I buy books. And sometimes I read them. This blog is for the times when I do more than just store shelf candy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SLEEPLESS IN MANILA, Funny Essays, etc., on Insomnia by Insomniacs

Edited by Cristina Pantajo Hidalgo

I stupidly thought I could check out the new bookstore in Galleria – Bestsellers by National Book Store – without giving in to the shopping monster in me. Then I saw this book. On insomnia by insomniacs. Of course, I had to have it.

The back cover says that 10-15% of the world’s population have severe chronic insomnia, and an additional 25-30% have transient or occasional insomnia. I don’t know which category I belong to. Doesn’t matter. The book is about me. I can’t sleep when I’m supposed to sleep, meaning at night on the bed. Though if you put me in any moving vehicle – car, bus, train, boat, calesa, I can sleep in a matter of seconds. In planes, I can even sleep before take-off. Maybe I was deprived of motherly baby-rocking; but I digress too much.

I am halfway through the book. Not the best time to write a review on it. But I’ve had it happen often enough. I would be reading a book and I would nurture the ambition of posting a review on it. Then when I’m done reading I put the book close to the computer so I’ll remember to write the review. Then tinginingnginingngining… that’s the sound effect to represent a long time lapse, the cinematic ellipse… 6 months later I have to clear the book(s) away from the computer table to give me elbow space. By then, I would have forgotten what about the book I wanted to share with the world wide who-cares. Countless book reviews have jumped from my to-do list to my forget-it-it-will-never-get-done-you-pathetic-procrastinator-you list. Again, I digress.

Most of the essays, poems, factoids, short stories in the collection were probably written during the dreaded insomniac hours. Except for the piece written by Vince Groyon, whose name is on my top ten list of reasons why I am too insecure to write for a living. He says insomniac writing produces for him “jumbled, incoherent mass of words that just gets folded away deep in the pages of a notebook.” I can relate. My insomniac hours enable me to copiously produce PowerPoint slides so I can conduct corporate training for a living. But rarely do they help me write anything of show-off value.

The piece I can relate to the most is the one I finished minutes ago. Alex Almario contemplates doing away with the useless bed. The floor would serve a better purpose for pacing back and forth. I cannot do that, of course, because getting rid of the bed would mean divorce from my husband. Besides, when I do get to sleep I enjoy deep, long ones. But I get exactly what he means.

In Alex’s hours of restlessness, all his insecurities turn up and decide to hold a convention in his head. I know that feeling of random, uncontrollable ideas deciding to hold powwows in my head. It’s not always about insecurities though. Sometimes I obsess visualizing my dream house and the pantone color swatches, various pieces of furniture, facades of Frank Lloyd Wright houses just march in and out of my brain. Or I play out in my head all the things I have to do that overwhelm me. All the big pending projects. I try to break them down into manageable chunks like they teach you how to do in time management classes, but then I do such a good job of breaking them down into little pieces and then the many details overwhelm me and I can’t sleep. Sometimes the thoughts are similar to rudderless, 25-year-old Alex’s musings: what will I do with the rest of my life; is it pointless to dream; how can I impress my classmates in the next high school reunion; when will I ever wear size 6 jeans again?

Aha, now I get why my book reviews never get written. I don’t know squat about book reviews. This piece is turning out to be an indulgent, all-about-me blog entry. It’s noontime. I had 9 hours of sleep. I don’t have an excuse for this drivel.

Let me just end with Alex’s last 2 paragraphs, which struck a chord in me:

“I’ve been trying too hard to fight this problem, to no avail. The logical next step is to quit fighting it. Embracing this sleeping disorder is a very new-age, self-help-guru thing to do. When life gives you a lemon… (all together now, in a dorky, math-club-president voice) make lemonade! Those who can sleep have no time for greatness. While they’re wasting away hours of their lives buried under their pillows, I will be wide-eyed and restless making history. I will write the Great Filipino Novel. I will find the cure for cancer. I will find an alternative energy source. I will figure out the meaning of life.

‘I really need to get some sleep.”

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