Inside Looking Out by
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Prompted By Sleepy Time

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Insomnia has been part of my life since I can remember being alive. I can recall being very young, listening to the soft, trilling wake-up sounds that the mourning doves in the tree outside my window made, before dawn was even a faint glow on the eastern horizon. I very often started my day to that sound, and I was never an early-to-bed kind of person, so I have spent a lot of my life on too-little sleep.

Looking outward, unseen and unheard, I take solace knowing that for a while at least, I am safe.

Getting to sleep has always been the hardest part. Growing up as I did in a maelstrom of shouting, fighting, cursing and recrimination, I needed calm before I could close my eyes, could stop staring at the ceiling above my bed. I needed to quiet the loud voices of self-doubt and the softer, more dangerous ones of self-loathing. I needed to convince the anxieties to stop prodding me back to alertness.

Towards this end, I have always used certain bedtime fantasies. Fantasies of sanctuary.

The scenarios differ in detail, but share a common structure. I am alone. I am somewhere that no one can find me; a cave, atop a mountain in a cozy cabin, or deep in the woods, in a tent lost among thick trees. Usually I have contrived some way to monitor my surroundings, to learn if I am needed, or wanted, or hunted. Looking outward, unseen and unheard, I take solace knowing that for a while at least, I am safe. No one can sneak up on me, no one can get to me.

Comforted, I can finally drift off to sleep.

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.


Tags: sleep, bed, insomnia, fantasies
Characterizations: moving

Comments

  1. Marian says:

    I’m sorry getting to sleep was so traumatic for you because of your childhood, Dave, but I’m glad you found fantasies and visualizations that helped. I use chants, songs, mantras (both Jewish and Buddhist), and sometimes breathing (four counts in, six counts out) when I have particularly anxious nights. Not 100% effective, but they often work.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Sorry to hear that you’ve always had difficulty getting to sleep, but good that you have learned to compensate as best you can. Fantasy and meditation sound like good remedies for you.

  3. Thanx Dave for sharing your very personal story.

    I hope the writing you’ve been doing is cathartic and keeps some of those demons at bay.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    It is sometimes hard for me to vanquish the anxious thoughts that I have when I wake after my first round (maybe 3 hours) of sleep. A friend listens to a podcast of sleepy time stories for adults. She swears by this. I may have to try it.

  5. Dave,
    Your story of struggling with sleep is poignant and eye opening. Bravo on your resourcefulness and resilience.
    I marvel at people who fall asleep when the lights go out, and stay asleep until it’s time to get up. That ain’t me. I’ve never had the wherewithal to yield to the nocturnal flow. And at this late date, I do not anticipate an adaptation, although I am working on my breathing, and solidifying my friendships with sleep inducing voices on my I Phone., and when I find myself awake in the night I seek to enjoy the night.

  6. Suzy says:

    Sorry to learn about your difficulties going to sleep, but, as others have said, it’s great that you figured out techniques to help you compensate. And I’m delighted by your comment to Dana about how helpful your participation in this community has been!

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    I am reading this as the doves are doing their early morning routine. Your invented safe place sounds lovely—we all need that somehow in our lives to be able to thrive. Thanks for another eloquent and insightful post.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      I listed only the common fantasy places of refuge. Other, less frequent ones, have included a submarine, an underwater habitat, another planet and a space ship. As I get older, the hiding places get more mundane. Lately I keep winding up on the deck at Catherine’s bar from the “Death in Paradise” series; a refuge with rum drinks. I must be getting better at last, because in these ones I have Gina with me.

      Shields up!

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    REQUEST!
    Someone toss a test comment at this story, please. John Shutkin has tried but gets an error message.
    Thanks!

  9. Marian says:

    This is a test comment for Dave by Marian to check if needed as admin.

  10. John Shutkin says:

    Still trying to post my comments to this tough, moving story, Dave. So let me try one more time — and be brief.

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story with all of us. I trust your rituals at bedtime have been able to take you to a place where you can now, finally, calmly sleep. And how nice that your participation in Retro has also been helpful to you.

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