So, in order to throw a little more excitement into the equation–because Heaven Forfend we should only deal with one crisis at a time–I stopped sleeping.
At first, it wasn’t anything I could control. The kids were waking up. Like constantly: Little Homie for boob and a mini-monologue about his preference for the left breast over the right, and M. for a litany of desires including but not limited to:
“Ima!!!” (again with the Ima? Can’t you just call me Mama!) “Ani rotsah lirot et Cinderella! I want to see Cinderella!” (At 1:46, and 3:32, and 4:51 in the morning. Now if she had asked to see Arrested Development or Weeds, I might be down.)
For the first two weeks, I was exhausted. Like, body slammed against the wall, shooting extra-shot latte straight into my veins to keep my eyes open exhausted. While normally, I’d have taken a little nappy nap after ditching the kids at gan and woken up just fine thank you, Little Homie and M. were taking turns playing catch with a few nasty viruses, so they were home.
For 10 days.
(B. works during the day, and as a freelance writer, I have the flexibility (oh joy!) to be home with the kids when they’re sick. Which is exactly what happens. A lot. )
Mama nappy-nap fail.
And then, as soon as their fevers broke M. started getting stomach aches. So she stayed home some more, lying on the couch, reading books, watching Sound of Music, (and making a miraculous recovery every afternoon when B. would take her to the kibbutz swimming pool).
It was kind of fun to have her home: I painted our fingernails the same shade of teal, that way when she went back to gan – (oh please GOD , let it be soon!)–if she felt sad or scared, or her tummy hurt, she could look at her fingers and know that mine looked the same and that maybe I was looking at my nails the exact same time and thinking of her, too. We drew pictures to mail to family and friends in Los Angeles. We went for little walks to our neighbor’s coy fish pond, and dined at the Hader Ochel.
Problem was, I still wasn’t sleeping.
By the beginning of the third week, my right eye started twitching. A few days later, I started bursting into joyful song (Elvis, Nirvana, Greenday, Tupac, Vivaldi) whenever I felt particularly inspired, (and I may have even done the Funky Chicken dance once or twice in the Hader Ochel). By week’s end, all I wanted to do was hop on my shiny purple bicycle and ride around and around and around and around and around the perimeter of the kibbutz: I was a hamster on crack, and the kibbutz was my wheel.
And even when I could sleep, I couldn’t.
(Facebook comes to life with all my friends in California when it’s night time in Israel, so when I should be trying to sleep, I’m online with my friends in real time, 10 time zones . And while I know my health is important, so is my sanity. Maybe more-so, although all may be up for grabs at this point.)
Anyway, eventually midnight would creep up on me, and I’d shut down the computer and lie in bed, staring at the shadows on the ceiling, waiting waiting waiting for one of my kids to wake up because that’s what they do. And like the worst kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, as soon as I started to topple headfirst into sleep, their cries would yank me up from my free-fall like a bungee cord.
(Just like that creepy Samara chick from The Ring: I. Never. Sleep. )
And then because insomnia gets boring after a while, I had to mix it up: Midway through week four, I stopped eating.
It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I’d smell food, and my stomach would close. I’d try to eat, and I’d gag, choking on the things I used to love. So I’d jump on my bike to out ride the ache, stopping only to drink more coffee and sing about trees or clouds or falafel sandwiches (which I wasn’t eating). And then I’d ride some more, faster and faster and faster around and around and around the kibbutz, like an atom through a particle accelerator. My legs would shake from sheer exertion. My resting heart rate was bumping at 130 bpm. I’d ride home, and when I’d spot a piece of lint on the floor, I’d clean the house with the fervor of an addict. Then, at night, while we had dinner, I’d pretend to eat – a bite here, a bite there, playing the tricks I learned as a child to hide my vegetables beneath a lettuce leaf, so that my family wouldn’t catch on to me.
And the thing is, through it all, I felt great.
Exhaustion? What exhaustion? Sleep is for amateurs! I could totally rock the up all day and all night thing, riding my bike through the fields faster than the thoughts racing through my head, scrubbing the floors in our living room with reckless joy while listening to Gangsta Rap: drop it like it’s hot with a pail and a mop, oblivious to pain when I slid and fell hard on my (now-way-too-bony) ass, oh and please pass the coffee, and why is that dog wearing a tuxedo and tap dancing in my living room?
While I had enough wherewithal to know that I was smack dab in the middle of a nervous breakdown, I was still not sleeping. Or eating. And even though I felt great! Super! Ah-may-zing! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee! amidst all the clamor and the clatter was this piece of piercing clarity: I knew that at some point, I would crash. And hard. And maybe on purpose.
I wish I could wrap this story up with a happy ending. I wish I could say that one night the stars aligned and I drank chamomile tea and the kids slept, and I hit the reset button on my crazy switch and rebooted. But life is never that easy, and habits are hard to break. And while things are improving—I slept three glorious hours last night, and I ate lunch and dinner —I’m still on shaky ground. That’s why I’m telling you all of this, because now that I’ve owned it here on the internet (Hi Dad), I have to be accountable. And while a kibbutz is a beautiful place to have a nervous breakdown, I really do have better things to do. Like take a nap.