Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Artifice..or, if you stand by me, I'll stand bayou.

So..I have this weird mental device I employ to help me fall asleep at night. One of the many joys of bipolar disorder is the inability to turn off my brain (In the medical world it's known as "racing thoughts"). I can lie there for hours with a random thought, a piece of a song or various other mental flotsam and jetsam just looping over and over. I know everyone has these little bouts of insomnia from time to time, especially under stress, but for me it's pretty much the norm. So over the years I've developed what I call sleep fantasies.

Sleep fantasies are various mental scenarios of either places/circumstances that I'd enjoy sleeping in, or places I'm grateful NOT to be, safe in my bed instead. That sounded weird, let me try to explain - an example of a place I'd LIKE to sleep: I have this weird obsession with the bayou portion of the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland (more on this later). My favorite part of the whole ride is the very begining, when the boat is floating serenely past little houses on stilts rising out of the water. The windows glow with light from within, fireflies blink above the water, a man in a rocking chair lazily plucks chords on his banjo. It's so peaceful..and yet you know crocodiles may lurk in the water. No matter, you're tucked safely away in one of the stilt houses. I like to pretend I'm in a little bed in my own little stilt house, drifting to sleep with the sounds of the bayou outside my open window. I have a collection of these little scenarious stored away in my brain, and sometimes they help reel my racing thoughts back in. My mind quiets, I sleep.

An example of a circumstance I'd NOT like to sleep in: on a woven mat on the floor of a hut in a third-world country. The type of place where entire families sleep on the floor, various (and often venemous) creatures crawling over thier bodies. *shudder* *SHUDDER SHUDDER* Why would I even think about that? Because then I focus on how safe and comfortable my own bed is and I feel grateful and somehow soothed. The scurrying in my brain gradualy slows, then stops, and I sleep.

Kind of weird, maybe, but it sometimes helps keep my squirmy-restless brain busy long enough to let my body fall asleep. Back to the obsession with the bayou in the Pirates ride. I was playing that fantasy loop in my head a couple nights ago, trying to get to sleep. Then I started to wonder what it would be like if I were actually allowed to spend a night there somehow. Like, what if Disneyland offered some kind of overnight package that allowed people to sleep in one of the stilt houses (yeah..imagine the price tag on THAT little number)? Wouldn't it be awesome to get to do that? But then I thought..hmmm, maybe not. Maybe if got to spend a whole night there instead of the few moments it takes to pass through it on the ride, it'd lose its charm. I'd notice a repetition in the bayou sound effects. It would become apparent that it was a recording. I'd start to notice the flaws in the special effects, I'd detect the human element in it and the fantasy would crumble. It's better to just have a sense of it that I can play in my head, unsullied by reality.

That got me thinking (oh no, exactly what I was trying NOT to do - THINK) about how that same phenomenon relates to human interaction. How the less we know about a person's behind-the-scenes reality, the more we can idealize them. Maybe that's why relationships are so exciting when they're new. You just focus on the appealing parts of it, you haven't had time to start noticing the human element. The flaws in the special effects. Maybe it's why sometimes long-distance relationships, or even relationships that develop between a prisoner and someone in the outside world seem to unravel once the barrier of distance is removed. With the barrier in place, you can control how much of you is revealed. You can show just your shiny side, and keep the less attractive mechanics hidden. At least for a while.

Then time goes by. The shiny surface shows hints of tarnish, you get glimpses of the not-so-pretty side. The fantasy dissolves and you're left with a mixture of the things you found appealing to begin with, and all the other parts that make someone who they are. The quirks, the flaws, the strange habits..all of it comes to the surface eventually. Maybe that's how you know someone really loves you. When the special effects fade and they see your gritty inner workings. And they stick around anyway. ....Maybe I should just take sleeping pills.


ThePo'Fo' said...

You write so beautifully...really draws me in! I do some of the same, well, sort of. I have to imagine calm things or places or scenarios in order to quiet the brain enough to actually sleep.
I completely agree on the human side of all that...relationships are so interesting and dynamic. Oh yeah, and romanticized by us on a daily basis. It takes a conscious effort to remember the tarnished side is beautiful, too.

sugarskull said...

Aw, thank you. That means a lot coming from you, I enjoy your writing a great deal. I'm glad I'm not the only one with sleep movies in their head. And cheers to the tarnished side. :)

About Me

Hippieville, CA, United States
This is the story of life after losing the "real" job and the house, trying to find the middle ground between making a living and actually living.