There are many things in this world that I’m not particularly great at.
Cutting in a straight line, for example. I had a kindergarten teacher back in the day who took such umbrage at my inability to snip along a straight, perforated line that she attempted to hold me back for a year, such that I could learn the requisite motor skills for a fast-paced future career in corporate America. Thankfully, my parents didn’t have any delusions that I would be using my right hand for anything but rigorously watching Kelly Kapowski on “Saved by the Bell”, and bypassed this suggestion. And while the emotional trauma of almost being held back would forever stunt by abilities to lacerate a crisp piece of construction paper, it at least enabled me to retain my pride and intellectual dignity.
Basketball is another great example. Having been raised primarily on quarter-pounders and PlayStations, and cursed with the genetic fortitude of an inbred Spanish monarch, sports that involved a lot of running, jumping, and general body movement were never my forte. Yes, my defense was about as stout as a thin gruel from a Charles Dickens novel, and my offense as potent as a middle-aged man lapsing on his Viagra prescription. My “transition defense” consisted mostly of aiming for the opponent’s shins and hoping for the best, and my Converse high tops while absolutely *sick*, struggled to hold my juvenile girth and unfortunately short legs. In fact, the only thing I was even mildly decent at was shooting which, while quite easy while standing stationary in practice, becomes infinitely more difficult while breathing with the intensity of a thousand chubby suns from running up and down the court for 5 minutes.
But while I am bad at many, many (*many*) things, there is nothing that takes the substandard cake quite like my sleeping ability. On the surface, sleeping feels like something I should both excel at and enjoy immensely. As it involves a) Not standing up b) Not interacting with others and c) Pretending to have the vitality and cognitive activity of a corpse, it seems like it should be right up my alley. Alas, it is not to be.
This is for a few reasons. First, while the night might be dark, my thoughts are darker. In the course of a day, it becomes extremely easy not to have your mind wander to morbid and existential topics. We’re all vying for purpose in our lives and worthy distractions to make us feel as though we’ve achieved it. And those data analyses, spreadsheets, and strategy meetings sure do put forth a strong illusion. However, when dusk has settled, the laptop’s gone still, and the Zoom calls have ended, what is left to distract you from thoughts of the eternal nothingness that awaits each of us upon our own inevitable demise? Usually, very little. As you lay in bed, hands folded over your chest like an unfortunately short and harmless vampire, staring at the ceiling fan, attempting to keep those thin veils of flesh over your eyeballs tightly sealed, it is extremely difficult not to let your mind wander to the macabre and sinister. Can there be intrinsic meaning in a godless universe? Can there truly be comprehensive rules of morality? Am I wasting my life? In the grand scheme of the cosmos is that even relevant? They say to value the journey over the destination, but what value is a journey that has no end and no intrinsic backing to provide it with any objective worth? Did I remember to close the garage door? What if the Bucks *don’t* win in 6?
However, the psychotic thought bubbles of a troubled soul are not the only things making it difficult to sleep through a full night. Because even if I am to *finally* answer (or at least postpone) the answers to all of my most morbid questions, I then need to actually stay asleep throughout the full course of the evening. Which is certifiably impossible. On the one hand, I stare at a screen all day. Some of this is involuntary, like the laptop use imposed upon us all by the might of corporate drudgery. Pieces of it are completely voluntary, like the 3-6 hours I spend each night looking at dogs on Instagram, and watching “Best of Guy Fieri” YouTube videos on repeat. Either way, the mass exposure to blue light and *absolutely money* virtual chicken wings rewire my brain to think sleep is naught more than a passing fancy deserving no more time or attention than a petulant child or this blog. Additionally, I’m an insanely light sleeper. A raccoon digging through the garbage for some delectable pad Thai 3 blocks away is enough to arouse me from my sleep, and leave in search of this furry friend (For pad Thai is delicious, and us raccoons must stick together). Which wouldn’t be a huge deal, if I could effortlessly drift back to dreams of Avril Lavigne after waking. But instead, the *moment* I wake up, the existential dread reasserts itself, and I’m left sitting in an alley in West Allis, waxing poetic to my new raccoon friend, Gizmo, about the nature of God and man, and our infinitesimal place within the universe. He sneaks me a paw-ful of expired rice noodles, and I slip him a nip of bourbon and some millennial pseudo-philosophical bullshit. We both get what we want, yet somehow lose at the same time.
And finally, and probably most importantly, I drink literal oodles of coffee. At every possible moment. The only people I resent more than those who *Don’t need alcohol to have a good time* are people who can actually get through a day in their life without coffee. Like, what are you running on? A nutritious breakfast, a good night’s sleep, and an optimistic attitude? (*gags politely yet emphatically*) I, like most emotionally well-adjusted adults, need that sweet-sweet bean juice to get me through another day of this mediocre, sanitized purgatory that we loosely call an existence. Yes, I could hop on that 8 am conference call without having first guzzled a pot of that dank brown, but doing so significantly increases the likelihood that my laptop screen is going to be smashed or that I’m going to emit a polite, yet biting, insult regarding someone on the call’s deepest insecurity (“Hey Judy, *love* the new hairstyle. It’s almost enough to detract from that feeling of helpless incompetence instilled in you from a young age by your abusive parents. Anyways, what are your thoughts on this slide?”). But while coffee is great for stifling a perpetual annoyance at those around me and for getting through the emotional turmoil of another day, it is emphatically *not great* for then attempting to let go of said annoyance and turmoil at the end of the evening. That pent up annoyance didn’t go away, it was just buried behind enough caffeine to murder a horse, and now you get to think all about it as your hands shake and eyes twitch in the comfort of your bedroom. If that’s sweat you feel sliding down your forehead, get used to it – shit’s about to get real uncomfortable.
So, there we have it. An innate proclivity to ponder the absurdity of my existence, paired with blue light and raccoons, and topped with a metaphorical cherry of caffeinated bean water make it wildly difficult for me to sleep through an evening. Which to be fair isn’t all bad. Those hours I would be sleeping, I could instead be reinvesting in a new and exciting hobby or life-improvement activity – like learning an instrument, or meal prepping. I mean, I do neither of those things, and have no intention of starting within the calendar year, but it’s a nice thought.
But if you’ll excuse me, the best of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” just posted on YouTube, and I’m hoping it might trigger an internal dialogue on the in-born human need to “Excel” and “Be the best”, and the absurdity of the concept, given that it’s unlikely to do much of anything for our happiness or sense of belonging.
Have a lovely evening, all!