What I Think When I Can’t Sleep

February 27, 2007 at 2:15 am (Uncategorized)

I don’t know what time this WordPress site is keeping, but last night I woke up at 1:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. The torrential rains of a thunderstorm were lashing the windows, and my mind was overactive after a couple of emotionally overwrought days. I was wide, wide awake. I was so awake I got up and tried to blog about my insomnia, but my computer chose those exact same wee hours not to work. Safari just failed to connect, no matter how many times I rebooted. I sat in my darkened office, the computer screen staring back at me as insolent as any teen, and I eventually had to give up and go back to bed, where I lay, unblinking and tensed from the relentless march of my own thoughts.

Insomnia bites.

I’ve been getting insomnia regularly ever since the death of my niece, Sam, three and a half years ago. And Sam would have – should have – turned 18 on Sunday, so it’s no surprise to me that sleep has not been coming easily the past few days. I can’t help thinking about her, and who she might have been by now. I can’t help thinking about my own 18th birthday. I was at college in Canada, having just returned for my second year at an international school there. I was having the time of my life. I’d already done and seen many things Sam will never have the opportunity to try for herself. These thoughts plague me sometimes, especially in the darkness of night.

At other times, most of the time, in fact, I choose to think differently about her death. I choose to be positive, and to accept the lesson that I must live and love fully, always, and with great urgency. This one lesson has removed much of my fear of failure and rejection in all that I do. That is Sam’s gift to me, so I choose to believe. It’s just hard not to waver on days like Sunday, when I should have been attending Sam’s 18th birthday party instead of sitting on the toilet seat crying.

And then yesterday was Andrew McAuley’s memorial service at the Macquarie Lighthouse in Vaucluse. The weather was wild, the Tasman laid out before us like the separate universe it really is. The horizon was unsteady, shifting, grey, and hypnotic. A little sailing boat was whipped around the swell outside the heads looking as delicate as a lace handkerchief.

I won’t talk about the eulogies, except to say Andrew’s family and friends were so dignified and loving in their remembrances, and it was an extremely moving service. Staring out to sea didn’t offer up any of the answers, not one, but it seemed an incredibly fitting site for goodbye.

Since I first learned Andrew was missing, I’ve thought so much, basically continually, about what drives humankind forwards, and sometimes to greatness. What dwells in the heart of a man who would go out there alone in a kayak for a month? What got Andrew through those weeks and weeks of sheer hell on water? What was it that motivated him to such an extent recovered images place him close enough to land that he was able to photograph it in the distance? What appetite, what heart, what balls, what fury? What is the will toward death as an absolute expression of life? A paradox, certainly, but then, isn’t it all?

‘Round and ’round and ’round life goes. Where it stops, nobody knows


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