Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Now I lay me down to - oh, bugger it. Time for the headlamp and something to read.

I'm a chronic insomniac. Not all the time; that would be exhausting (ha ha) but often enough. It's a consequence, as far as I can tell, of having one of those twitchy minds that doesn't ever properly switch off. There was an Observer article last year which pretty much summed up how it feels, although "lively minded" is probably a pretty generous way of phrasing it in my case.

Fortunately we're a house of book lovers, and when everything else has failed, and believe me, it fails -"good" insomniacs are able to override sleeping pills with their concern about not being able to sleep, which is just as fucked up as it sounds - I turn to my insomnia shelf. It's the first bit of any bedroom that gets assembled (because the absence of the insomnia shelf is in itself enough to drive me to a sleepless night, and yes, it's as pathetic as it sounds). The key to insomnia shelf books is to find things that are soothing in their familiarity but not gripping enough to keep me awake at night (oh, the joys). Often, for that reason, it's collections of essays and things with a finite end to them, or something with chapters which aren't so gripping as to make me lunge for the next one.

My three current favourite can't sleep-won't-sleep books:

Dan Savage's The Kid and The Commitment - but mostly The Kid. Dan Savage writes beautifully about adopting a kid with his boyfriend and, then, later, their debate over whether or not to get married (the kid was all against it). I bought The Kid when I was pregnant with Jonah and ridiculously insatiable about reading anything baby-related. I knew of Dan Savage - everyone in Seattle knows Dan Savage and, in fact, my lovely friend Kim once mistook him for a waiter at his own naked sushi party, so I was especially on the look out for him- but this book was still a revelation. It's soft and sweet, and irrevent and hilarious, and unbelievably moving.

Primary Colors
by Anonymous (well, not Anonymous any more, but he is still according to my book cover). I just love this book so much that it has big soothing ability. Henry, and Daisy, and especially Richard Jemmons, make me all giggle, and sit up a bit straighter because they're smarter than me and they're FICTIONAL, dammit! And I love the world that they live in, so that's comforting too. The first night I ever spent in my little flat in Kentish Town, my first ever own home, I watched the film of Primary Colors on my little portable, eating Chinese takeaway with a plastic fork because I had no idea where my cutlery was, and lying on the futon mattress that was my bed that night until I figured out how to assemble my bed. When the movie was over, I dug out the book from my pile of boxes and curled back up on the futon. That tiny little flat, piled high with random paraphenalia, felt like home right away.

Relatedly, The West Wing scripts - seasons 1 & 2. I took these on the plane with me when I moved to Seattle. Mum and Dad dropped me off at the airport with suitcases that weighed more than I did, and Dave was meeting me at the other end, so I just needed something to occupy me for 9 hours that wasn't going to let me get all sniffy about leaving everything behind, and would keep me excited about everything that lay ahead. Script books are perfect for calming down excited minds - you get all the action in your head because you read them in "real time" - and if having Aaron Sorkin's mind going on in your head isn't enough to exhaust you enough for sleeping, I don't know what is.

Hmm. So, books that help me to sleep that have obviously also, now I think about it, helped me to calm down under all sorts of other circumstances. Memo to self: Calm Down Already (not a chance).

1 comment:

Exmoorjane said...

Ah no....my insomnia shelf is really wordy and worthy....rather than comforting. Passages full of mind-boggling technicalities or on subjects for which I have absolutely zero interest. Sadly I can't name names as feelings would be hurt. ;)