Thursday, January 29, 2004

bane of my existence revealed, followed by a strange segue back to high school

Again, you could be on Jeopardy! The category could be "Jeremy Freese", and the Daily Double question could be "The bane of his existence." There is only one thing that occupies the existence-bane pedestal. Always, always, ask me what the bane of my existence is, and you will always get the same answer. That answer, or, to be Jeopardy! about it, that question: "What is sleep?" If anyone ever asks me what the bane of my existence is and gets an answer from me other than "sleep," I will give you a $20 prize, right there, right then.

I have been haunted by sleep problems for as long as I can remember. Literally, some of my earliest memories, from like age 3 and 4, are of not being able to sleep and staring at a poisonous-radium-illuminated clock on the nightstand near my bed, watching the hand go around and around.

Don't worry, I'll spare you gory details of a poorly slept life. But the problem has been acting up this week, which is especially annoying given that I've had these grant proposals to do that would really be greatly aided by having me mentally sharper and able to focus. A basic pattern that I have had is that the times when I've been stressed and especially stressed about how I really need to get a good night's sleep, have been of course the times when I've been least able to sleep. It's not nearly as bad as it once was.

In high school, I would regularly not be able to sleep on the nights before my wrestling matches. The only actually impressive varsity tournament championship that I won * was a tournament in which I got zero sleep the night before and then stumbled out on the mat in a drowsy haze and, in a chain of events I really don't understand, proceeded to demolish the guy who had been the favorite to win my weight class. I might have been helped by the fact that he basically injured his already bad knee a few seconds into the match and so then it ended up being a battle between the skinny-half-awake-uncoordinated guy and the stocky one-legged-wincing-in-pain-shouldn't-even-been-out-there guy. But, hey, a win is a win, even when recounted years later on the weblog.

Anyway, the gist is that stressful times are especially the worst for me and sleep. My family, in general, are not the sort that handle stress well. My mother, as I was just telling someone, has this thing where her most common reaction to high stress is generally lose all control over her gastrointestinal processes. So, at some of the most crucial and emotionally fraught moments of her life, my mom's immediate phenomenological experience has been dominated by an urgent sensation to go find a restroom. Considering that, I suppose I could count myself fortunate to just have the sleep-thing.

Tonight I have engaged in some extra effort to get myself sleepy because I really do need to get a good night's rest tonight, so I'm hoping it works. If this post seems a little bit punchy and odd, that's probably a good sign. Wish me sweet and uneventful dreams.

* Let there be no illusions: I was ultimately pretty inept and morphologically unsuited to wrestling. Temperamentally, on the other hand, I have to confess that I was actually much better suited to it than what I would otherwise now let on.

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