In the wee small hours

THE QUESTION:  What keeps you awake at night?

In my teens I worked hard to perfect a bedtime routine that allowed me to fall asleep in under ten minutes. Because of that, nothing keeps me from drifting off quickly. I settle in, close my eyes, and…I’m out in short order.

Apparently I should have also worked on a routine that lulls you back to sleep when you wake in the middle of the night.

The things aren’t always exactly the same — but they are close to the heart things. Personal things that I’m not even ready to deal with myself in the daylight hours – so we won’t be examining them here today together. But that’s O.K. — I’m sure you have yours as well.

I will tell you this…

There are fears I cannot seem to vanquish.
There are truths I don’t dare speak aloud.

Sometimes these things just won’t be silenced.


The routine:

I have a few backups, favorites on the iPod I’ve never deleted after borrowing from the digital library. But each week, I have about two new books to listen to (used to be books-on-tape, but try to find those anymore. Actually, I have a couple of my own permanently. The Collected Stories of John Cheever, and The Thurber Carnival. I worry about the tape deteriorating, but there is new technology to convert those digital files.).

Anyhow, about now, 11.30pm, I am aching to get to bed. It’s like a physical pain. Nearly finished here, with a Mad Men DVD playing in the background. When it’s published, bed. First, I’ll have the lamp on to read a few pages of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. 

Once I realize I have the book propped up but I’ve nodded off, I’ll tuck the dustjacket in where I’m up to, turn on my iPod, hook it up to a small bluetooth speaker. Eyemask. Lights are off, the audiobook of the moment is piping away at my ear set to turn off in ten minutes. I am asleep. I might do this ten times, or two times each night. If it’s once, it’s a victory. It’s never once.

I must do this every night. If I at home, at a motel in Brisbane, overseas, on a plane. Every night. 


I discussed the Everydays question of the week with my sister, Suzy, while we skyped on Tuesday.

What keeps you awake at night?

“Duh! Trump!” we eyerolled in sync.

I told her, “I’m tempted just to write the word Trump two hundred times and call it good.”

“Hey, great idea!” she said. “You could use different fonts!”

I went into a reverie about writing the word Trump as visual poem, making each letter of his name out of Trumps, Trumps within Trumps.

Days went by and it was time to write my post and I decided against doing anything to glorify that name.

What makes me lose sleep?

What makes me read editorials in the New York Times and Washington Post at two o’clock in the morning instead of rip-roaring adventure novels or indelible romance?

The amorality and irresponsibility of the President of the United States.

Oh, how I would love to just go to a happy place with predictable rules, a permanent vacation from the topsy-turvy chaos that is Trump World.

But I can’t.

He has the nuclear codes and an ungovernable temper.

What then must I do?

Stand guard. Bear witness. Write letters. Persuade. Be diplomatic.

Forget sleep.


There is never enough sleep. When I was a kid I dreaded my mother issuing the order: “It 7:30 and time for all you kids to go off to bed. Go on. Brush your teeth and I’ll be up to check on you in 10 minutes.”

My brother, sister and I would always argue that we weren’t tired and just wanted to stay up another 10 minutes. But mum wouldn’t budge, and even occasionally threaten us with our father’s wrath if we didn’t go to bed.

Several decades later, I can’t wait until it is late enough that I can go to bed without seeming like I am an old man. I watch the clock and count off in 10 minute intervals until 9:30pm. Then it is a kiss for my wife and I’m off to bed.

It is never a struggle to go to sleep. Most nights I drift into slumber land within 10 minutes of ducking below the covers. However the last time I slept through the night is a very dim memory.

I don’t wrestle with thoughts of global turmoil or climate apocalypse. I am like most men of my vintage. We are plagued with broken sleep for reasons no more complicated than an enlarged prostate pressing on a partially filled bladder. It’s like a siren screaming at decibels that can be no more ignored than the chiming of London’s Big Ben in a room next door, but with more urgency. Eyes pop open and feet stumble down the dark lit hall, hating the cold, hoping my aim is centred and looking for the sweet joy of relief.

Back to bed, but now I am awake. Still 3 hours to idle away before it is okay to start my day. Most mornings I spend this time listening to talk back radio or thinking on intellectual problems or considering problems with work.

Sometimes I doze off and wake again after 10 minutes. But soon it is 6:30, streams of light rays are peeking over the horizon to declare a new day and judging me for not feeling full of vim for what is to come. Only another 15 hours before I can go back to bed.

(We have a hiatus next week, but) THE QUESTION FOR THE WEEK AFTER: Did you ever travel somewhere new, and think “I could live here – now, or one day”? Where was that place?


Posted by MMJ

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *