Sleepless in suburbia

You know that feeling when your eyelids are so heavy that you can barely keep from closing them? When you’re so tired that your dearest wish is to find somewhere peaceful to snuggle down and sleep? Well, that’s how I’ve felt for the last hour sitting here behind the reception desk.

Sitting behind a reception desk just waiting for something to happen isn’t conducive to wakefulness at the best of times, but in this case is only part of the problem. I’m genuinely tired I think. A lot of that is directly related to my recent activities. I’ve had very little leisure time recently, and over the weekend got to bed 4am one morning and 1am the next. I’m not getting any younger.

That’s the superficial reason, but underpinning it I think are more complex reasons relating to psychology and my domestic situation.

I put on a brave face and talk a good fight, but this incessant struggle must be wearing. My experience of it is that it comes in waves. I’m defiant by nature and inclination, which generates energy, but also consumes. It’s what makes me get up day after day and incites me to fight on. The fire flares up, but the heat generated burns up the fuel quickly, until the time comes when there seem no more than a few glowing embers. I’m weary then, but fortunate in that very soon the fire catches again – till next time.

I think my domestic situation is much more relevant. It occurred to me yesterday as I woke up in the peace of my friend’s house, in my own room, that it had been so long since I had enjoyed that sense of privacy. I realised there was a certain tension inherent in sleeping in public view. I think it probably permeates you even when the lights are out knowing that at any time someone can walk in on you.

Of course that’s very much a relevant fact of life that impacts directly on my sleep. This morning, for example, someone walked into the kitchen at 6.30, switched on the light, and rummaged around in a drawer. I slept on my narrow couch barely a couple of metres away, in full view. My sleep was disturbed, and effectively over. This happens all the time, and unfortunately I’m staying in a household where people will do this at all hours of the night, and with little regard to noise.

The hardest part almost is that I have no space of my own, day or night. There’s nowhere I can retreat to, nowhere I can let down my guard and just be me. It’s something you take for granted when you have it – and most of us have it from an early age – but which you keenly appreciate when it’s no longer yours.

The only space I have which is mine is when I’m driving in the car. At all other times I’m sharing other people’s space, and publicly available.

I know I seem to be returning to this quite a lot lately, but that’s a sign of how deeply rooted this sense of rootlessness is. One of my waking fantasies these days is to find myself a hotel room where for a night I can spread myself out and do as I desire, and wake undisturbed into a space that is mine alone.

It’s something I want badly, but not so much that I can live without it. I’m living a life with a high degree of difficulty right now, but coping all the same. Would be nice, but can survive without it. I reckon always that I’ll come out of this a stronger man. And, when finally I have those things back, a truly grateful man. Till then I’ve just got to stay awake.


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