I used a scrabble word finder to check out words starting with Z and I haven’t felt so uninspired since… a couple of days ago at X. It was late, Z was elusive and the little mofo continued the trend as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Sleep, the final frontier. To sleep, perchance to stay the fuck awake instead. Sleep, the show and tell edition, in which I spend the first half whingeing and the second half showing you some South African stuff.
Disclaimer: I wrote this post during a tragic 3am phase. None of the mistakes are my fault.
Lullablur slurabyes and lovesongs for sleep…
It’s all soothing till the last few songs – what a nasty bastard of a playlist.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that you do exist. Or something like that. I think wanting that is very morbid, but I want it when I get like this. That’s why I’m trying not to think. I just want it all to stop spinning.” ― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
When the drugs don’t work…
This is on my schleepy playlist, but just in case you didn’t get that far, you’re so going to relate to it…
Usually the pill takes an hour or so to hit me veeery gently over the head with a phoenix down pillow, no shitty hangover from it either. Occasionally if my mind is too wired and/or tired, I neutralise the pill with subconscious ninjapolar skills. The skills have to be subconscious, or else I’d have sprayed the little mofos with a napalm DDT cocktail a long time go.
I love the smell of sleeplessness in the morning…
Fighting off sleep gave me those skills (habit) and by the time you’ve been at it for around 30 years, your ability to stay awake is phenomenal. Not you, me. Things got a lot better by the time I was 40 or so and eventually I developed the ninjability to sleep far too much. It pisses other people off hugely, but I love it. Then it became better balanced and only mania and stress can damage it now.
“Why can I never go back to bed? Who’s is the voice ringing in my head? Where is the sense in these desperate dreams? Why should I wake when I’m half past dead?” ― Emilie Autumn, 4 o’clock
Emilie Autumn is the sound of insomnia.
I love sleep, but stress puts me into hypervigilant mode (the joy of c-ptsd) and so my subconscious pulls my eyes open like a bushbaby on acid and that’s that; my amygdala and I, sitting on the ramparts waiting for armageddon. Mania trips sleep up and gets me to party instead; mixed episodes send me up to the ramparts again, this time with an ak47 and rocket fuel rage. It’s easier to achieve calm before than after whatever is happening has happened. Sleeplessness leaves a dazed hangover in its wake (I love bad puns) and if my dear friends panic and anxiety have been around, it becomes what we call a bang babalas – the sort of hangover where you’re jumpy as hell and as shaky as the proverbial leaf.
“I wonder why I don’t go to bed and go to sleep. But then it would be tomorrow, so I decide that no matter how tired, no matter how incoherent I am, I can skip on hour more of sleep and live.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
The sleeplessness hangover works the same as alcoholic ones, usually minus the puking. I get loads of fluids into my system and solid food as soon as I can face it. Pills for the headache, if there is one. Dim lighting, avoid people, and I find myself hunching over more and more. And the day devoted to rehabbing my mind doesn’t guarantee sleep anyway. It can go on for days.
GenX, this one’s for you.
Sometimes it’s less melodramatic, sleep is minimal at night and eventually I give in to the urge to nap during the day. I don’t have power naps, I have oblivion. And so the self perpetuating cycle grinds along and life becomes steadily and inexorably shitty. I love those naps though, that druggy descent feels so damn good. According to my amygdala, it’s safer to sleep in daylight when the demons are out at work. My poor frontal lobe never really stood a chance. C-ptsd fucked sleep up both nostrils from the get go, and then bipolar joined in the fun. Sleep makes bipolar worse, bipolar makes sleep worse. I can handle the occasional sleepless night just fine, but when it becomes a pattern, I fall apart.
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” ― Ernest Hemingway
I love sleep, but the love is unrequited. I love sleep, but I’m conditioned to kick its ass when night falls. I love sleep, but embracing it passionately during daylight hours screws everything else up. I love sleep, but the suppressed fear of it keeps me from it. I love sleep, but sleep stands me up, night after night. I love sleep, but sleep is a slut. I love sleep, but the lack of it makes me monkeyminded. I hate sleep, because I’m frightened of it.
“Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.” ― Edgar Allan Poe
Not everyone can stand me when I’m asleep or trying to be; I snore like a chainsaw, sometimes the mess and/or fear sweats drench my head and smell horribly sweet, sometimes there are night terrors. Initially, I will always fall asleep last, hypervigilance doing its thing. Secretly, I want to fall asleep first, in her arms. If/when we get that far, my issues vanish and then sleep is just sleep and I love tangling into it.
“Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).” ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Take it away, 2pac…
Here’s the finest lullaby in time and space and it’s from my own country. It’s a traditional Zulu song and if you ever speak to me about the Helmut Lotti version, I will excommunicate, eject and evict you. It is sad as well as exquisite, as you’ll see in the lyrics. You all speak Zulu, right?
(The video is fucked up – some fool had the idea of including a photo of George Bush holding a baby in it, but it’s the only one I could find.)
Thula Baba (Thula Thul)
Thula thul, thula baba thula sana;
thul’ u bab’uzo fika eku seni;
kukh’in kanyezi ziholel’ u baba,
zimkhan yisela indlel’e
Tula thula, thula baba
sikhona xa bonke beshoyo,
bethi buyela ubuye
Keep quiet my child
Keep quiet my baby
Be quiet, daddy will be home by dawn
There’s a star that will lead him home
The star will brighten his way home
The hills and stones are still the same my love
My life has changed, yes my life has changed
The children grow but you don’t know my love
The children grew but you don’t see them grow
The singer, Miriam Makeba , is a South African institution and we are incredibly honoured and fortunate that she came back after three decades in political exile. Rest in peace, Mama Africa (1932-2008).
In South Africa, even sleep is political.
Before he sings, Vusi Mahlasela tells a story about the dark days of apartheid that makes my eyes leak a bit. If you get through it untouched, I suspect you of being neither human nor humane.
The Thula Project, an album of South African lullabies.
No babbling about sleep would be complete without…
Frrrom the man people think is Morgan Freeman…