Insomnia sucks. I've had nights when I felt so awake that I couldn't remember what it felt like to be sleepy or to fall asleep. Nights when I've had to remind myself that with one deliberate exception as a kid and once or twice in college, I have in fact succeeded in falling asleep every night of my life.
A few years ago, I was late getting to bed, sitting (in fact, possibly standing) in the dining room leafing through a pile of Advance Reader Copies of soon-to-be-published books. I read a paragraph of one, a hundred pages of another...and then I opened Mary Pipher's upcoming memoir Seeking Peace to the following passage:
"Emotionally we were opposites as well. Jim was as steady and calm as I was easily rattled and changeable. For every decision, I was the gas; he was the brakes. I wanted ten children; he was quite happy with only Zeke. Many years after we married, we had this interaction: I had terrible insomnia, and after several hours, I woke Jim to ask him what he thought about in the two minutes it took him to fall asleep. He said, "Pie." He wasn't joking. Then he asked me what I was thinking about. I answered, "The Holocaust." That about sums us up."
- Mary Pipher, Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World
What a revelation! I had certainly lain awake trying not to think of things like the Holocaust, but I hadn't thought of replacing it with something so simple and homey. The next night I told Nif this story and asked her to tell me her recipe for pumpkin pie. Sweet, soothing, and relaxing ... and it worked!
The following night I asked for biscuits.