Kage Baker never liked to admit to any physical problem. I’m still not sure if she thought it was an admission of weakness, or just terribly gauche. She was a firm believer in the old adage: Don’t tell your friends about your indigestion: ‘How are you?’ is a greeting – not a question.
Anyway, she didn’t like to talk about the aches and pains to which flesh is often, and usually banally, heir. She’d squint over her keyboard for hours, chugging caffeine and swearing, before she’d take action against a head ache. Ditto cramps, nausea, a head cold, a hangover … about the only reason Kage would indulge in palliatives was for aching feet. Her feet were a conspicuous weak point. She was a total sucker for a foot rub.
It’s one of the reasons I didn’t figure out she was ill until it was almost too late to do anything about it. Unfortunately, that delay was just enough to eat up all our safety margins; by the time I was raging to get Kage proper care, it really was too late. Turns out she could convince even herself that nothing was really wrong.
Of course, one of the reasons that worked was because, in all our day to day lives, our malaises and megrims usually are next to nothing. Let’s face it – as we all progress into the Uttermost West, we learn to deal with that hitch in one leg, the sore shoulder, the increasing difficulty in finding 4th gear on an upward climb … personally, when I first began to feel constant pain in my left arm, I thought it was arthritis due to knitting too much. Most of us expect the hoof-beats in the distance to be horses, not zebras.
But zebras are real, Dear Readers. It serves us best to remember that from time to time. That familiar ache is not necessarily the light-hearted old foe you may think it is; it might well be some badass young punk gunslinger, all rude tattoos and no manners, ready to knock you down and stomp the shit out of you.
Right now, I am being utterly stalled in all my plans by the newest eccentricity in a life-long dance with sleep dysrhythmia. What was once a simple, carefree and easily managed insomnia has degenerated into chaos. Basically, I stay awake until I pass out from exhaustion, and then I sleep until my body must wake up for maintenance. In between times, I dream that I am up and writing, but then can’t summon the brain wattage to actually focus when I’m awake. This kind of fatigue isn’t alleviated by unconsciousness.
Sleep is not restful nor restorative; wakefulness is neither active nor alert. I have all the stamina and sparkle of an elderly turnip. Nor is this subject to any sort of logical rhythm: I can sleep for 20 hours, then barely stay awake long enough to eat and drink before I fall asleep again. On the other end, I’ll stay helplessly awake for 2 or 3 days – an hour’s incautious nap, and I’m stark staring awake for another day and night.
I’ve tried to stay awake, and I fall asleep at my desk, in the bath, standing in front of the sink washing out a bowl. When I’m awake, sleeping pills are pointless – I acclimatize to any given drug faster than a Borg to a phaser setting; my doctor simply won’t give me anything strong enough to make me sleep more than 2 nights in a row.
Hence the recent sleep study. I am earnestly praying it will reveal severe sleep apnea, because that is something my doctor knows how to treat. I will happily wear an oxygen mask to bed – or bat bones, or a necklace of garlic, or any other fetish he prescribes if it will let me sleep. Anything, as long as I can shed this albatross of inconstant, incomplete and unsatisfying somnolence that my damned body has substituted for healing rest.
Of course, I am not assisted in this fight by the fact that Los Angeles is going into another heat wave. But sweating doesn’t keep me awake; I’ll consent to being parboiled in my bedsheets if I can just sleep.
I see my doctor on May 20th – no use going until he gets the wretched report, and that takes at least 10 working days. And nights. Long, hot, aching, exhausting nights, observing the strange transformation of my cool feather pillows into bags of tapioca pudding. Discovering I’ve had my nightgown on backwards all night. Debating my odds of slicing cucumbers for a snack in the dark without cutting a finger off. Listening to the crickets and mockingbirds sing; listening to the little black cat snore while the orange kitten chases the moon across the floor.
God, I’m tired. Those hoof-beats may be horses or zebras, but they sure aren’t sheep. They’re much. much, too loud.