Sleep. What a fuss we make over that simple thing. But if you've ever heard of Fatal Familial Insomnia you wouldn't look at a lack of sleep as a particularly gruesome way to die. But it is, by far one of the worst.
We all need it . . . sometimes I'm deathly afraid of it -- the lack of it, I mean. Not being able to sleep is one of the worst feelings in the world. It's a real biggie in why I've never been able to get an office job. When I had one, I was sometimes so anxious about not waking up in time to go to work that it became a huge dilemma -- worrying about it would keep me awake, which would make me worry more, etc. etc.
It's also why I began to drink. A couple or more well-placed martinis or a liter of wine was practically guaranteed to knock me out. No worries about falling aslep. Then the alcohol would wake me up nice and early and I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep, so it was a built-in alarm clock.
So I think that I can point to fear of not being able to sleep as a major factor in my becoming an alcoholic. My mother used to worry about my scotch drinking when I was 18 or 19, but she quickly calmed down when I told her I drank it so I could get to sleep. That was something she seemed to well understand.
Flash forward to today: since I rarely have anything pressing to have to do in the morning I no longer have that added pressure of having to make sure I get to sleep, so it's a mighty nice weight off my mind to know that if I somehow can't sleep, I won't be a wreck having to do what I have to do the next day.
I wonder how many wrecks are stumbling around doing exactly that, day in, day out. People with hangovers coming to work, who have weighty jobs that affect thousands of other people.
I once had a good friend back in the 80s. He was an air traffic controller. I was approaching 30, and was astonished to find out that my possibilities of becoming an ATC were very, very slim. Even if I passed all the tests, they could only station me at some remote waypost somewhere -- I was literally TOO OLD to work a regular ATC post such as Approach or Ground. Too fucking old at 30!
Jeff was way younger than me -- maybe 23 or 24. A fucking LITTLE KID! Yet he was juggling jumbo jets at one of the busiest ATC centers in the world -- Oakland Center in Fremont, California -- responsible for everything from LA to Oregon.
He gave me the tour at Fremont. It was mind-boggling. I got to sit at an empty station next to a guy who was really controlling jumbo jets. I could see them with my very own eyes!
And Jeff was a firebrand. He told me stories -- MANY stories -- about all-night parties after which controllers would go straight to work -- high on cocaine and rum, and begin shuffling planes full of thousands of passengers all over the crowded sky. It was the norm, not the exception, he told me. Stories of ATCs hooked on coke or speed who'd be making trips to the bathroom all day or night. Oh, trust me, I believed him. See, I'd see HIM just before he was about to go to work, hungover as a skunk.
You know the rule of being under thirty? It was because only when you're under thirty can you still summon the wherewithal to fight through a hangover and do the work at hand . . . after that it just becomes too overwhelming for the older mind. They . . . know . . . that. Before you're thirty, lack of sleep is just never an issue, anywhere.
There's a theory -- a goofy one but an interesting one -- that when you wake up you're a completely different person than the one who went to sleep. A different person with a different life. The only transition is your dreams. Haven't you ever closed your eyes and the next thing you were aware of, it was four hours later? You can't remember a single thing in between, all that's different is that the clock has advanced by four hours compared to what you . . . or who you think is you -- remembers.
How do you know that you're the same person who went to sleep? You can't prove it. Everyone around you in your new world would never believe you.
Think about it. Every time you go to sleep you're replaced with someone else who seems to have the same thoughts and experiences as you. But how do you know that when you went to sleep last night you weren't actually a 50-year-old arc-welder living in a suburb of Bucharest, Rumania, with three kids and a dog named Bandi? Can you prove that you weren't?
Case closed. I think I'll take a nap now. See all you Russians later.