Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Twinkle, twinkle little star

A worry is a phenomenon that thrives best at night. It grows and expands far beyond its true capacity when the lights are out, only to deflate and yet again become inferior when day breaks. An obstacle reasonably challenging during waking hours becomes a hurdle of mountainous proportions to the sleepless and only the worst outcome of anything stands a chance of becoming a thought. Strangely enough, hope and optimism seem to slumber deeply in one’s mind during bouts of insomnia, when the body and mind are refused any such grace.

I was unable to fall asleep last night. My daytime worries about: A) not being able to finish my book in time, B) my daughter and her friend being alone at 14 in rioting England and C) my husband not having put wood protection on one of the windows of our house, all became incredibly, incredibly serious. The first two worries are actually serious but the delayed window frame treatment is nothing cataclysmic. But my tired mind put the three: daughter safety vs. deadline vs. window frame, in the opposite ranking order as to what my rested mind would do. Window frame situation became extremely grim, deadline and daughter not quite so as much and got less mulled over as a result.

This erratic night time thinking is nothing new to me. My mother suffers from on-again off-again insomnia and she holds the Icelandic record for bizarre worries as a result. I am not going to provide a long list, just give you a glimpse of toasters catching fire, cancer infestation in pet’s toes, my daughter falling into a manhole, my father being thrown from a plane by someone overcome with air-rage and so on and so forth. I have on numerous occasions tried to point out to her that thinking about the worst that can happen and worrying relentlessly about it does not make it any easier when the worst actually happens. You will feel horrible no matter how horrible you felt in anticipation. It is not as if you are making installments on your future misery. But knowing this does not help much as it is not reason driving the worrying.

As I found out for myself with my window worry episode. Last night, in one version of my mind’s scenarios, the window not only fell out of the wall because of my husband’s poor maintenance but it fell on top of my cat. The cat died of course. Today I know full well that the wood in the new window would need to be subject to the elements for so long before falling out of the wall, that the cat, despite its nine lives, will no longer be here to accidentally step into its downward trajectory.

Why I did not worry more about my daughter’s safety or my deadline instead of the window I do not know. These are real worries, ones that can actually materialize. But maybe the fact that it is mostly in my hands to prevent them, has something to say. If I want it not to happen, it will not happen. If riots take off in the town my daughter is staying in, we could go to England and pick her up. If I want to meet my deadline, I can write like crazy. But then again I could go to the hardware store, pick up a wood preservative and a paint brush and get to work.

Or…since it is August I can ask for this for my birthday. Last year I got a toilet from my family so it seems appropriate I get window frame preservative and a paintbrush this time around.

One last thing. While lying in bed obsessing about my husband’s lack of handyman-ism and its horrific consequences, I looked outside and saw a star. A single star, the first star I have seen since the onset of summer. Here the nights are so bright during the summer season that stars are no more visible than during midday. It was therefore something special to behold even though it was not particularly bright or sparkling. A solitary speck of light in a light blue sky. So tiny, so simple and yet so beautiful. Nothing complicated like my mind’s window fabrication.

Maybe this star will keep me company again if I can’t sleep tonight. Despite its beauty I would prefer it watched over me dead to the world, as I know I will worry if I am lying awake. A vision of riots in Bournemouth is creeping in, followed by one in which me and my husband board a flight to England … only to be thrown off the plane by someone with severe air rage.

Like mother like daughter.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Gosh, what an insomniac's nightmare.

    I'd just worry about the daughter; tell her not to go outside of the residence in which she's staying and read if she's bored ... lots of books to read in England. (Or go and get her.)

    Put the cat in a safe room with the food, water and litter box. Don't worry about it.

    Your family got you a toilet for your last birthday? I'm sure a story goes with this "gift."

    I have worse than insomnia; sometimes I'm up until 9 a.m. or worse. However, I don't worry about anything. My mind tunes out.

    But this is what mysteries are for; just pick up a novel and start reading. The distraction method works.

    Right now, I'm trying to contain myself after finding out that after putting "Ashes to Dust," on reserve at the library months ago, that there is one copy in the system and it's non-circulating. Now that is enough to give me agitata and insomnia. So I have to read Leighton's first book to distract me from that problem, so now I'm worrying about landless peasants in Brazil.

  2. There is a saying I remember my mother quoting all the time: "The things we worry about are the things that never happen." The reason this is so implanted in my brain is that my mother worried about things that bordered on crazy but never she never worried about things that needed to be resolved. She left the resolving to me.

    Crazy-making worries about children start in the delivery room and the part of the brain that produces those worries never turns off. But it is a bit more muted than it was when my kids weren't yet adults.

    Right now I worry about whether they will keep their jobs and that is now my all-consuming worry. It isn't leaving room for anything else and the worst part is that there is nothing any of us can do to resolve it.

  3. Someone once said these thoughts are like fleas; they bug us. Also we tend to worry more about the things we are less in control of and write scenarios in our head that are dramatic indeed. Often, people who are funny, positive, active, productive people have these dark moments. The star is, to me, the good thing to focus on so that we remember the good things. And our ability to deal with what life brings us.

  4. hi kathy d. - landless peasants sound more like something I should worry about instead of windows. Regarding the toilet story - I wrote about it in a piece called "Time" in August of last year here on the blog. Feels like yesterday. By the way, send me your address and I will send you a copy of Ashes to Dust, maybe throw in a copy of the Day is Dark the one that follows in the series. My e-mail is so you don't have to put you details on an open site.

    Beth - your mother's quote is one I am going to tell my own mother as it is so true. REgarding your worries I hope they will prove as lacking in foundation as my daughter falling into a manhole while rollerblading. I really think (more like hope and pray) that this economic fiasco that is hitting one country after another these days will stop - I read somewhere that the reason for it is really just speculators losing confidence - feed them prosac I say and let the rest of us keep on going.

    lil - precisely, we deal with what we need to - there is no other option. I also think our strenght as people is knowing that in most cases things will get better once we have weathered the storm, big or small.


  5. I've suffered from bouts of insomnia all my adult life. It's weird how the brain works at 3am. And weirder how the coming dawn erases all worries, or at least grants some perspective. It used bother me greatly, but now, when the bouts come, I just accept them, let my brain do its worst, with the knowledge it will pass, the dawn will come, and in a few days I'll be sleeping ok. I think of it as embracing my inner insomniac.

    In fact, it's got so that I often have some good ideas during those sleepless nights. Maybe ones that might not have come if I was sleeping like a baby (if only babies slept...)

  6. If your daughter can write anywhere nearly as well as her mother she has nothing to fear in life ... except of course those deadlines and the occasional stray window frame that may fall out of a plane onto her cat.