For all of my life, I have been the heaviest sleeper I know. I have slept through fire alarms, burglar alarms, alarm clocks, phone calls, messages, power outages and thunderstorms. I am the only person I know whose afternoon naps stretch into six-hour hibernations, who can fall asleep while texting — with my thumbs still hovering over the keys — and who can sleep standing up. In short, sleep has never been a problem for me.
Never, that is, until now. Lately I’ve been having trouble sleeping, a problem that is so unknown to me that I can’t pinpoint the exact cause of it, and even though I have my suspicions, the defense mechanism it triggers in my brain refuses to accept any theory other than sheer work-related stress.
Six weeks it has been now. Six weeks during which I have watched, waited and wondered. Six weeks during which I have miraculously jolted awake (all on my own!) at the mere beep of a WhatsApp message coming in at 2am, 4am or 6am, depending on the time difference. Six weeks during which I have had to learn, for the first time in my life, to fine-tune my senses in order to remain optimistic without free-falling into insanity and insecurity. Six weeks of wondering where all of this is headed, and how I will be able to survive if it reaches the end of its road.
It is surreal. And yet, at the same time, inexplicably more real than so much else I have known, and irrevocably more usettling than everything else that I ever believed in.
Because while distance — and its corresponding timezones — calls for more faith, more hope and more trust to bridge that gap, it also brings to mind the very nature of the situation. Even though all you have are words to read and a voice to hear — and you are forced to believe so much more deeply in those words and to read the other so much more profoundly in tonal inflections, in pauses, in their taciturn “OK”, “Yes” and “No” — it doesn’t change the fact that the written words and the voice are all you will ever get. You learn to say only the things you really mean, because you know it is the only truth the other has of you, but you hope with all your heart that the things they say are the truth that you feel you deserve. You always take courage, you never take for granted, but you are — all at once — crazier and yet more careful, both happier and sadder, more independent and also more vulnerable than ever before.
When I was in Milan two weeks ago, I stepped into the Duomo di Milano Cathedral — my first time in a church in more than four years. The cathedral was dimly lit except for where the pews were, but the darkness was comforting, as if to shield each person’s burdens from prying eyes. And as I sat in the pews and then knelt on the prie-dieu, I asked God for a sign — a sign that somehow, all of this was supposed to be my lot in life, however unfortunate the circumstances. And if this really were to be my lot in life, I asked for His forgiveness that I had gone so far astray that I was unable to come back from it, for the courage to know that one day, I would be able to rise up and be the woman I thought I always was, and for the strength to survive it if that time ever came.
Until then, I will just wait for sleep to come.