Q. I can’t fall asleep at night. What’s up with that?
A. Maybe you’re overtired.
Q. What the hell does that mean?
A. Sounds like Mr. Grumpy is overtired.
Q. How can I be overtired and not be able to fall asleep?
A. When you go to bed at night and turn off the light and close your eyes, do you hear a lot of inner chatter?
Q. Close my eyes?
A. Much easier to sleep with closed eyes.
Q. What do you mean by inner chatter?
A. People tend to rehash unresolved problems of the day when the light goes out. They conduct an inner conversation with themselves, a kind of play-by-play review of their actions that day. Often they get caught up in second guessing themselves, and…
Q. And there’s shouting? Maybe even someone knocks over a lamp, or throws Milk Duds?
A. Uh, well, I mean sure, that’s possible.
Q. And nobody can hear it?
A. Not if you’re using your inside-the-mind voice.
Q. What if I’ve lost my mind?
A. Oddly enough, if you’ve lost your mind, your head fills up with 100 times the normal amount of chatter. Dozens of different topics. Sometimes in different languages. Sometimes in outlandish costumes.
Q. What if I don’t hear anything? I’m laying there in bed thinking about nothing. Well, maybe about Milk Duds. Or maybe I start thinking that I’ve lost my mind. Okay, not really lost. Let’s say misplaced.
A. Are your eyes closed?
Q. Your point?
A. If your eyes are open, you’re technically awake.
Q. Ah. The exact opposite of being technically asleep.
A. Technically speaking.
Q. Can you give me an example of inner chatter?
A. Suppose during your wakeful day you set up a meeting for 9 a.m. the next day. When you go to bed that night you remind yourself of the meeting at 9. For some reason it triggers a memory of Ed Wood’s classically bad sci-fi move Report From Planet Nine.
Q. I do that all the time.
A. You think about Planet Nine?
Q. No. I mean I go to bed at night. All the time.
A. So, as you’re trying to fall asleep you’re thinking of Planet Nine. And you’re internally chattering to yourself about how bad the movie is and part of you says, yes, but it’s so bad it’s good. Before you know it, you’re shouting at the idiot in your head who said it was bad, or good. It suddenly reminds you of the time you broke big time woodwind at the symphony. Knocked the pianist off his stool. Snapped the maestro’s wand. Everybody stared at you, as if you were from Planet Nine. That was very bad, but later, when you told friends the story they laughed and that was very good. And you started thinking maybe you should become a comedian. Or a politician. But wait, what if you’re assassinated? Or heckled? Or assassinated, then heckled? What if…
Q. It sounds exhausting. I feel very sleepy.
A. Not surprising, because I’m a certifiable professional sleep causer, what the Chinese call 睡觉的人. It is often said that a good night’s sleep will essentially wrestle your anxieties to the floor so you can get down on your knees next to them and press your mouth up close to their ear(s), and deliver a very stern warning to leave you the farouk alone or the next time you will go full-out Popeye-the-sailor-man on them.
Q. Popeye was in the navy? I thought he was a fried chicken farmer in Louisiana?
A. You wake up in the morning refreshed and, what ho, you find lots of space inside for new anxieties you never dreamed about having. Like the fear of finding chunks of pineapple in your jello at the home to which you are eventually carted off in your Hopalong Cassidy bathrobe.
Q. Did you say “What ho?”
A. You mock me. (Tu t’es moqué de moi)
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2019, all rights reserved.