Thoughts on thinking

Freeway

Sometimes I don’t have anything to blog about.

Some of my best blogs come from deeply painful places, from emotional barbs that have to be worked out from my flesh with sharp grips. Or sometimes they represent self-discovery, a breakthrough I’ve been chewing on for a few days like a leathery piece of turkey jerky. Or sometimes they come from a place of righteous anger, a sense to vent about the social injustices of the world. Often they come from places of inspiration, bonding moments I have with my sons or my mother or a close friend.

But sometimes, I just don’t have anything to say, even when my brain never stops working.

I’m flooded with inspiring ideas that will never bear any fruit.

The other day, I drove away from Las Vegas at 3 in the morning and planned out a blog in my head about the desert at night with all the drunk people casually gambling with no concept of time. Then I turned on the radio and heard an old favorite song. I sang along, turned off the radio and sang it two or three more times, getting the idea to put up a YouTube channel with me singing a different song every day that inspires me, and then I deleted that idea because that would be one more thing I begin that I would be proud of but never know how to promote. Then I turned on a book on tape about the life story of Jerry Lee Lewis, and I spent the next few hours laughing and annoyed and outraged and inspired by his very weird life, and thought about writing a piece about him and wanting to buy and listen to all of his music now.

I kept driving and I thought about a getaway, something long and enduring, a few weeks where I could have pure, uninterrupted creative energy, but deleted that idea because I would miss my children and I have bills to pay and clients to see. Then I thought about how confident I felt just a few months ago, determined and sure that my LGBT History channel on YouTube (also called Snapshots) were going to take off and be successful, how the quality of the video and the content would just keep gaining and expanding, then I thought of how quickly that confidence had dissipated when I realized that even the people I was paying to support the product didn’t really believe in it, and how the failure to launch was really teaching me a lesson in humility. I thought about efforts to expand or reduce content, wearing a suitcoat to make myself more presentable, generating taglines and mission statements, and even throwing it all into a podcast that went nowhere, and how even though I’m still putting out the videos, my dreams for the project feel like they are tucked into a cardboard box I’ve placed into the attic.

I thought about other ways I might feel more successful with my writing. I thought about making inspiring music videos, or humorous blurbs about animals with unfortunate names, or posting daily images of terrible comic book covers from decades ago that are incredibly hilarious now, or reading my blog entries out loud and putting them online. I think of people who are doing what I want to do, like Anne Lamott and David Sedaris and Mary Roach, and doing it so brilliantly. I thought of all the people who make money on YouTube melting things or blowing things up or doing make-up tutorials or instructing dance steps or looking pretty while interviewing people.

I thought about writing books, and making documentaries. I thought about the graphic novel that I worked for five years on and that I was so proud of and how there are now boxes of them sitting in my closet, unread. I thought of getting in shape and the excuses we use to stop ourselves. I thought of the last guy I tried dating and how the early magic of the relationship had become weighed down by the human realness of adult life: jobs and kids and family and distance and communication, and how that made me sad. I thought of ghosts. I thought of constantly struggling to find our places in the world.

Then I sang, and listened, and thought some more. And the sun came up over the red hills and I stopped for coffee and sat on a curb and drank slowly as I willed my brain to be still. I saw the sun in the sky, the cars speeding by on the freeway, the isolated homes in the distance, and the small ants climbing near my feet.

I thought of silence, and ambition, and adventure, and independence, and my children.

And then I filled my car up with gas while I thought about thinking, and got back in the car to think some more.

Sleeping naked

Moonandstars

I’m still getting used to the space, depth, and sound of my new bedroom. The way the air fills these four walls, the darker depths of the closet doors, the worn path between the door and the desk and the bed. It’s a new bed, too. My bed is different, too. I’m higher up off the floor, the mattress is softer, and there is a set of shelves on the headboard behind me. The shelves are empty, except forĀ  a lamp.

My laptop is laying on the mattress behind my head, the surest evidence that I am single. It’s so easy to flip it open and turn on some mindless brainless fluff to fall asleep to. I always choose things I’m interested in learning about, but sleep comes within seconds of my laying down in the night. I fall asleep soundly, quickly, heavily.

And then, almost without fail, about four hours later I wake. A sore muscle, an errant thought, a full bladder, something to disturb the slumber, and then I’m generally awake for an hour or two. I can try various tricks to get me back to sleep–a few bites of some food and a couple of Tylenol tend to do the trick sometimes, soft music others. But if I can’t fall back to sleep within thirty minutes or so, I’ll often just get up. I’ll surrender to the wakefulness and get things done. I always have things to do.

I scan my body, surveying myself. My toes are cold. I’m on my right side, a pillow tucked between my knees, another pillow clutched in my arms. My right shoulder is sore from being suspended up underneath my head, where a third pillow is wedged and folded. My right arm is straight out, hanging off the bed. My chest and shoulders are aching, sore from last night’s push-ups, and my glutes are sore from last night’s stair-climbing cardio. I’m warm and snug, in between sheets with two big blankets on top, one of them made by my grandmother before she died, and one of them knitted for me by my mother twenty years ago when I was in high school. I’m nude, and warm, and snug, and the air outside my bed feels chilly on my exposed ear and cheek.

It’s been a long time since someone shared my bed, since I could hear familiar and even breathing behind me as I lay awake, since I felt the weight and heat of another body, since I had my arms around a body instead of a pillow. I could move my cold toes over beneath his feet to warm them. I could convince myself to stay there until I fell back asleep because I wouldn’t want to disturb him. But there is no one there.

And so I rise. And stretch. My vertebrae gratefully expand and pop. My back is always sorest in the mornings. I stretch my hips, turn my neck back and forth, touch my toes, press my shoulder blades together, raise my arms in the air. My body shivers in the cold as I slide on a pair of sweatpants. The room is dark, but my eyes are adjusted and I can make out the hamper full of clothes, the stack of books on the floor, the desk and chair, the unfinished paperwork, the charging cell phone, the lamp, the laptop cords.

I stand there for a bit, my feet cold against the carpet, and I listen. I hear the gentle hiss of the air vent, but all else is silent, heavy, dark and chilled. I expand my awareness to outside, to the trees and concrete outside, and I can make out the crunchy sounds of a garbage truck down the road. It must be 3 AM.

On occasion, I do therapy sessions with my clients about the science of sleep, helping them realize how much goes in to their sleep cycles. Some sleep too long. Some, like me, fall asleep quickly but can’t stay asleep, waking quickly and abruptly. Some stay awake for hours, lying there as sleep eludes them, until they fall heavily out until the alarm blares and then they can’t wake. Some are lonely, some are stressed, some are anxious or frightened or sad or in pain or horny or numb or grieving or empty. Some struggle with weight and can’t breathe well, some with blood sugar and they keep a snack nearby.

We discuss the psychology of sleep in these sessions. The temperature of the room, how many blankets are on the bed, what is worn, when they last ate or exercised or showered or washed their sheets, what sounds are in the room, how dark it is, when they last had alcohol or caffeine, what methods they use to wind down. We discuss how they trick their brains into letting rest come. Some, like me, expect insomnia the majority of the time, and when a good night’s sleep comes, it is like heaven on a pillow. (And it is only on these nights of rest that I dream.) I do my best to help them find answers.

I don’t always practice what I preach.

I turn on the lamp and close my eyes tightly, letting them gently adjust to the garish ugly light that is now interrupting the darkness of the room. I look at my empty bed. I see the unfolded laundry and unsubmitted bills, shrug, and think why not. I use the restroom, get a glass of water, turn on a podcast, and get to work, cold toes and all.