I thought that marriage included mandatory sharing of things. A couple says “I do” and from thereafter beds and bank accounts and last names are instantly spacious enough for the two of them.
Within this sharing agreement, I assumed Mike’s and my best habits would rub off on each other. For example, I thought I would floss with more vigor or keep my drawers organized since Mike is so diligent about such things. I also supposed that I would develop an enthusiasm for jumping rope or doing pull-ups, since Mike performs these tasks daily. I perform them exactly never and hope to do less so in the future.
So it seems that not all parts of marital sharing are going as planned. Sharing a bank account or a late night pizza has never really been the issue. There is only one habit that I have always wished to share with Mike. And that is my insomnia.
A week ago, my brother-in-law Eric asked me if there is a point in the day that I stop drinking coffee in case it keeps me up at night. Without hesitation I responded, “Oh no, coffee doesn’t affect me like that. This is unrelated, but I’m actually an insomniac.”
One could say that I’m either terrible at sleeping or awesome at staying wake. To either, I say, “Thank you and goodnight.”
I have memories from middle school of reading a book until 4am and then going into my parents’ room and whispering “Mom! Dad! I’m still not tired.” They would groan with what I can only conclude was deep gratitude for having me.
Hours before bedtime, my mom would feed me chamomile tea and cut melatonin tablets into fourths— wanting to help me but also not wanting to irresponsibly sedate me. The line between helping and sedating children is the basic struggle of parenting, I think. This is what my mother taught me.
Throughout my wide-awake life I’ve learned that Tylenol PM gives me twitchy legs and bizarre daydreams in shallow sleep. Ambien gives me fantastic sleep and wild dreams, but my friend Sara told me she heard somewhere that Ambien makes people sleepwalk and eat cigarettes, so I’ve had a complicated relationship with it ever since.
Obviously, my husband does not share the struggle. He is quite good at sleeping, and disappointingly, he has not become worse since marrying me.
In fact, it is not unusual for me to find him dozing facedown on the carpet, collapsed into exhaustion from the simple act of petting our dog.
Once he missed a flight because he fell asleep leaning against the boarding gate. The passengers had to step over him to board, and he only woke up once he sensed the aircraft ascending off the runway.
That was the year he didn’t make it home for Christmas.
Even though my nighttime vigilance has not yet worn off on Mike, I keep trying to share it with him. I generally wait as long as possible to wake him up. I read my bible and pray, then undertake equally spiritual endeavors like re-watching old episodes of Parks and Recreation or worrying about the end of the world.
The other night I woke Mike up to ask him to consider whether having more children was irresponsible in the case that global warming is irreversible. This conversation was all the more frustrating since Mike has not yet seen Interstellar nor did he want me to provide a thorough middle-of-the-night recap. Still, I prompted, “If ocean levels are rising, should we buy a house in Colorado? It’s safely in the middle of the continent! Should we start house hunting? Tomorrow?”
You might be shocked, as I was, to know that Mike responded by mumbling an incoherent prayer for ‘peace’ on my behalf. Then he rolled over and fell immediately back to sleep.
Since, clearly, my husband is not keen on insomnia-sharing, I thought my wee child would be. Everyone says that children keep you awake at night, to which I replied, “Perfect! A comrade!”
But when Molly wakes up in the night, she is not, shall we say, amiable. She is actually quite grumpy and wants things from me other than conversation. One could argue that Molly actually wastes her bouts of insomnia on crying, while I resourcefully spend them on reading, watching television, and discovering new celebrities on Instagram.
Molly’s and my insomnia cycles also seem to be out of sync. She exclusively wakes up in the spare moments I accidentally fall asleep. So basically I sleep never. Not even by accident.
I’m writing this now in the middle of the afternoon while Molly naps like a little traitor. Of course, I’m completely exhausted, but give me a few hours and I’ll rebound. Around midnight is really when I hit my stride.
Mike keeps encouraging me to go to a doctor for my insomnia and I keep telling him to go to a therapist for his sharing problems. We are gridlocked, you see, but one of us is better rested than the other so it’s possible that he is more lucid.
I’ll bring the topic up with him again when the time feels right. I hear communication is key to healthy marriages. So communicate I shall— in the single digits of the nighttime hours.
Because all I really want to share is my insomnia.