Jim Bishop | Arousing thoughts at 3 a.m. to put you to sleep

Jim Bishop | Arousing thoughts at 3 a.m. to put you to sleep


“I couldn’t sleep at all last night,” goes the opening line to a Bobby Lewis’ hit in 1961.
That catchy tune reverberated through my cobwebbed cranium as I lay still, wide awake in bed. I checked the radio alarm: 3:15 a.m. Time to get up … which I did, to, ahem, use the facilities. Typically when this happens, I return to bed and immediately return to slumberland.

But not tonight, and no idea why.

I am grateful that I normally sleep well. Those times I don’t, I’m not a happy camper the next day, and those around me suffer from insufferable me.

What causes me to get upset those times I stay awake, other than not getting my much-needed beauty rest, is what occurs while assuming the horizontal position in a semi-comatose state – my overactive mind kicks into gear, quickly reducing the odds of returning to nocturnal nirvana.

This night was no exception. At 4 a.m., I turned on WSVA to find dead silence (actually, it was a quiet cacophony of persons talking at once with several distant stations filling in the gap). After several minutes, the news announcer came on in mid-broadcast serving up more depressing news about the sorry state of the economy, which didn’t help quiet my spirits, to be sure.

The weather forecast called for rain all day Thursday. Cold, cloudy, inclement weather affects my disposition, but I reminded myself then and there to give thanks, because we need the moisture.

The longer I lay awake, the more I started to worry about things – deadlines at work, my family, finances, protracted conflict in so many areas of the world, interspersed with loud purrs from pet feline Avery, who jumped on the bed, thinking this as good a time as any for some strokes. Why is this the time to fret unduly about certain issues, most of which I can do little about? The anxiety level rises and I have a little quiet talk with myself.

I think about people I haven’t seen in a long time and fear that our paths won’t cross again in this lifetime. I fixate on Clifford Mast, a high-school classmate, who I just learned was killed in a freak accident at his workplace of 38 years near Des Moines, Iowa. Cliff never came to our five-year class reunions, so I haven’t seen him since graduation in 1963, and now I won’t see him again until that final commencement, and I mourn his sudden departure. I picture my dad in my mind’s eye, already gone 10 years, and wish somehow that we could have one more Ward and Beaver Cleaver-type exchange.

I do resist the temptation to get up, turn on the computer, check personal and office email that came in during the wee hours or play a couple rounds of Solitaire (I’m not always playing with a full electronic deck).

I rarely go to the living room to see what’s on the tube at 3 a.m. If there’s “nothing on” in prime time these days, even with some 70 channels on our basic cable service, rest assured it’s even worse seeing perky pitchwomen hawking junk jewelry or “lose 20 pounds in two weeks while eating whatever you want” infomercials at such a dreadful hour.

When I finally drifted off, I must have really gone into a grand funk, because the radio came on with the 5:30 a.m. news, and I didn’t hear it. In fact, I almost overslept, thus causing me to start the day on the wrong foot and finding it hard to keep in step.

Stumbling down the hallway into the bathroom and staring at my disheveled mane and pasty eyes, I nonetheless give thanks that I’m able to navigate under my own power, enjoy the benefits of indoor plumbing and a hot shower, wash down a bowl of cereal with several cups of robust coffee and head off to work. Many others yearn to be able to go and do likewise.

I’ll try to remember and reflect on this next time Mr. Sandman decides to rudely abandon me at 3 a.m.


Column by Jim Bishop



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