Some nights I lie in bed half asleep, listening to the chattering in my own head. Different sets of voices overlap one another, as if I’m standing in line at the bank or the supermarket checkout queue as crowds of people bustle around me, relaying to each other their anecdotes and grievances and the details of their day. Snatches of song lyrics. Thumps and creaks and ticks and hums. As if my brain has absorbed all that busyness and bustle: has picked up the momentum of the city and needs to whir and turn and wind itself out before it can shut off for the night. I guess meditation is what we call the process of quietening all of that. I’ve never been very good at it, and to be honest, I am suspicious of it. But late at night when the buzzing becomes incessant and the whirl and thrum of my mind threatens to keep me from sleep I do try, if only enough to help me relax and drift off.
The nightmares are something else. Do they come from exhaustion, sugar, sleeping on my back, unresolved anxieties, overheating, a fucked-up subconscious? You name it, I have considered it. I used to think I got nightmares when I wasn’t using my brain enough. Kind of like Dahl’s Matilda, except instead of manifesting as the power to levitate objects, the untapped potential was just festering and eating itself. But then, when I was writing my PhD — a time when I was never not engaging critically with the world — they came relentlessly: crocodiles and rabid dogs lunging for my throat; stalkers and murderers; all kinds of physical abominations.
I’d like to think I’m engaging critically with the world now, and using my brain in a whole heap of productive ways, but if I am honest, I am actually in a process of writing rehabilitation, with everything that entails. It is simultaneously slow, difficult, painful and boring. Breaking old patterns and reestablishing new habits, clean habits, productive habits requires repetition, reassurance, repetition, escalation, repetition, reassurance, repetition, repetition. So I’m doing my exercises and loathing them, while knowing that they’ll become a foundation for something else, something better, something worthwhile — that is, if I can ever think of anything interesting to talk about.