Sometimes Sleep Goes Away

Sometimes sleep goes away. Not very often, thankfully, and not for very long but sometimes it does go.

It’s not a stress thing, although there’s some small element of that. It’s not an anxiety thing either but that probably does play a tiny part too. For me, it’s more an overpowering feeling that there is simply too much to do and that it would be wrong to sleep too easily.

I know lots of people suffer a thousand times worse than me with this kind of thing. I really don’t get it too bad at all, nor do I beat myself up too hard over it. So I’m not pretending to be a martyr to insomnia or anything like that. In my case, it’s simply that sleep occasionally goes away and I thought I’d write a few lines about it this week because, well, sleep has currently gone away.

In my case, it works like this. I go to bed, sometime around midnight. I read my book until the words get all mixed up with sleepy thoughts. Then I put the book down and I close my eyes. Sleep comes really easily and quickly. It’s been a long day. The sleep is solid and deep. 

Then, at about four or half four, I wake. It feels a little like that bit in ‘Groundhog Day’ where the radio clicks on and the same song as yesterday starts to play. “Uh oh, here we go again.” The immediate reaction is to go to sleep again. It’s dark and it’s hours yet until morning. Sleep is the obvious move. But the old brain hasn’t just woken up, it’s come alive in a strange highly-caffeinated fashion. Ideas, plans, scenarios have come leaping in, all wanting to be thought about and considered and mulled-over and worked out. There’s no great feeling of anxiety or unease. A general annoyance at being awake again, yes, and a drive to process information, leaping mentally from one thing to another. 

Oddly enough, no matter how much information is processed or scenarios are worked over, it all seems gone by morning. Nothing is furthered, nothing is any more resolved that it was  before. It’s almost like it’s a sort of wide-awake dreaming. 

Running through song lyrics in my head is sometimes a constructive way to push the mind toward something more ordered and sedate. I know a lot of songs all the way through. ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ is a recurring lyric in these sessions, ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ also comes up quite a bit. My night time owes much to ‘Blood on the Tracks’. It’s no good racing through the lyrics either, as this overactive mind of mine itches to do. The words have to be recalled at the same pace as which they are sung. This isn’t necessarily effective in reclaiming sleep but it does tend to calm the jumpy brain down and ease it away from all that infernal planning and analysis. 

I don’t tend to get up. I ride it out. I think some measure of sleep sometimes comes back on the way towards morning but it’s a light ‘skim across the surface’ sort of sleep where any dreams which may arise are grounded in facts and real life events. 

The alarm goes and then I feel like I could sleep but I can’t and I don’t. The day begins. 

If you’ve never done it, you would imagine that the days after such a night would be long and weary and sub-par. That’s certainly not how it is for me. There seems to be a heightened focus and edginess to those days after sleep goes away. Work gets done.

It all generally runs its course in a couple of weeks and then I’ll sleep like a slightly more normal person again. It might not come back again for a year or even two. 

The main thing, I reckon, is not to worry about it too much. The bed is warm at 4.30 in the morning and the darkness is all-enveloping.

And Bob Dylan’s lyrics are not the worst thing to bounce around in your head. 




Words are Pouring Out

And when I finish one writing thing, I get to start the next and that’s often a great relief.

That 'next thing' has been crashing around in the old head for a while now, generally demanding attention. Suggesting little snippets of insight, dangling a tantalising notion or two, but mostly generating a measure of unease. Will I be able to write that thing, when the time comes? How on earth will it all fall together into some coherent shape?

It’s something of a relief, then, to finally get to the moment when the next thing can be started. It’s also a relief, almost physical, when the words come pouring out. It’s very much like drinking pints of water and not being allowed to go to the toilet for a while. The well of small ideas has been visited and visited but no relief has been granted. So, yeah, words tend to come pouring out.

And a measure of order too. That’s the most surprising thing. While the mind has been assembling various component parts, and the brain has been worrying about how it might all screw together, the subconscious must have been tinkering away too. When the physical writing starts, I often find that decisions have already been made, decisions I really knew very little about. An order is rapidly achieved and the words come pouring out. It’s a halcyon moment.

And how crucial it is to not stop and think too hard about what is pouring out. Not now. Let it flow, baby, just let it flow. It’s a time for forgiveness of all things. A time for doing anything and saying anything, just so long as the flow keeps coming. Drain the brain. Get it on to that page at all costs.

And the stuff that comes out can be quite emotion-bringing and visceral. Just yesterday, as I was typing the flow of uncorked words, the damn stuff was making me nervous just because the set up was quite an edgy one. I was worried how it would all turn out and who would get hurt and would they be okay after. Actually really worried. I raced through the scene with my pecking fingers, trying to arrive at a place of some resolution where I could breathe a bit again. It was odd.

And today, the flow will continue. I can feel it clearly in my fingertips and in the base of my skull. These words I’m typing right now are not the words I should be typing. The right words are crashing around and tickling and struggling to get the hell out. So stop, Ken, stop. Go and write the right stuff and stop this dicking around.

In a minute. In a minute.

Just one more thing and, as Hamlet said, “Meet it is I set it down.” What was it again? It's difficult to focus. Those other words are making a lot of noise and turning my head.

The flow…

The flow…

The mistake so many people make…

Ah, yes, that’s it.

It’s so easy to fall in love with the product of the flow. A large beaker full of stuff that came out so gushingly and even assembled itself in ways that were surprising and new. How could it not be wondrous? How could it not be the best?

Of course we all know it isn’t wondrous. It isn’t the best, not to anyone but you at least. We all know that first drafts are shit and that the good work is now only beginning. A block of wood has been created from nothing, as if by magic, but now it needs to be carved and sculpted and shaped into something a bit fine.

We all know it.

But, man, how we forget it.

We are charmed, bewitched by our tall beaker full of product. See how it gleams in the pale moonlight. We take it door to door and show it to our friends and they (being our good friends) confirm for us that it is indeed wondrous and we are indeed magnificent human beings for creating it. We smile and bask in the reflected light from the jar while, inside, our friends secretly shrug and shiver. For all they can really see is a big jar of piss.

And so, on with the flow. Long may it continue, long may it go.

Just don’t fall in love with it, Ken. Not this time. This time, remember that there is still much work to do after the flow has stopped.

And, oh, what's that? In the back of my head tickling gently?

Damned if it isn't the thing after this one.

Starting to squirm...

Words Coming Out of My Ears

We changed the car recently. Nothing wild or extravagant, just a second hand car that was significantly less of a second hand car than the previous one was. It’s nice though. It’s nice to set out for someplace with some level of confidence that you might actually arrive there. 

I’m not what you would call a ‘car’ person. In fact, one of my odd focuses in those rare times when we do change cars is the kind of radio that it might come equipped with. 

I’m old enough to remember wishing the car would have a CD Player. I even remember wishing that a cassette player might come as standard. Hell, I even remember wishing for a radio that had push buttons rather than two twirly knobs. That’s old. 

With this new/old, car I had an updated wish for the radio. I wished that it might be possible to connect my classic ipod to the sound system via a cable so that I could listen to my podcasts over the speakers. Honestly, it was one of the first things I looked for. So, yay, I am happy to report that this feature does indeed exist. Now, when I set off on my long journeys, I can enjoy my podcasts with ease as I roll along.

I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and it’s great.

It is… great, yes, great.  Except…

Except something has been lost. Something really small and quite difficult to define. I’ll give it a go, though. You know me; always trying. 

Before I do, I just want to explain why I’m not going to tell you about the podcasts I listen to. Not today anyway. Podcasts, I feel, are a bit like underwear. You can reveal a little too much about yourself by describing in depth the type you use. With a reveal of your underwear, you can immediately be seen to be either the coolest dude on the block or the lame ‘tighty whitey’ doofus. So can it be with podcasts. So lets not go there today. I don’t feel up to it. 

But, yes, something has been lost. Let’s  do that.

Before my new Batmobile, I tended to listen to podcasts in three places. Firstly, when I go on specific ‘walking’ walks, I bring my beloved, still pristine, ipod classic along, I plug my earbuds in, and I ‘do’ my podcasts. Secondly, if I’m making dinner and there’s a bit of prep involved, I will again break out the ipod and buds and do me some listenin’. Generally, in this case, I put the ipod in my breast shirt pocket and go to work. Invariably, the earphone wires gets caught in chairs and pots and the buds get ripped out of my ears and I swear a lot such that my family thinks I hate making dinner but, apart from that, it’s good. 

Thirdly, and this is naughty I know, I used to listen in the car on long drives. I’ve done a lot of podcasts that way. 

“Ah no, Ken,” I hear you say, “that’s not naughty. You stick one of the earbuds in your ear and turn the volume up a bit and you’re good to go.”

Yes. Um. 

I use both earbuds. When I’m driving. I know, I know, it’s just that the one ear thing winds me up. I’ve always been a bit of a sound junky and the one ear thing just doesn’t fly my balloon or float my boat or rattle my cage. 

So, yes, naughty.

But it’s okay. I’ve stopped now. I’ve got my new/old car with the hot line connection between ipod classic and car sound system. I don’t need my earbuds any more. All is peachy. Except…

Except I miss listening on my earbuds. 

Something has definitely been lost. Something I never really knew existed until it was gone. It’s a strange sort of intimacy to comes from listening with earphones wedged in your ear canal. The words and the voices all seem to land with an unfiltered purity in your brain. The tones and registers of the voices seem to tickle those tiny nerve endings that bring us our sounds. To go altogether too far, there is almost a sensual quality to listening to regular podcast stuff like this with earphones. And in the car, on the speakers… well, it’s just in the car, on the speakers. 

Do I make sense? I don’t know. The ease and convenience of the new/old car and its sound system means that earbud free driving will now be the norm and, in truth, there’ some sense of relief about that. I always felt I was doing wrong being totally plugged in, in the car. 

But I will now look forward even more intently to the long long walks and those chair-tangled kitchen earbud listens. 

Tickle me, podcast. 

Tickle me there. 

I Just Won’t Write One This Week

I’ve probably said it before. I think I’ve said everything before. Sometimes the problem is not being able to think of what to write about, it’s much more a problem of focusing in on one particular thing. 

This week, the old mind is racing with all kinds of different stuff, some fantastic, some utterly appalling, and it’s hard to find the right direction to focus in. It’s equally hard, also, to find any kind of consistency of tone. Should I verbally punch the air or verbally throw myself off a cliff. 

“I’ll tell you what, “ I say to myself, “it’s Sunday morning and you still haven’t written anything. Take it as a sign, a gift from the Cosmos. Take a day off.”

It’s tempting. There’s a nice smell of toast coming from the direction of the kitchen. The rain has stopped. Why the hell not? 

I just won’t write a blog post this week. Why should I bother anyway? If I can’t pin myself down to something I want to say, what’s the point?

Right. Toast. A walk in the non-rain. Maybe even a glance at the paper.

All good. 

But wait. What's all this? I’m here, two hundred words in to something that has no rhyme or reason and has no clue where it might go after the next line. Why am I not eating toast? What the hell is going on?

There’s a tiny trickle of fear, certainly, that keeps me typing. If I don’t do it this week, will I ever do it again? That must be how a blog finishes up in the end. Not with a ballistic post damning all-and-sundry to hell and back nor even with a post announcing the end of it all. I bet the final post on most blogs is an everyday run-of-the-mill thing about, I dunno, eating toast or walks in the rain. 

I don’t like things to end. I don’t like things to stop. I don’t like throwing old, long past their sell-by-date things away. That’s why I wear the same old shoes and jacket, that’s why I follow the same old patterns. That’s why I’m still sitting here, three hundred and seventy words in, and not out in the kitchen munching toast.

So what can I tell you? If I try to write about the awful stuff that is lurking in the news, I will find that a couple of sentences won’t make it and anyway anything I might write would seem impotent and floundering in the light of the awfulness. Best leave it for another day, when thoughts may come straighter.

There’s been lots of drama stuff this week. I could tell you about that. Three separate rehearsal sessions for three separate things. All of them excellent fun. I could easily have written a long post about all that. I just don’t want to overplay that hand and the fun is only just beginning. 

I’ve read a few good books. That could make a passable post. Not bothered though. I tend to write fairly shitty reviews because the tropes of review writing tend to bore me so I usually just end up saying if I thought a book was good or bad and refusing to tell you the plot. So, no, not a post about books although, if you’re looking, I found Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh to be very good. I also enjoyed Miss Jane by Brad Watson for the quality of the writing and the empathy therein. I recommended Remember My Like This by Bret Anthony Johnson to Lucy and she enjoyed it too so that makes me feel safer in saying I thought it was great. 

Movies I’ve seen. I loved The Lives of Others on Netflix, which I was years late to. I thought In A World was smart and sweet and funny and Bone Tomahawk settled me in to a very well made genre-respectful western only to be shocked out of my complacency two thirds of the way through. Oh, yeah, Hell or High Water is a fine film too. Jeff Bridges remains The Man. 

What else? It’s been raining. I got wet. 

Sam and I went to see Graham Hopkins at his Drum Hang in Mocha Beans in Westport. That was very cool. Graham is the ace drummer with The Frames and many other collectives and he was happy to drink coffee and chat and drum like bejaysis. A good night. 

We saw Dinosaur too at The Linenhall, fronted by Laura Jurd who plays trumpet like a great-trumpet-playing thing. It’s lovely to hear and see trumpet playing in real life. It’s quite a physical thing. The jazzy inflections of the instrument are naturally paced by the limits of what a breath can do and the breath itself sits behind the music like some physical proof of its reality. Also there’s saliva to be drained. It’s quite a beast and Laura doesn’t tame it, she more rides it like a bucking steer.

We’re watching ‘This is Us’ on RTE2 and it is pretty schmaltzy and smooth but I think it’s also pretty good. The narrative is corralled in an impressive way, the humour is light and good, and the characters are engaging. It’s not Ibsen but we keep recording it and sitting down with it so that’s a good sign. 

Apple Tree Yard was very good on the BBC. It sparked some lively discussion around the place and that’s always a positive sign too. We missed Taboo and we don’t get iPlayer in these parts so I’ll have to look into a way to see it. It sounded really edgy and blunt, all at the same time. 

So, yeah, look, I just won’t write a blog post this week. I’ll have that toast and that walk (not at the same time) and I’ll come back to it fresh and inspired next week. 

That’s the best thing. 

See you then.