My husband’s snoring is not what actually keeps me awake.
We are working overtime to maintain normalcy in a world where it is no longer an option. There is no sense of time, of schedule, or even what is coming next. We are all clawing for some comfort.
In the daylight hours, it is easier to find. I see a glimmer of it during “outdoor recess”, zoom game night, or in a virtual conference. I can notice how funny my children are and how much I really like my husband. And when the day ends, because it invariably always will, the toys are collected, and the laundry is folded, it is time to shove aside the goldfish crumbs from my sheets and climb into bed. I change from my daytime pajamas into my evening ones, shove one pink ear plug into my head (the other one is definitely trapped in someone’s shoe) and add the showstopper: a protruding mouthguard that kept me single for most of college. I am finally ready for sleep. I stare at the ceiling, surrounded by the grating cacophony of my husband’s nostrils. If he can sleep next to my headgear, I can refrain from smothering him with a pillow.
It is in these moments, my brain claws to make sense of what is happening. My subconscious works overtime to sort and organize the barrage of information I take in during the day. It tries to make up for what I’m missing as a result of the quarantine. The people I haven’t spoken to, the work I wasn’t able to do, or the places I couldn’t visit. My brain is scraped like the edges of a bowl, making sure none of the dough on the periphery has been missed. My dreams combine time periods, people, and fears from the past three decades. Despite the fact I have always been someone who can remember their dreams, I just wake up now disoriented, scattered, and not rested.
So I bought a sleep tracker. One of the ones that Amazon was listening to me talk about and sent me pop up ads for. I downloaded a meditation ap and I spent twenty-five minutes searching for a melodious voice to drown out the rattling from my cute and noisy husband. I repositioned my mouthguard and subsided into my sleep.
And I woke up. With a deep sense of calm.
It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t the $19.99 tracker. It was simply a distant memory of one voice. “Leah, I am here to pick you up.”
I moved throughout my day trying to recall the details of the dream. I could only revive feelings. Buildings were crumbling, as if all the scaffold holding it up was blown away, but in the middle of the chaos, I was whisked away by a kind voice. And then, I remembered. The real car. The real voice. The real lady who picked me up.
As the story goes, when I was the exact age my twins are now (probably not a coincidence) my mom returned to work. She left me in the protected care of a babysitter, however I was not comfortable there. I only hold two snapshots of this time: sitting at a stark kitchen table coloring with crying children, and the moment at the end of the day I was picked up. Our family friend. My art teacher. The funny lady who told me stories and almost shared my birthday. She would be there every afternoon to take me and my sparkly backpack home to family.
More than thirty years later, that is the memory my brain offered me.
One of safety. Of comfort.
I wish I could say that every night left me with this sense of calm, but of course this is not true. This is a terrifying time. But just as the uncertainty is a fact, so is the consistency. Beneath the noise, there is a bedrock of belonging. All I can do is listen to the lull of the baby monitor, push aside the fork a child left in my sheets, shove that ear plug in, and remember.