Insomnia, Cancer, and Burr Updates

What evil insomnia I have struggled with since I started my career! I’ve never been the world’s greatest sleeper—the slightest noise wakes me up and I require absolute darkness—but in recent years it’s gotten wild. I have the kind where you wake up in the middle of the night, not the kind where you can’t fall asleep in the first place. I don’t know which is harder to manage. I’ve learned some tricks for managing mine, e.g., do not just keep lying there staring into the blackness! Get up and go into the living room and turn on a light and read a book. For me a lot of the sleepnessness is tied to anxiety which rises and rises until I’m lying there quivering and sick. The dead of the night feels so raw, it feels like the normal barrier between reality and fantasy is dissolved and things that in the light of day would not seem that bad come to loom over you horribly. Also things that in daytime you’d be like “well that’s probably not the case” come in the dark of night to seem not only likely but inevitable. My anxiety seeps out of me and creeps around in all possible directions, searching for new things to incorporate into itself. I will go from thinking about tenure to thinking about every single shameful or embarrassing thing I’ve ever done, every single hurtful or neglectful act, every person I wish I could apologize to, stretching back years and years, and it gets so unbearable, and then that turns into thinking the weird pain in my side or my elbow is probably cancer. It doesn’t help that seemingly 50% of the people I know currently have cancer or have died of cancer in the past two years. What the fuck is going on out there

Speaking of it (cancer), my dad has a huge invasive surgery today to remove a malignant tumor in his jaw and also to see if they can find from whence the cancer originated—somehow they don’t know that information. So it’s literally a surgery where they go in and just wildly slice you up, hoping to find something. It sounds awful. He’ll be in the ICU for days after, with a feeding tube. So obviously there is anxiety around this as well. I should be there for it, I should be there to help, but I’m not. My brother and I went last week to visit them and it was great but I wish the surgery had been scheduled for when we were there. While we were visiting, we hung out with two different friends of my brother who both have siblings currently dying of terminal cancer.

I asked my mom if, when she was 40, she suddenly knew a ton of people with cancer, and she said no. I think this is just one aspect of our cool new reality as a species undergoing slow extinction at our own damn hands. Hopefully soon Uber’s self-driving cars will attain sentience and put us out of our misery (by killing us all).

Oooh maybe I should not write blog entries at 4:45 a.m. after being up all night!!!!!! HOT STUFF

So my point is though that tonight–last night, I guess, although it feels like I’m still in it–was unusually bad, such that I fell soundly asleep at 10:30 and bolted awake at…midnight. No! It can’t be true, I thought tragically as I fumbled around to look at the clock. But lo, ‘twas true indeed. Midnight is still just the previous evening, it’s not even the dead of the night! I had thought there could be no worse experience than being wide awake in the dead of the night but I was wrong, because being wide awake in what you THINK is the dead of the night but turns out to just be fairly early evening is much worse. You can’t get up and make coffee at midnight! I woke up before a lot of people had even gone to damn sleep in the first place. Lord have mercy. I got up and went out into the living room and dutifully read my book but this time no second sleep ever found me. I just lay there fretting. At 4:00 I liked one of Jae’s pictures on instagram and she immediately texted me asking why I wasn’t asleep (being on West Coast time, she hadn’t gone to bed yet, which also made me feel horrifying). She suggested taking a hit of my cool new CBD oil I got for menstrual cramps but I said at this point I have to get up in 2.5 hours anyway so it’s not worth it. She said “you should have been a new englander by birth.” It’s true I can be pretty unforgiving and brutally pragmatic when it comes to certain things.

What a damn joke. I’m sure we are all in the same boat, though. I saw my colleague the other day who just had a baby and I was like “how’s he sleeping?” and he said the baby sleeps through big chunks of the night, adding “the baby sleeps much more than I do.” Rough stuff!

One weird effect of being up all night is I still feel like I am just living yesterday’s day. I taught last night until 7:30, got home at 8:15, got dinner, and went to bed, then immediately got up. It feels like I just popped home from work to take a nap before going back. Which technically is, I guess, what every night is. I’m teaching punk rock tomorrow. I mean, today. AKA yesterday


The newest thing I’ve read in Burr that has generated questions is he writes several journal entries about how he’s experimenting with drinking “white coffee” before bed. So apparently he likes to drink tea or coffee before bed, but this keeps him up all night, which he hates. A friend of his who is interested in science says that white coffee, “due to not being burned,” doesn’t have the same properties that make you jittery (AKA caffeine I guess? I don’t think they know caffeine yet). He says he has just drunk two large cups and though the taste is unbearable, he has high hopes that the experiment will work out: he’ll report back. The next day he says the white coffee lives up to its reputation, for he slept like a log.


– What is white coffee? In one entry he describes how he makes it—he roasts it in an iron oven like the kind one uses for normal coffee (??) but he doesn’t let it burn; instead it turns paler and paler, until it’s the shade of cinnamon. Is he talking whole beans here? So he’s roasting them gently instead of burning them. In some sort of coffee oven apparently everyone has in their house

– Why does it taste so different from regular coffee? I guess if we assume that when he says “burnt” he really means “burnt,” and if burnt coffee was what you were used to, then mildly roasted coffee might taste weird. He says his friends refuse to drink it but he’s persevering because it works so well

– But wait, what is the point of all this in the first place? Why is he so hell bent on drinking coffee right before bed?? Just drink nice normal burnt coffee in the morning!

There’s also a weird part where he describes what sounds like the government trying to take one kind of currency out of circulation and introduce a new kind. But it’s just the King of France being like “from now on, these coins are worthless” and everyone freaks out and it is very hard on the “very poor.” Burr says he’s in favor of it because the new money is prettier.

TOOTH UPDATE: Now he’s in Paris and apparently working with a famous dentist to get fitted for some sort of dentures. He says this dentist is a genius and an artist and that he thinks the contraption is going to work wonders; not a moment too soon, for his jaws have been plaguing him for two days and nights.

He is legally not allowed to leave Paris because they’ve confiscated his passport. No one will tell him when or how he can get his passport back. So he spends a good portion of each day traveling all over the city from institution to institution—the Duke’s house, the King, the military base where they regulate travel, his friend who knows somebody who knows the Duke—trying to get somebody to help him or at least give him some info. Everybody he talks to is like “ah yes, your passport is ready, go see such-and-such tomorrow” but when he shows up at such-and-such’s they are like “I have never heard of you in my life” and he has to start all over. He’s always going to various members of the monarchy, like attending their public reception hours, and trying to grab them and hector them into helping him, but they are too skilled at politely evading direct questions. It legitimately sounds maddening. At one of these public receptions he overhears somebody talking about him, not realizing he’s standing right there. They’re saying what a pitiful old man he is. He thinks this is funny.

The birds are chirping; verily, it is morn. Now to listen to The Ramones

This entry was posted in Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Insomnia, Cancer, and Burr Updates

  1. dv says:

    I had much more anxiety-based trouble with sleeping before I learned “one weird trick,” which is that I put one ear bud in my ear and listen to recordings of people talking. This usually means podcasts, but any conversation between people works for me, although boring ones work better. It tricks my brain into not thinking my own thoughts, because it’s busy with the other people’s thoughts, and it knocks me out.

  2. Kerry says:

    “My anxiety seeps out of me and creeps around in all possible directions, searching for new things to incorporate into itself.” YES, WOW, THIS. It’s too real!! I fantasize about moving somewhere that I can safely go for a stroll about at night when it hits the worst and not have to worry about getting mugged. The country life! Cancer sucks and it sucks your dad is having a gnarly surgery. Hang in there kitten!

Leave a Reply

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