My oncologist says that I need to be careful about my “sleep hygiene.” The chemo drugs are going to mess with my sleep. I’m probably peri-menopausal and that messes with my sleep. I’ll eventually be taking hormones to tamp down any possible tumor growth. That will make me actually menopausal, and yes, mess with my sleep some more.
But it’s 4:30, no 4:50 by now, and I’m up. This happens perhaps five nights out of seven these days.
I’m not freaked every minute, not consciously so. But on Facebook, a high school friend posts this video of a 19-year-old therapy dog that just died. He can’t walk but does cuddle with people in their last hours, and in his last hours.
I am absolutely blubbering by the end of that video. I don’t know where those tears came from; I’m not usually the cry-at-drying-paint sort. It is a sweet, wonderful bit of film, but I am not crying about the dog exactly. I am crying because the dog video pierces something deep inside, something about the preciousness of life, about how it sucks to die, about how important it is to connect, to the very end. Am I thinking about myself? the dog? the elderly people in their last hours? I don’t know, but that video gives me a clue that there is a great, tightly wound ball of emotion and worry in there. Maybe that’s why I’m up writing this at, what is it now? 4:59 a.m.
My husband goes up and down these days. He tries to be kind, to do the extra housework, to massage that knot in my back that just won’t go away. But he gets irritable about things that would not normally irritate him: an usher in church who’s a little unwelcoming, a driver who doesn’t do quite the right thing, an overly exuberant 9-year-old. He always apologizes, always tries to make it right, but he’s on edge. I hope he makes it to the “husband and significant other” support group this week.
My kid says she’s angry. She’s having trouble sleeping, too. She’s picking fights over nothing. She’s arguing just to argue. After she stomps off to her room crying for about the sixth time in a weekend, I go in to try to help her name her feelings. After some commands to “go away!” and a minute or two with a pillow over her head, she whimpers that she’s angry about everything: the move, the fact that 90 percent of her stuff is in a storage center in the East Bay, this temporary apartment with the great views but the black-and-white, Crate & Barrel impersonality, the fact that her Mom is sick. She misses her friends. She wants to go back to Brooklyn. She’s mad because Dad made us move. I tell her that if she wants to be angry at someone, she should be angry at me. I miss our friends, too, but I wanted to move back to California.
I tell her it’s OK to be angry, it’s OK to feel confused. This is a hard time; there’s no getting around that. But hard times do not give you a permission slip to be rude, to be mean. She nods that she understands. This is progress from earlier talks when she was sticking her fingers in her ears. She gives me a hug and goes back to her nightly reading, the trigger for this latest mini-crisis. Half an hour later, she draws an unflattering picture of her father, tells him not to look at it. Then, she asks him to hold up the drawing in front of the pillow. Finally, she punches the picture and the pillow ten times. Clearly, we still have some work to do. But I’ll give the kid this: She’s probably the one who’s the most open about her feelings these days.
It’s 5:14 a.m. Maybe I can get another hour of sleep before I have to get up. Maybe I can stop worrying. Maybe I can somehow make it better for my husband and for my kid. Maybe. For now, it’s 5:18. To bed.