Thursday, January 14, 2010

Things I'm thinking about at 4:59 am...

Hello folks, it's 4:59 am, and we've decided on yet another re-run of my favorite show "Insomnia." This is (surprisingly) my first insomnia post, since I started having it in August of last year. I'm not terribly bitter about this arrangement my body has made, rather I'm mostly fascinated. I was such a big-time sleeper before. Endless naps could be followed by full-nights' sleep...

I now have this funky type of insomnia that, regardless of the hour I go to sleep, I always wake up between 3 and 4 am, and either stay up (like tonight), or have totally inconsistent ups-and-downs from then on.

Here's what I was thinking about when I woke up today.

I had kept these dried flowers on my desk at work since my birthday last May, peonies, my favorite. They had dried somehow in perfect formation, and I'd put them in a little box to take home one day about a month ago, and then it started to rain, so I ran back in and put them in my desk drawer. As time passed, they were a little reminder of spring, of that unbelievable beauty that can be contained in a tiny, perfectly formed peony, even if it's long dead and dried out. It provided me with a small dose of joy every time I opened that drawer.

Yesterday, I got a call at 9 am from my coworker. There had been an earthquake in Haiti, had I heard? (I work for an organization that raises money for a hospital in Haiti). My first thoughts were: Is T hurt/dead? (T = ex-boyfriend, currently living in Haiti, the same one whose actions may or may not have brought about my current sleeplessness). Yes, he was ok. It was my day off and they needed my help with some online stuff. Trying to be nice and mature about being woken up (which is hard when you got to sleep around 7 am) I agreed to help (due to the dire circumstances, which clearly slammed my petty insomnia way into perspective) and got dressed to come in.

When I got in, the phone was ringing off the hook, and a news crew had just walked out the door. I sat down at my desk and opened the drawer where I keep my personal effects, and there were the flowers, crushed to pieces. My coworker had rifled through it in search of something inexplicably urgent I'm sure, and had totally crushed my happy, perfectly formed daily moment.

I guess you don't realize what role things play in your life until they are taken away. That said, I'm not completely sure why I felt just as crushed as the brittle petal confetti I took up between my fingertips. But I did--it was like all the grief and anxiety and disappointment in the world was held in the crushed flowers, just as only a day before, all the pleasantness and hope for spring had been in the perfectly-formed ones.

It would have been like her, I thought, not to notice the flowers, or even go as far to think that they might have been there on purpose, to bring me a little moment of joy each day. Still, it felt illogical to mention something or to be angry about it, or sad even, because I couldn't even explain why it upset me just so much. She'd been in a rush, I thought, to find some useless bit of information, which, in a panic, she was convinced was held in my personal drawer. What's all this garbage doing in here? She must have thought. Where is that file?

I know what you must be thinking--that we had to deal with the aftermath of a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, make sure our people had what they needed, once they were accounted for--and I, selfish white girl in America, could only think of this.

But like the insomnia, the dried flowers contained more coagulate emotion than I can articulate or understand. Like my first thoughts of the day, that moment of panic when I'd been awoken. There is a measure of complexity to these feelings that is masked by the insurmountable integrity of one's experience (of insomnia, of the crushed flower, of the moment of worry). The moment makes perfect sense--there is no conflict there--but then, with time, distance, perspective, the true complexity of the feeling reveals itself, conceals itself, reveals itself once more. Perhaps, at a certain point you just have to trust that you're feeling, despite the knee-jerk, "What the HELL?!" that comes after some time. We'll find the "why" file eventually, it's in another drawer.

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