedog and then CrimePaze. Oliver now has an endocrinologist — which is attached to why I worry about his health — whose real name is Dr. Pons, whom Oliver calls Ponzi Scheme. He calls random people randos (many kids do this) and also Marlon Randos.

Oliver renames his world to suit his skewed and sardonic take on it.

Me, I just lie awake and worry about it. And him.