I’m not the heaviest of sleepers. Surely this is due in part to Danny. He’s what I call an active sleeper, a phrase that does not begin to describe the way he sometimes violently flings his limbs across the bed. In his sleep he wrestles hyenas, or fends off hordes of zombies hungry for braaaaaains, or maybe competes in the World Championship Whack-a-Mole competition. (I would totally kick ass at that competition. I love Whack-a-Mole.) Unfortunately, Danny does not remember his dreams, so in the morning we’re left to wonder what all the fuss was about.
But these days I’m a light sleeper because I’m imagining my job application materials being filed away by English department office administrators across the country — applications that, perhaps, contain typos that I cannot fix. I’m imagining a search committee chair happening upon that stray letter or rogue comma in line three of a cover letter and, in a rage, tossing the whole packet in a wastebasket. Or, more likely, a recycling bin.
Us academics. We’re eco-friendly.
Of course, typos are the least of my worries. Job market season can breed feelings of inadequacy that have nothing to do with typing skills and everything to do with What I’ve Done With My Life for the Past Seven Years. So sleeping, some nights, can be difficult to come by. I snooze or doze or nap instead.
But, as stated in an earlier post, I’m looking for ways to stay positive this fall, even as search committees exert their weighty yea or nay votes into the wee hours of the night. I can find a way to tackle this. I am a running carrot, after all. (Speeeeeeeeedycarrot!)
Danny has suggested imagining myself in a soothing landscape. Design an imaginary place that banishes job market worries and eases me to sleep. It’s like Inception, but without the movie popcorn and, unfortunately, without Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This place cannot be noisy or rowdy, so my initial idea of a dark room, a single Whack-a-Mole board, an over-sized mallet… that was a no-go.
Danny will not reveal his secret location, which I respect. I suspect describing it is the subconscious equivalent of writing up a dive bar in a tourist magazine. Soon uninvited troubled sleepers are rambling up in their minivans and campers, ruining the vibe with their tourist sunburns and requests for souvenir tee-shirts. But I have friends who use a similar sort of meditation, and I’ve found that many of these friends imagine strikingly similar scenes. A winter landscape, almost polar: something with slanting snow and disappearing footprints and that whistle of wind bending around nothing but itself. Snow covers everything, after all. Houses and cars and mailboxes holding potential rejection letters. I like this idea, but imagining snow when it’s still 85 degrees in late October is a challenge.
The snow scene also reminds me of my visit to the Titanic museum exhibit when I lived in Raleigh. One room contained a block of ice supposedly maintained at the temperature of the water those on board floated in while waiting for rescue. I remember pressing my palm against the ice — so cold it ached — while opening the fake passport I’d been allotted at the beginning of the exhibit only to discover that my avatar, an Irish immigrant in steerage, wouldn’t leave the water alive.
Not exactly a happy place.
I’m thinking, instead, a lake — a salt lake, so it’s easy to float. It’s about to rain, and clouds are low and fast, purple-gray and that strange yellow. High hills on each side, in deep green. A shore of polished pebbles. Now and then a raindrop hits the water and echoes outward in dimming circles.
Do you have a place you go to during moments of stress or insomnia, carrots readers? If you describe it, I promise I won’t show up in an RV with a cooler and ugly lawn chairs.