Sleepless night

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

There are some things we just don’t talk about.  Not necessarily because the topic is lewd or especially awkward – like bodily functions or marital problems – but rather because the subject is so patently boring, like a sleepless night.  It’s not exactly the fabric of either mystery or science. In fact considering what most people do to combat a sleepless night there really isn’t much of substance to observe.  The stock response to a sleepless night is to roll about in one’s bed, endlessly uncomfortable, drifting back and forth between resolve and resignation, unsure of the time, chilled by the damn night air, trepidatious about the future, perhaps punishing oneself for this or that.  All in all it is a rollicking distressful sensation.

Usually there is some predominant theme which insinuates the torment.  Quite often a recent event (or the foggy recollection of some drunken behaviour) suddenly surfaces and takes a grip upon one’s conscience. Then we re-enact the particles of the experience, painfully re-living the script, trying to dismiss its cogency but never able to let it go. The more one rolls the idea about one’s head, the more it gathers momentum and in an instant you find yourself on your back staring at the ceiling, wide awake.

While it is possible to exhaust oneself by perpetually twisting about, slamming one’s head into the pillows, drawing the covers about oneself or just trying to forget about it entirely, unless that tactic succeeds to wear you down into a semblance of sleep, there is no other answer but to get out of bed and address the issue. It may be two o’clock in the morning but otherwise there is no impediment to an assault upon the day.  It’s an ultimatum. As Oscar Wilde reportedly once said, “It’s the wallpaper or me – one of us has to go!

When I ran my own business it was not uncommon for me to have been startled awake by a sudden recollection of some transaction detail which for some reason or another I felt required attention.  Granted, in many instances the abrupt preoccupation was magnified far beyond its actual imperative but at the time it did nothing to assuage my consternation to imagine that “it could wait”.  As a result I would frequently hurriedly dress in some casual clothes (like sweat pants and a wool cardigan) and haul myself to the office to get out the file, turn on the computer and do whatever I felt had to be done, which sometimes was nothing more gratifying than simply confirming that what I had already done was satisfactory.  At least some things can be put to bed successfully!

Lately I haven’t the plague of business to monopolize me. I have also unburdened myself by delegating everything possible to those whom I consider better suited to the management of my affairs; viz., doctor, lawyer, accountant, financial advisor, landlord and estate agent. If nothing else the capitulation qualifies as tactful estate planning (though if I were to be entirely truthful it is a gluttony for vapid irresponsibility).

Nonetheless from time to time certain trifles manage to seep through the cracks and I am left holding the proverbial bag with no one to call to fix it. It really annoys me to have to address what I consider to be tedious bureaucracy.  I battled with subalterns and low-level mandarins throughout my entire career and I have positively no patience at all for any suggestion that “you can’t get there from here!” (which is sadly a metaphor peculiar to many large institutions). As a result I am sometimes disturbed by these annoyances in the middle of the night and am therefore obliged to gather my wits about me and marshal the forces of logic, reason, fact and detail in order to precipitate a resolution. I have in my arsenal the tools of deductive reasoning (first honed as a student of Philosophy in undergraduate university), the force of argument (cultivated at law school) and the power of persuasion (acquired as a practicing solicitor). During the initial urgency and clamour of the anguish, my private reflection is anything but certain or confidant. Indeed in the middle of the night when these exasperating bagatelle begin to percolate I am broadsided to distraction which, of course, explains the reason for my insomnia. It is in such circumstances that my predisposition to resolution takes hold and I do whatever is necessary to cap the matter.  Thankfully it is not always necessary to speak with a person but instead one can communicate by email and rely upon the stewards to attend to the problem in the course of their normal business day.  Meanwhile I have succeeded to palliate my own perturbation and can hopefully return to the lair with a mind much relieved of its midnight baggage.