Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tomorrow Is Another Day...Without Sleep

Cumulative Sleep Loss:Early Parenthood::Compounding Interest:Investment Funds

Probably that analogy doesn't really work, because the effects of compounding interest on investment funds are awesome, whereas the effects of cumulative sleep loss on a new parent are awful.

My fatigue has cracked my foundation, allowing my depression to surge into consciousness like sewage backing up into the bathroom.

On regular days, when the cumulative sleep loss hasn't yet hit its tipping point, when I feel like I'm just able to keep my shit together, I can deal.

I celebrate the end of such days by sitting on the porch with David, smoking my ONE cigarette and drinking my ONE beer with ice. And please don't give me any crap about THAT.

But days like yesterday, when every word someone says to me serrates my soul, when the grey in my hair signals how washed up I am, when I spy my four rolls of back fat in the mirror, when I realize I have no friends who REALLY care about me (except one, who is as depressed as I am), and when I am SO poor I'm one step away from sitting under the freeway with a cardboard sign that says, "Hongry and Homless"....Those, those are the days that are difficult to deal with.

On those days, I can't even console myself with the idea that "tomorrow is another day," and get on with it. Rather, I remember that "tomorrow is another day....WITHOUT SLEEP," which only makes matters worse.

* * *
Currently, I'm teaching a summer writing workshop that prepares high school kids for the new SAT essay section. The Educational Testing Service has rid the test of Analogies (Don't tell me how much you liked that section, nor how good you were at doing analogies, okay?), and they have added a 25 minute essay and some multiple choice questions about grammar in the analogies' place. My job is to help these kids internalize the formula of the "academic essay," i.e., the five-paragraph essay, well enough that they can write an outstanding one in 25 minutes or less.

Writing a great essay in 25 minutes or less is really hard to do, by the way.

Yesterday, I was the worst teacher in the world. Brandon, whose warm-up writing was about how much he hated people misspelling and misprounouncing his name, became "Bronitor" when I called on him during the grammar review. Carter's question -- "what is a gerund and when do I use one?" -- I answered with a swift kick to my own teeth. "A Gerund is a noun that acts as a verb," I said without blinking.

"A verb that acts as a noun, you mean," said Brandon with a smug little laugh.

"Yes, that's right Bronitor. Thank you for correcting me," I said.

When I couldn't explain how to fix the grammar errors on the quiz I gave them, I had to send them out for break so that I could get my head together.

As they left the classroom, I could hear their thoughts: "THIS is our TEACHER?"

I drove home from the workshop, repeating in my head that speech from Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth:

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.

And the cardboard sign in my mind said:

I am that sweater with the fraying sleeves
I am the woman who longs to die
I'm the mind oozing like an open sore
And I'm so so HONGRY

Any sleep will help.

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