I talk a lot about being awake and aware, but truthfully, I prefer to sleep.
These days, I guard my sleep. I’m a clock watcher, I must be in bed by 11. Awake much past that time, and some serotonin or dopamine process begins, provoking me into a review of the day’s events, if not my entire life, and the review tends toward regret and remorse. I take melatonin. I refuse to speak to the man in bed with me, I gesture at the clock, I grunt with slurred speech, affected in part to make my point, as I am not one to muddle up my words, even if exhausted. I am not interested in sex. I have to sleep.
Tomorrow will be destroyed if I don’t sleep tonight.
I wake too early, I wish I could sleep in. I also fantasized about sleeping in when my children were young, those days when a little face appeared by my side of the bed in a plea to make contact after a night spent alone. Saturday or Sunday, there might be an unexplained rest. I remember one daughter’s first dream, or the first she said anything about… “momma, I dreamed about Thomas”, the little railroad engine. My older daughter, a darker sort who loved magical tales, could not hear about the White Witch of Narnia without a nightmare, a nightmare of being tricked or deceived by an evil mother.
I was more relaxed with the sleep of the younger girl, she sometimes joined my ex husband and I in our bed; I wasn’t willing to endure the screaming a second time around. Cosleeping was a shameful secret that almost everyone I knew would own up to in private. She does not seem to have suffered greatly from sleeping with us as a toddler, she can sleep on her own at twenty, and the controversy over childhood sleep habits has now become irrelevant; a minor, preoccupying debate for new parents whose lives are relatively secure.
The warning about cosleeping really should be for the parent. When I have the rare chance to embrace her now I smell her hair and remember how we both could drift into secure relaxation, into sleep. I feel my own tension, the tension dissolves, and for a moment she is home, and I am less alone. These days I am the restless one, trying to trick myself into temporary unconsciousness. I am the one who needs a family bed, having experienced that special intimacy, I now am able to miss it.
Sleep is a strange thing. No one can really explain why humans need to konk out for hours per day, and how our minds churn on to make the sense of the conscious mess, even while our bodies are at times deactivated, motionless, so we don’t take a swing at the ball, or a swing at a dragon, or at our boss, and end up on the floor. Sleep often ushers us quietly away from conscious life, and maybe that’s why my body acts out the ambivalence, needing the rest, yet not really wanting to let go.