I’ve been having a bout of jet lag insomnia.

That’s what I learned from the Google searches I conducted in the middle of the night while trying to fall asleep. Some of them warn me, and I swear it’s almost gleefully written, (yes there are subliminal emoticons underneath all that text) that I might struggle with this condition for several weeks. I feel a bit scolded by these experts. If I had only done my homework, and adjusted my biorhythms before travelling, by the time I got here,
I would be ahead of the game…no, wait…I’m already ahead in this time zone! Trouble is, after so much preparation so that I could have this time away, I was tired all the time, and in the week before leaving, in a cockeyed effort to console myself, I started watching Ally McBeal on my new Ipad,
(I never saw it back in the 90s) staying up until nearly 2 am. It didn’t make me sleepy or comforted. Instead, the sound of Calista Flockhart’s whining only served to wind me up. But I digress.

Here in Maastricht, it’s 10 pm, the night is dark, and the sounds of this charming town begin to shut down, no car doors slamming, no bicycle chains cranking, no wind propelling the wheels, no steps echoing on Belgian block stones. Everyone’s eyelids (except mine apparently) go heavy from a full day living a life out loud. And I do mean out loud. This past weekend, the Bruis fest was held in the park along the river, and from our apartment windows on our quiet street, I could nearly make out the lyrics, it was that loud…but since I don’t understand Dutch, well then it sounded mostly like happy people having a good time. To give you a sense of how civilized it really was, the fest website had a whole page devoted to dealing with neighborhood complaints urging residents with a peppy message to volunteer with festival preparations, so as not to feel put upon. It promised that it would end at 11 pm….and it did.

They’re all asleep but I’m not.

Crossing over different time zones requires a leap of faith, and a leaving behind of what you knew to be comfortable, what you took for granted. You miss your old life, the people, the easy understanding of gesture, or menus, your favorite tv shows, cuddling with your cat, those comfy pjs you might’ve packed, your own bed, the way you fall asleep at night.

But I’ve not really crossed over. I’m in a kind of jet lag insomnia, a little like purgatory, an in-between place, where things get sorted out, where you’ve left one life and you are not sure of the next. There may be an accounting of your regrets, sorrows, passions, and joys. That last conversation that didn’t go well, or the career you wish you paid more attention to, the book you still want to write, or that new country you’re hoping to visit. There may even be disorientation, confusion, euphoria, and a relentless teasing towards sleep, but no real way to get there now. It’s a vast open sea of treading water, life jacket yes, shoreline, no.

It’s nearly 1 am and I’m still awake or shall I say not asleep because what I am is so not awake…and it is so quiet, so still, I begin to think that maybe I have died, and just don’t know it yet. This kind of emptiness is unsettling, not even a sound from the electricity nothing whirring in the idle of night, no cat meowing, no birds winging, no cicada thunder…just emptiness. In meditation, I observe what is happening, maybe the mind quiets for a second, but this, this insomnia in absolute and enormous silence is…well...lonely.

I remember a Star Trek Voyager episode where Seven of Nine, a reformed Borg, is severed from the hive mind, has only her individual thoughts to contend with, and grieves for the comfort of the collective. The sound of her self is more deafening than the millions of thoughts emanating from assimilated civilizations. I am definitely grieving for the comfort of community.

But maybe this silence is the new collective, and I am finding my way to what company there might be in stillness, in emptiness…nothingness floating…in me, and all around. Maybe jet leg insomnia is the place for rebirthing new souls.

If so, I wonder who I might become?

September 11, 2012

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