Human feet aren’t planted into the ground, so most of us don’t think about how fundamentally connected to the earth our bodies are.
—Michael Gungor, This
For a man who had been so intimate and deep in his conversation, he was very detached in the moment. Maybe if you lived as many lives as he had, the only person you really had any kind of intimate relationship with was yourself.
—Matt Haig, The Midnight Library
Sometimes I have trouble sleeping.
It’s not like I’m tossing and turning, mentally replaying weird conversations, worrying about inflation, contemplating the meaning of existence. The “what if” anxiety that plagues many people. I don’t know much, but I at least know how to control my thoughts and meditate myself to sleep.
But it seems as though, instead, I suffer from nighttime vertigo.
I remember occassionally experiencing this as a kid. The symptoms were strange, though not cause for alarm. But now it’s happening every single week, multiple days a week.
When I’m in bed, lights off, and my body finally starts to relax, different body parts starting to get sort of warm and numb, the way it feels right before you fall asleep, sometimes that numbness makes me disassociate. My hands feel massive and so swollen that I can’t bend my fingers, and then my mind repetitively envisions me fruitlessly trying to pick up a tiny object. Or people flash close and far, as quickly as the ticking of a clock. Tick, they’re right in front of my face. Tock, they’re on the other end of a massive room. Tick, they’re in my face again. Or it feels like a very large person is sitting on me and I can’t move. Or I feel like my body is floating to the edge of the bed and that I’m going to fall off, but I don’t. Sometimes all of those things are happening at once. It’s not sleep paralysis. I’m fully awake and able to move my body. It all stops once I move and readjust. The problem with readjusting is that it brings me out of the warm sleepy state and I have to start the “trying to fall asleep” process all over again.
I’ve tried not moving, holding still and calm while my mind goes nuts, hoping that I’ll just fall asleep and be done with it all, but if I don’t move, it all just intensifies until I feel like I’m going to throw up.
I wonder if getting a weighted blanket would help, if consistent weight pressed down over my entire body would help me stop disassociating as I’m falling asleep. My brother Zach had a weighted blanket. I started thinking about it a few months after he died, wondering if anyone would mind if I claimed it. It seemed like a very comforting idea to curl up under it, in his specifically, the way it’s comforting to wear his t-shirts. I’m currently wearing his cute yellow and white striped t-shirt. It fits me perfectly. He had the best fashion sense out of all of us. But I wonder what prompted him to buy the weighted blanket. I remember when he got it, he excitedly showed it off to me. He seemed to like buying comforting objects. His weighted blanket, his big hooded robe, his fluffy bedroom rug, his lavender bubble bath.
The blanket was nowhere to be found in his tiny bedroom. My mom and I both looked, because she also out of the blue started to be curious of its whereabouts. Finally she decided to call, I’m not sure who. There were so many different people that day, that week. The police, the coroner, the perky emotional support lady who I wanted to punch in the face, the people in jumpsuits with a gurney and a body bag, the mortician, the dead body house cleaning service. Who did she call? I have no idea. But they said yes, his weighted blanket was taken. It had been soaked with blood.
Scratch the weighted blanket idea.
Maybe I should get a warm and breathing boyfriend and then I can ask him to lay on top of me so I don’t detach from the earth and fly out into the abyss. The last time I had an actual (Instagram official) boyfriend, four and a half years ago, he came to visit me and was supposed to sleep in my room while I was ordered by my mother to sleep on the couch.
But perhaps the second night of his visit, my mom fell asleep on the couch watching TV and I accidentally fell asleep in a chair in another room waiting for her to wake up so I could go to bed. It was super late and it was January and a bit chilly and I woke up to my boyfriend piling pillows on top of me to keep me warm. Everyone was asleep and he didn’t know where anything was so, pillows. He said “I used to do this as a kid.” I felt so warm and loved and safe under all those pillows.
Looking back though, I should have just cuddled up in my bed with him.
I respected my parents too much to break rules in their house, but I definitely broke rules when I attended bible college a few years earlier. It was super strict there and PDA wasn’t allowed. I remember being horrified one evening when this wannabe pastor boy did like a practice sermon at one of our chapels, and at the end of it he called his girlfriend up to the stage and proposed to her. I wouldn’t have said yes to that kind of garbage proposal, but of course the girlfriend did. Then they chastely hugged, until one of the head honchoes at the college whispered something in the pastor bro’s ear, and the lad pulled away from the hug and planted a smackeroo on his new fiancé’s lips. Everyone whooped and hollered “OHH SNAP THEY’RE KISSING” but I rolled my eyes so fucking hard. Like . . . they had to get permission to kiss after getting engaged. Gag me with a spoon.
I had a bible college boyfriend who I loved to go camping with, and sometimes we got super angsty and were just like, fuck campus. During weeks when we couldn’t get away to go camping, we’d occasionally drive off at night, park at the edge of the Winco Foods parking lot, and squeeze into his sleeping bag. We never had sex, though we did laugh at all the kids who got kicked out of school for getting caught doing the deed.
I loved the whispered campus gossip. “Hey, where’s so-and-s0? I haven’t seen them around for a while.” “Oh, so-and-so got caught sleeping with so-and-so, and they both got booted.” So good.
I didn’t want to have sex with my boyfriend, and he never did or said anything to suggest he wanted it either, so we’d just make out for a bit, cuddle up, and sleep. I loved the tight comfort of sharing a sleeping bag, being safe and warm with him. I loved that my body felt safe with him, but when we were done talking for the night, I was free to think and imagine whatever I wanted.
Safe body, free mind.
But eventually they want the mind to conform or they don’t like what the body is doing. When they start assuming or expecting, that’s when my mind starts to drift or my body gets rigid. It’s like the ease and connection between my body and mind never stay in tact for very long. Like passing through a veil. It’s either one or the other, only connected for fleeting moments.
Another bible college story:
I had a strange experience during my first semester there, in 2014. There was this outdoor worship night going on in one of the gazebos. It was pretty early on in the semester and I didn’t know very many people yet, so I was just sitting with my roommates on a spread of bohemian blankets. I always got pretty overwhelmed with drawn out worship events, so after a bit I just laid back in the grass and looked up at the stars, trying to detach from the emotional hype of the environment and not get anxiety about being stuck there with all that noise.
While looking at the stars, I suddenly got really cold and felt like I was floating. It was like I was in space or something, and all of sudden I found myself pleading with God to just free me from the earth, from my body, so I could fly among the stars. But after maybe a minute or two of that, I got really warm and felt like I was leaving the sky and being pressed into the earth. I could feel the vibrations in the ground from all the bodies that surrounded me. I don’t really know what that was all about, but at the time I thought it was a message about longing to go to heaven but being told that I was here on earth for a purpose and couldn’t leave yet.
Maybe that’s still the message, in a less Christianly way.
Every personality test I take tells me I value my individuality above all else, that I’m flighty and airy. If astrology holds any weight at all, I’m a triple air sign (gemini sun, libra moon, gemini rising). Floaty, detached, not all quite there.
I took this test called a “dosha” test, which according to Ayurvedic medicine is your body’s “bio-energy center.” I got “vata,” which represents space and air, the physical characteristics of which are: thin body frame, sensitive digestion, energetic, dry skin, cold hands and feet, and sudden bouts of fatigue and tiredness. Which very much describes me. One of the remedies for this energy type is to consume “heavy” foods like porridge, soup, stew. The remedy is always to ground. To not be so free that I lose awareness of my body, and in the process, lose my mind next.
I don’t know what my brain wants. I know I can’t fly. I don’t want to die. Maybe this is why I like meditation. It’s like a body/earth detachment in a very safe way. Maybe I should learn astral projection next.
Maybe I was a bird in my last reincarnation and there’s still some of that energy in me, my ancient body wondering why I’m tethered to the earth when clearly I was meant to soar. Maybe that’s my lesson to learn in this body’s lifetime. How to access freedom without my feathered wings.
I want to be here. I want to be grounded. I want to give love. I want to be present. I want to look someone in the eyes and say, “yes I’m here, I see you, I’m in this moment for you, I’m pressed into the earth for you.”
Maybe that’s something I have to learn to say to myself before I can say it to another person.
I will stay. I will stay. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll stay here for a hundred years if my body is up for it. If my body is willing to hold me down for that long.
But when I die, hallelujah, by-and-by, I’ll fly away.