“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”

W.C.Fields

 

She, who once slept through a 5.8 earthquake in L.A., and the 1968 Democratic convention, says it’s stress.

Of course it’s stress. I’m stressed. She says I have to stop this habit I’ve developed of reading the obituaries every day to see if anyone I know has died. So far there have been one or two. It’s not the names, it’s the ages that concern me. It seems that there are an unusual number of people my age who are leaving us, which leads me to wonder if there is, somewhere in the void, a big book with a decade schedule of some sort. And if so, is mine on it? That’s stressful. What if this book says, “Oh look! J.P.’s decade is up, and he just got a new tattoo. Pity.”

The good part is that I don’t know any of these people. They all seem to live in these tiny towns in Maine that I don’t know. What if this celestial book is a GPS of small towns? I’ve taken to making a list of them, so that when we drive to the coast this summer, we’ll take a route that avoids them. I know it’s silly, but you can’t be too careful. Who knows, this summer I could be sitting in a lobster shack in one of these towns when the doom schedule comes up. Bam! I start to choke on a foot-long lobster roll and I’m gone. I can tell you this, she won’t be able to handle that Heimlich maneuver. She’s still working at getting a book app on her new smart phone.

Maybe this is why I’m having trouble falling asleep at bedtime. I have no problem, it seems, falling asleep in the daytime.

She says it’s because I’m in a new exercise plan, one that will forestall death, working out at the gym each day, and then those 40 minute walks up the hill. This, she says, is why I fall asleep sun dozing on the deck.

Okay, that makes sense. I fall asleep watching documentaries on the water problem in the Sahara, details on the new recycling furor or the endless news stories on the last years’ scandal on the George Washington Bridge shutdown.

I often can’t keep my eyes open during the national news. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell puts me out, but so does Majority Leader Harry Reid. I’m an equal opportunity political dozer.

I tried mindfulness meditation. “If the mind wanders, bring it back.” That’s easy to say. But right in the middle of Tuesday’s mindfulness meditation, I sensed a presence in the room. She was standing at the door, hands folded. “I’m focusing on the now,” I whispered in Buddhist mode, “What is it?”

“Well, NOW,“ she said, “Something is bubbling in the basement.”

Yes, something was. The sewer had backed up.

There was no bringing my mind back to the center. I had to call the plumber, who came with two guys and cleaned the drain, then the guys came and sanitized what the backup did. This with a leak in the water pipes somewhere in the yard. This is stressful.

Someone on TV, I don’t know who, N.J. Governor Chris Christie I think, suggested a light snack before bed. So I had a turkey sandwich and a chocolate yogurt bar. Then I lay there for hours unable to sleep, because I was guilt-ridden cheating on my diet. She said it was the chocolate.

Someone at the gym suggested “progressive muscle relaxation.” In this procedure, you start with your toes, tense all the muscles very tightly, working your way up from your feet to the top of your head, then completely relax. I panicked. It felt like my carpel tunnel had come back. What if it was a stroke?

Someone on Facebook, I don’t know who, Dr. Phil I think, suggested “imagery.” So I tried the phrase “Imagine yourself in a happy place.” I chose the food court at the South Portland Mall.

She, who is good at visualizing, read aloud to me the fine print where it says, “pick a peaceful, restful place,” and suggested that picking the food court, which has always been my happiest place, was ridiculous.

I guess I’m doomed to staying up late, watching David Letterman, the only host with white hair, and checking my phone app to see what’s open all night in town.

McDonald’s pops up. I hate Catholic guilt.

J.P Devine is a Waterville writer.