A Return from a Long Slumber

Ah 2012! A year of wakefulness or general awareness leading to a reformed consciousness. Or at least that’s how I remember it. Wasn’t that the year Barack Obama got reelected? Something else must have happened in the world.

My memory is shit. I tend to blame this on my sleep disorder, but it also comes from a general propensity to focus on the new and to push old thoughts and memories into the forgotten gray matter section of the hippocampus. You know, the stuff behind your right ear? Or was it the left.

One thing I can recount from that most memorable year is my transition  from working a severely high stress job to accepting a position at a smallish non-profit. At that point much changed about how I internalized the world, leading to the external effect of agonizing less about everything. I no longer face the dreaded sensation of receiving an email at 11:00PM with the expectation of composing a thoughtful response immediately or by 6AM the next morning. My colleagues are now actually collegial and I was and still am given time to learn from them and to understand the nuances of my new position without a project dividing us or a deadline impeding us.

All that being said I must scream or quietly whisper to you (depending on the hour of day) that I now sleep! Sometimes in the heat. Sometimes with a cat. Sometimes with a hot cat and squirrels waltzing on my roof. Mostly with a snoring husband and noisy neighbors (the neighbors being noisy from outside, rather than from within the bed).

I feel better. I still have problems. Can I sleep in a different bed? Can I sleep outside of the specific conditions to which I have adjusted? It’s always a trial. It feels like drug or alcohol cessation. I am always being tested. Sometimes I don’t do so well. Most of the times, I eek out ok.

In that eeking, I have learned that I miss reflecting! And here I am back at the computer hoping this my reflection will help somebody. Maybe in 2014. Maybe beyond.

 

 

Sleeping Disorders: I’m Not Laughing and Neither Should You

I have this coworker. He’s a genuinely nice guy, a good mix of friendly and self-deprecating. Because I felt a certain connection with him, I told him I had issues sleeping. His first inclination was to give me the typical doe eyed stunned response followed by a “that really sucks” comment. I appreciated this sympathy at the time. Yes, it really sucks. It sucks hard. Thank you for understanding.

One month plus later and he’s suddenly decided that it’s appropriate to say things like “Didn’t sleep last night, huh” and laugh whenever I appear somber or tired. The truth is in most of these instances, I didn’t sleep and when you are sleep deprived and someone makes a joke on your behalf, it really does not sit well. Feels a bit like rubbing sandpaper on freshly sunburnt skin.

“Hah! Yeah (big fake grin)” is my typical response. This is followed at length by an internal monologue where I compare his actions to telling a recovering alcoholic that it looks like they “really hit the bottle hard last night” or remarking to an obese person that they must have “spent all evening at the buffet.” It’s just not fucking appropriate.

Sleeping disorders are real disorders and they should be treated as such. It’s not acceptable to make jokes about any individuals with medical conditions, diagnosed or not diagnosed, especially unprovoked and to their face. There is a unique sensitivity and sense of vulnerability when you lose control of your physical or mental self.  You are not whole and are reminded of that in some way every day. Such self awareness, in and of itself, is enough to drive anyone to depression.

Next time you are in the presence of someone facing a serious illness, battling addiction, or just trying to feel better, remember that being supportive means being conscientious of what you say and how you behave. Our instincts can sometimes manifest habits or patterns which, in context, may appear insensitive or provoke unhealthy behavior. Recognizing and controlling those instincts are the first step toward understanding.

 

Seafood Vindaloo, I Feel Dirty

I have literally no excuses for not blogging for the last few weeks. I do have some statements I’d like to enter into the e-record:

-I have been sleeping nearly all nights.

-I have been more social than usual and have actually accepted multiple social invitations.

-I have just purchased a Roku and now have access to my Netflix cue on my television.

In other news, I have just spent the last three days at a conference about Food as Medicine. I’m not sure I’ve fully digested (no pun intended here) all of the information presented therein, however I have noticed my health fanaticism has reached new heights. Don’t take me to the grocery store or to a restaurant unless you want a 20 minute lecture. And if you want a 20 minute lecture, hold an hour in your calendar.

Fanaticism in face of the signs and symptoms of industrial agriculture does not mean I will always practice what I preach. This morning I sat down to brunch with my boyfriend and after noting that almost nothing on the menu would be good for me, I chose to blow up my insides with a glycemic bomb – pancakes with apple compote. I literally got about a fourth of the way in when I felt my gut flora cracking jokes on my behalf. Gut flora are some of the most cutting comedians. The punchline, SUGAR BABY!

To compensate for my meal I went the rest of the day on only a few almonds. I also chose to spend four hours cleaning the house from top to bottom. Woowie! Needless to say, by the early evening I was starving. In the conference I learned that many spices found in Indian dishes were extremely beneficial to digestive health (note: the fact that ghee is not beneficial to digestive health proves my thought process is selective), so my hungry brain plied my fingers to dial the nearest take out place asap.

And now here I sit, computer in lap, Deep Space 9 on the Roku, and seafood vindaloo and vegetable jalfrezi in my tummy. I am truly full of sin. I’m thankful my fellow conference goers aren’t present for this disgrace, but after three days of truly delicious, incredibly healthy food, I needed to cheat on my new found knowledge. Humans aren’t designed to be monogamous.

I Didn’t Choose This Failure, It Chose Me

Whatever you do, don’t eat the flat brownies.

So I’ve come to the point in my adventure where I incorrectly choose to flip to page 23 and slowly open the creaky cellar door instead of skipping to page 101 and visiting grandma in the nursing home. The aliens abducted me and now I’m forever stuck in a laboratory in the middle of a hazy Mars dust storm. Drat. Time to start my adventure over – Page 1.

This week my sleeping has been downright awful. It all started with a poor Saturday sleep, always a bad sign. This was compounded by my air conditioning failing and particularly hot, muggy DC weather. Nothing says sleeping difficulty like incessant humidity. One can only hope that my bed sweat burned calories.

In other failure news, my running routine was off to a great start until I pushed myself to run for an hour outside wearing new tennis shoes. The intensity of the run aggravated an old foot issue and now I’m hobbling around work, a sleepy, corpulent cripple walking into walls with fervor.

The heat related sleeplessness has really battered my once cogent thought process and my commitment to healthy eating. On Sunday, I dropped an entire plate of brunch food -eggs benedict, hash browns, green beans, smoked salmon and more- on the floor of a upscale restaurant. Starring at the spilled food I found myself frozen in the scene, unable to recognize what I had done or comprehend how to correct it. Luckily, within minutes the sounds and smells of the buffet reawakened my senses and the second time around I made better meal choices (an entire plate of smoked salmon).

I’m being pushed to depravity. Last night I was so exhausted I thought it would be a good idea to make brownies. Naturally, the brownies would have to be made with the utmost expediency. Expediency calls for substitutions and, as a result, I created flat chocolate pancakes speckled with rubbery egg bits. I shoveled two “brownies” down my gullet before giving up and slumping over in the chair like a flaccid corpse.

We all face failures and I’ve always been one to acknowledge, if not to celebrate them. The last four insomniac years of my life have been failures to a certain extent and I’m still proud of what I’ve accomplished. Right now though all I can think about is moving on.

Page 2.

Somebody Scrape Me off of the Floor, I Went Running

Typical physical fitness has never been my thing. Even as a child, I would prefer walking in the woods any day to anything resembling a sport. As an adult living in a city, nature hikes really aren’t feasible. Dumpster diving, yes! Rat hopping, yes and yes!

And as I am without a bike, I am left with running as my primary mode of outdoor exercise. I’ve tried indoor, home-bound exercise in the past and the best cardio I could come up with other than a DVD was running up and down the stairs really fast until I got dizzy (3 times) followed by some seriously intense couch sitting.

And the thing about running is that I’m really not good at it. In today’s society, this makes me an outcast. Running, in particular running a marathon, has become my generations right of passage. It’s invoked so frequently that people who aren’t runners have whole conversations dedicated to running. They buy phone apps to track their speed and to learn how to cut down on their resistance. They spend hundreds of dollars on fancy shoes that look like feet. Worst of all, they make it seem like running six miles at 6 am every morning is like floating on a cloud in heaven as a svelte, young, gold-loinclothed Elvis whispers sweet nothings into your ear. God knows when I wake up at that hour the first thing I want to do is exert my body to the point of exhaustion.

So today after a many months long abstention, I threw on a new pair of running shoes and squished my ass into a pair of spandex pants. I didn’t really do well, but I did not set myself up for failure with high expectations.

If all the talk is true, I’m sure in a weeks time I’ll be training for my first 5K and posting my 7 minute mile on Run Keeper with the comment “I feel amazing. Can’t wait to do this again tomorrow morning!”.

Or maybe not.

Week in Review: I’m NSFW Dreaming About Work


Week 3 Sleep: 29 hours (and only 1 day with no sleep – god is good)

Monday, 5/7: 4 hours

Tuesday, 5/8: 8 hours (without having to get up!)

Wednesday, 5/9:  2 hours

Thursday, 5/10:  0 hours

Friday, 5/11:  4 hours

Saturday, 5/12: 7 hours

Sunday, 5/13:  4 hours

Wow, what a week! All this sleep is making me too productive So productive, in fact, that I voluntarily choose to stay at work past 6PM and then have barely enough time to eat and relax before it’s back to work again. This makes finding time for blogging slightly difficult. I can’t even imagine how I’m going to scratch fingernail to keyboard after I begin my exercise regimen and start attending regular meditation sessions. I’ll have to meditate while exercising or exercise while blogging, whichever looks the least odd.

Because I now spend so much time on the job, my work has started to seep into my dreamworlds like an insidious odorless gas, making the dream state, at its best, awkward. Last night, I dreamt I was walking the boardwalk with my boyfriend (thank you Boardwalk Empire) when I spied a circa 1920’s Jersey sex club. “What an excellent idea” I thought as I drug him inside. “Group sex with utter strangers is so the rage nowadays.” As I walked in the proprietor, Steve Buscemi, told me we would have to wait for a room, because the one directly to his left was occupied by 100+ of my colleagues. “What a unique professional development opportunity!” I thought to myself, “I bet they really get to know each other well”

And all of the sudden while sitting in the sex waiting room, which is really no more exciting than any waiting room, I decide that coming to the club was the worst decision I could ever possibly make and that my boyfriend and I have to escape, NOW. But the pressure to conform is so strong – how will I break free…and my legs aren’t working. What the fuck?

Moral of story:  no matter how much control you try to exert over your thoughts and memories, deep in your subconscious experiences mix, mingle, and merge so that you are reminded of their existence long after they fade from the conscious mind.

Take my advice, let yourself take pleasure in the absurdity. They say some of the most creative thinking comes from dreams because in dreams your mind blends ideas without thought to logic or order.

As soon as I get to work tomorrow, I’m telling everyone to start DVRing Boardwalk Empire. Everyone needs a little Steve Buscemi in their life.

Sharing and Observing Life

I opened my door looking for joy. Although my mother is states away, I made it my mission today to observe happiness and to seek fulfillment from these observations. I was not particularly inspired by Mother’s Day itself, which is really just a cash cow for greeting card companies, florists, and Nicholas Sparks, but from my reading in The Chemistry of Calm on the importance of self acceptance and creating belonging in the world.

Dr. Henry Emmons notes in his book that in order to find “extraordinary happiness” and decrease stress and anxiety we should perform a meditative practice known as “sympathetic joy” or meditating on the success of others. I prefer to call it the  “I’m so, so happy for you” meditation.

In the practice, you concentrate on someone who has had good fortune, whom you admire, or who just appears happy. As you visualize them and their achievement, you offer your well wishes in thought and then dwell in the feeling of warmth that comes from acknowledging the achievements of others.

While the premise of Mother’s Day is commercial, the sentiment expressed is not. Here, in no particular order, were the events or people I gave attention to in my thoughts today and to whom I sent blessings:

-More than a few friends posted photos of their mothers on Facebook. Some looked so much like dear old mom, you wonder what happened to Dad’s genes. How wonderful it is to project your parent in your physical appearance or  personality, particularly if it is a parent with whom you have a close relationship.

People tell me I look like my mother and they tell me I look like my father (must be the moustache). I think my mother is much too beautiful to have competition.

-In front of Union Station, a ten year old boy in a suit two sizes too big was having his picture taken with his father. He looked exuberant, while his father looked like the proudest man in DC.

-At the checkout line in the grocery store, a young boy was sitting in the grocery cart as it was being unpacked by the clerk. As each item was pulled out of the cart, the boy giggled and bobbed his head up and under, as if to hide from being pulled across the scanner. If only adults could find joy in such circumstances.

-I found my neighbor, who yesterday passed out on the front stoop after having too much to drink, smoking a large cigar on the stoop today. He seemed relaxed and peaceful and I couldn’t help but dwell on how happy he must feel being outdoors with the wind and the sun just so and the smell of his tobacco rolling through the windows and alleyways of the neighborhood.

And, of course, today I was thankful for my mother for giving me life and for teaching me compassion, understanding, bawdiness, and how to make a mean linguini with clam sauce.

Ich liebe dich, Mutti.

Oh What a Day!

Today was excellent, if not incredible. Something about these horse pills must be improving my biology and I cannot be more thankful or pleased with the results.

I woke up after an 7 hour sleep excited about the prospect of awakening (what!?!). After getting dressed, I had a once in a lifetime urge to do sit ups. So, down on the floor I went, smiling all the way up and all the way down, and again. Who knew sit ups could be so invigorating!

For breakfast I felt strangely compelled to make greens, so I threw together a toasty egg, hummus, and kale sandwich. It may not have been my best effort, but it was more effort than I typically give to breakfast and I enjoyed how satisfying the meal was compared to my typical BRAT style oatmeal.

At work, I exhibited exceptional productivity while finding opportunities to practice mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is the lost art of being more conscious of the world around you and of your body. Three times today, I took three deep breaths while concentrating solely on the breath itself and on my body delivering the breath. After putting some colleagues in a tizzy about a deadline, I also walked them through the exercise which seemed to calm them a bit. My concentration was also sharpened by focusing on the sound of women’s shoes while in the bathroom stall. Click, click, click…Do not judge. What else was I supposed to do in a bathroom without reading material??

I often forget how rewarding a good sleep can be physically and emotionally. Today I fully recovered  after a very awkward and unpleasant experience. An incident that would typically be running through my mind on autoreplay is now gone. I am free from thought and worry and feel blessed to be living in an era where there is hope for all, especially insomniacs, gays, and lesbians.

Viva Obama! Viva Horse pills!

Midwest Detox, Supplemental

I just returned home from a three day business trip to Chicago. The good news is that I slept for most of the trip. The not so good news is that I broke my diet big time (as expected). The biggest diet offender was ginger margaritas from the Pump Room. Buenisimo!

On the plane ride to and from Chicago I had the opportunity to read a book I’ve wanted to start for some time about embracing calm. The book is written by a physician and has great supplement and diet recommendations. It also discusses strategies to bring about physical, mental, and emotional wellness so it might just crush my dream of every turning this experiment into a book deal. Then again, physicians just aren’t that funny and neither are doctor jokes. 

Flash forward to my bank account being $75 less and I am the proud owner of Fish Oil, Vitamin D, Vitamin B/Magnesium stress complex, and Rhodiola. Ten minutes ago I knocked all four of these babies back with a glass of water and a banana. I’m not usually one to take pills, let alone four, so I’m thinking my body might internally combust in a massive release of previously unknown energy. If you don’t hear from me soon I might be burning down H Street or going for a jog. It’s a 50/50 toss up.

Week in Review: Are you tired right now?

God knows I am! I expected to post this around 3PM, the sleepy hour for most, but was so tired I had to go for a walk. On that walk, I found myself unexpectedly romanced by a chocolate milkshake. It was a torrid, quick affair that left me brain-frozen and guilty.

If your curious about how your brain functions while fatigued, be sure to check out The Tiredness Test. I was actually so tired that on my first attempt at this I starred at the screen blankly for five minutes before figuring out what I was supposed to do. Needless to say, I failed on my first and all subsequent attempts.

 

Week 2 Sleep: 24 hours (A slight improvement over Week 1, but setting a bad precedent for on/off sleep)

Monday, 4/23: 5 hours! (The explanation mark was noted in my journal. I must have been impressed that I fell asleep)

Tuesday, 4/24: 0 hours (You will soon see a trend emerging)

Wednesday, 4/25: 8 hours (Win!)

Thursday, 4/26: 0 hours (Fail)

Friday, 4/27: 6 hours (Success)

Saturday, 4/28: 5 hours (So so – could have done better on a weekend)

Sunday, 4/29: 0 hours (Cringe)

So I’ve succumbed to the dreaded bad sleeping pattern. It seems like my body adapts  almost instantaneously to positive changes and then reverts back to old habits just as quickly. Let’s hope the next pattern I establish is 7 nights with some sleep.