According to my mother, I barely slept for the first three years of my life. I personally cannot confirm this claim, but many family members have assured me that I indeed was a horrible insomniac back in the days. I was equipped with a strong aversion to sleeping in general and naps in particular. As the years went by and life became more tiring in comparison to my kindergarten days, my aversion against naps has definitely changed. Not so much my general sleeping issues.
Some people possess the ability to lie down and fall asleep within five minutes — I am not one of them. When I want to sleep, I need an hour of optimal temperature, pillow fluffiness, air flow and noise conditions plus an additional lamb sacrifice to even come close. Especially during stressful times, sleeping goes south for me. Not being able to sleep before five in the morning, dreaming multiple vivid dreams during one night and consequently waking up entirely unrested, sleepwalking, sleeptalking, waking up too often, waking up too soon, waking up too late. Name it, I have probably been there during the past three months.
The truth is, almost everyone can relate to troubles falling asleep or to other disruptions of a peaceful night. There are numerous artists that addressed insomnia in some way, ranging from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club to Charles Dicken’s Night Walks. But no-one put it better than Bob Dylan in Mr. Tambourine Man, singing:
‘Though I know that evening’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming’*
It sometimes almost seems like the inability to sleep is more an ability to be awake. And maybe it is. In the end, everything that is very good can also be very bad in a different dose or situation. Too much awareness may result in insanity, while too little makes everything disappear into insignificance. Not all those who wander are lost — but some wanderers are insomniacs and, I would consequently argue, therefore lost to a certain degree. In-between thinking too much and too little. Not being able to slip into unconsciousness while slowly getting to know the boundaries of consciousness. Figuring out life, in summary, while figuring out nothing at all. Yes, maybe we all are lost a little and maybe, just maybe, that is not only a burden, but the most important prerequisite to finding the right way.
*Author’s note: There is a huge variety of interpretations concerning Bob Dylan’s song Mr. Tambourine Man. I do not claim to know Dylan’s original intentions when writing it and even if I would, this column would probably just scratch the surface. I have listened to it numerous times during the past weeks and that is the part that speaks to me the most — and the way I interpret it.
Every two weeks, Antonia will add the songs she writes about to the Spotify playlist below. This way, she creates a soundtrack to her time in Nijmegen. Click left and right for more songs.