Get Some Sleep Already

Seven mornings out of seven, I wake up pleading with myself to allow me to get more sleep. My second conscious thought every morning is, “I did not get enough sleep,” and I quickly review to see what time my last memory was, look at my phone to see what time it currently is, and then commence juggling my day’s schedule in my head to allow for another 15 minutes or another hour or another night of sleep.

I am not anyone’s employee, and have not been for over four years. So why am I pleading for more sleep? With whom? I could roll back over and rest until the promised arrival of the mythical Enough Sleep, a god or goddess who will declare me rested for all time and in no more need of sleep, and no one would notice my absence or care. I am no longer on anyone’s clock. I no longer need to call anyone to “take my shift.” I am retired/disabled.

After I have a little coffee, I quickly scan the news; within 10 minutes I am sure that I have once again slept too late, for too long, and I can not possibly get everything I had planned yesterday for today accomplished. Thus, my day starts out screwed, in two ways, every day. The eight-ball may be very quiet when it arrives every morning, but upon walking through my door, I am trapped behind it.

The hecticness of one’s life, the hecticity, is something we carry like a badge of honor. Rush hour, experienced twice a day, is the fiercest example of this: an entire city population (around here, entire county) comprised of people who think that they are running behind and are facing immediate unemployment if it weren’t for all the other slow drivers competing for their deserved two yards of macadam. And all those other slow drivers hate you, too, for the same reason of their own immediate unemployment.

Once one is convinced that there is no getting around the fact of imminent screwdom, it becomes something we almost brag about to each other. How many people greet you with a hearty and sometimes sarcastic, “Working hard?” “No, I’m getting coffee.” I held a job for a year in which my major occupation became “looking busy.” An observer would have thought I was a courier or constantly mailing documents to the home office. That observer would have been wrong.

We measure the quality of our day by the number of achievements we have. Number of documents published versus quality of work, or the number of times this week we beat personal commuting records to and from the office, or numbers of reps at the gym, or, worse, for those dieting, number of days without “cheating,” which represents even more harsh ways to harshly self-judge.

We live in a culture of Other Peoples’ Success and thus exist in a competition with others for more successes than them and yet better ones. This is because, as Brené Brown, a pop sociologist, points out, we live in a “culture of scarcity. We wake up in the morning and we say, ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ And we hit the pillow saying, ‘I didn’t get enough done.’ We’re never thin enough, extraordinary enough or good enough—until we decide that we are. The opposite of ‘scarcity’ is not ‘abundance.’ It’s ‘enough.’ I’m enough.”

Obviously, from the sketch at the top, the culture of scarcity is deeply programmed in me, even though I am no longer a part of any race to any place. The need for hecticity, which always contains within it the desire to escape from it, is deep in me.

I’m enough. Not “I’m good enough.” I’m enough. How hard that is to say, and to mean it to be about me, myself, and not you. It is even harder to embrace. And for every one of those days when I catch a glimpse of almost believing it and I briefly live a little more easy inside myself, make sure you are not in my way on line for coffee the next day. I’m working hard. I’m setting new records.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for October 24 asks, “We all seem to insist on how busy, busy, busy we constantly are. Let’s put things in perspective: tell us about the craziest, busiest, most hectic day you’ve had in the past decade.”

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‘Not from around Here, Are You?’

One of the unique things common to most people is a stated belief that their hometown is no place special. This often masks a fierce inner secret belief that their hometown is the best place to be from and (insert name of higher power believed in here) please help those who chose to be born somewhere else, especially those unlucky ones from the nearest next town. Those people are the unluckiest of all, perhaps because they were born so near to greatness, but were not, rendering the failure all the more dramatic.

By the oldest of old-fashioned reckoning, counting on my fingers, I have resided in more than 20 homes in six counties across three states in two time zones. This is not any sort of record-setting achievement, but it has given me a lot of hometowns. Poughkeepsie, New York, population not me, is my birth hometown and I lived there every day and night past age 21, which must be some sort of international record.

Poughkeepsie is known for a few things, most of them to do with it not being worth knowing about, much less reside in or be from. It is one of the nation’s minor punchline cities, partly because the name is longish and amusing to say and hear and partly because it is Poughkeepsie. (See what I did there? It is sometimes too easy. The word is a punchline by itself.) Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a city that I came t-h-i-s c-l-o-s-e to residing in, ranks one place ahead of Poughkeepsie in the list of punchline American cities, according to international surveys of What I Am Thinking Now.

Something that I noticed early on was the city’s fascination with itself. Its media outlets love to recount every punchline, every occasion in which our jewel on the Hudson has been ridiculed. It is perverse. Because there are so few mentions of Poughkeepsie in the national or international media, those examples, those few mentions are treated as precious, are subjected to a sort of Sportscenter slo-mo instant replay.

Any Poughkeepsian can recount some of them. There was a “Friends” episode. There was a vaudeville song, “I’m a Gypsy from Poughkeepsie.” Now you know how to pronounce it. Jimmy Fallon is from near here, so the name probably appears as a punchline in his monologues.

It is either a perverse civic pride in being a small joke or we have professionalized the art of setting expectations low for the entire planet, just in case someone might visit and report that they were pleasantly surprised. (“You know something? Those people in Poughkeepsie eat food! They walk with both of their feet!”)

Any attention is better than no attention, someone, probably from Poughkeepsie, once said. And woe will befall anyone from Wappingers Falls, the next nearest town, since they are unlucky enough to be from a place near to such famous not-greatness yet reside in a place that is not-so not-great itself.

But ask me where I am from and sometimes I can sound like I am applying for a job with the Poughkeepsie Chamber of Commerce and begin to rattle off sights and sounds and memories. (“Halloween in Poughkeepsie.”) The man who invented Scrabble was from here. Smith Brothers Cough Drops were invented here. IBM’s history here. The colleges. It is perverse.

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[…] And after it rains there’s a rainbow
And all of the colors are black
It’s not that the colors aren’t there
It’s just imagination they lack

Everything’s the same
Back in my little town
My little town, my little town

Nothing but the dead and dying
Back in my little town.
—”My Little Town,” Paul Simon

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for October 5 asks, “Think about the town where you currently live: its local customs, traditions, and hangouts, its slang. What would be the strangest thing about this place for a first-time visitor?”