An Insomniac’s Inspiration

Inspiration can arrive in unexpected packages at the most inopportune moments, and tonight it slipped into my bloodstream as I read the first few lines of lyrical and honest writing in a book of creative nonfiction short stories I had picked up to try and aid my journey towards sleep. The effect was, naturally, the exact opposite of my intention; thus, here I sit an hour later, picking up my laptop to give my thoughts concrete expression rather than drifting into the dreamland escape I was longing for. Perhaps, I console myself, my mind requires this expression in order to find rest on this rainy Monday night, or perhaps this is merely a good enough hope to forgive myself the indulgence of writing again at last.

As I read the words of Hawa Jande Golakal, describing meandering conversations catching up with her best friend as “the meaningful mindlessness that any red-blooded woman who lives in a male-dominated household doesn’t know she misses until the tap is turned back on,” I smiled in recognition, and longed for my own best friend, many long miles and an entire continent away. I remember lying next to her on soft grass the last time we were together, the sunshine dappled on my sea-salted skin, listening to her deep pain in struggling to conceive the baby she so desperately longed for, and I smile thinking of the delightful baby boy she now nurses. 

As the story moved to the author’s painful but courageous career choices, I felt immediately the recurrent sense that I have been letting my life slip by these past few fascinating years of growth and learning without capturing it in words. I can’t yet articulate why this seems so imperative to me, but I can feel my memories fading from the richness of nuance and small moments of powerful insight into only the bright and glaring headlines, and that evokes a great sense of sorrow within me. While I hold my awareness that none of what has gone before is lost – it is all within me, and the person I am within each moment – my regret lies in forgoing the particular beauty of capturing moments while they are vivid and fresh, and moulding them into words that hold meaning for me, and often bring me fascination and pleasure to read back on years later, wondering at the journey that is my life. And so, I resolve silently to myself again that I will make a different choice, and I will try to write in the coming weeks and months about my journey once again, and most particularly at this moment about coming to terms with my recently-confirmed diagnosis of a chronic pain disorder called Fibromyalgia.

It’s much harder, I often find, to write when I’m in the middle of processing something. It’s much easier to look backwards and shape what feels like a coherent story for myself of how something unfolded, or the consequences of certain choices I’ve made once I have a clearer sense of what those consequence may, in fact, be. However, as I reflect back on what started me on the journey of writing – the death of my mother – it was in fact the very process of writing each day as it unfolded that became such an unexpectedly important part of my grieving process itself, and also linked me into a support community I hadn’t even imagined existed. Thus, I can sense intuitively, if I open myself to the process of writing each day simply as it is once again, I will find new and unanticipated benefits awaiting me. 

It’s well after midnight as I feel the cold floor tiles under my duvet-warmed feet, stumbling to the bathroom to blow my nose yet again, wondering with an unexpected flash of anger, “Why the fuck do we romanticise everything; no, why do I romanticise everything? There’s nothing romantic about mucus and illness; about pain and exhaustion. Why wrap it in beautiful words and try extract the meaning and growth within the misery?”

As quickly as the anger arrives, it departs. I let the questions fall away, unanswered and not needing answer for now. Instead, I allow myself again to relax into the poetic romanticism of the song that is playing, my ever-curious ear caught by the opening lyrics, and crawl back into the comfort of my bed hoping that sleep will now mercifully arrive to bring me oblivion and recuperation.

We’ve walked the long road and you’ve worn it well

You stitched yourself up when you fell

Keep your memories in jars

Carry secrets in scars

Beneath your shell”


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