Then I'll Sleep
Sleeping Child, Bernardo Strozzi, 17th Century
by Masha Tupitsyn
The sweetest part was when I heard Alice wake up 33 minutes later, walked into the nursery, and Alice turned her head and smiled at me.
Marc once said that “creating experiences” is what we’re good at, and right now we are focused on creating the ideal sleep experience for Alice: implementing rituals with low lighting and picture books; putting her down every hour and a half before she is overtired; moving up her bedtime. A few weeks ago, a couple making small talk with us in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office recommended a book called the happy sleeper. It includes a method called the sleep wave, in which you visit your child in her crib every five minutes while she is awake, rhythmically and predictably. Once she can trust in your presence, she can soothe herself without your singing and rocking and shushing, and fall asleep on her own. We haven’t used it yet, but it’s a nice premise: who wouldn’t sleep better if they weren’t made anxious about their relationships? Why do so many women have so many problems with sleep?
I mean, I know why so many women have problems with sleep. Sleep is a feminist issue, enough sleep is an affront to capitalism, how will she create bedroom theory if she doesn’t like her bedroom? When she whines on and off for the first four hours after her bedtime, like she did last night, I find all of my past theorizing about feminist boredom, care ethics, etc. sustaining; I find considering the way that her body is built out of theory sustaining. She is partly what her mother thinks. And when she finally sleeps for almost 7 hours straight, as she did from 11:17 PM to 6:04 AM, then contentedly nurses for 13 minutes before rolling onto her back and stretching her legs and wanting to play, I am just happy.
Who wouldn’t sleep better if they weren’t made anxious about their relationships? Why do so many women have so many problems with sleep?
The question: “Why do so many women have so many problems with sleep?” is an important question for me because I am a bad sleeper who was not always a bad sleeper, who was once a great sleeper. I could sleep anywhere and through anything, so the legend goes, according to my parents. As a baby, I slept so much and so soundly that my parents worried about me, about why I would sleep so late, hardly ever waking up in the middle of the night. Sometimes they thought I might not wake up at all. I used to sleep in our car for ours, on our long drives across Europe, and on trains while I traveled on my own as a teenager. Then after my first adult relationship ended at 20, and I suffered and mourned and could not recover for years, I stopped knowing how to sleep. I stopped having the peace of mind and heart necessary for sleep. I became too nervous, too afraid, too anxious about the trauma and expectancy of heartbreak to sleep easily or well. There are videos that that same boyfriend (at 20) made of me sleeping in our cottage in Provincetown, which I rented during the summer. I would sleep soundly and he would film me sleeping, a love letter. He always filmed me. I am made particularly aware of my sleep trouble when there is a (new) man in my bed. Intimacy is a powerful shocker. It usually takes me hours to figure out how to sleep then, with them , with them next to me, the anxiety especially potent. The men know this and try to soothe me. They wake up when I wake up. When I stir and move, they stir and move with me. They stay up with me as though I’m a baby with a fever. For years I’ve been joking that when I fall in love, and it finally works out, I’ll sleep. Then I’ll sleep. The trauma will begin to dissipate. Like Alice, and other babies, I’ll grow (up) to believe that the person with me, the person in my life, with me in life, won’t disappear. Won’t leave. I was shocked when, last February, in the dead of winter, a friend who suddenly became a lover, whispered in my bed, “Go to sleep now. Try to sleep” and I did. He put his arms around me and I went out like a light. It was our first night together and it came out of nowhere. We talked about it afterwards. I told him that never happens. He was happy to hear it. I took it as a sign of possible love—one of many signs.
Sleep is a feminist issue––for many reasons. It is also an experience/effect of love; being loved. The ability to rest as being at rest. The other night I couldn’t sleep at D’s place and he tried to console me. He said, “Why are you sleeping on your back? That’s not the way you sleep. You sleep on your side.” I couldn’t sleep, so he couldn’t/wouldn’t sleep. It gave me comfort to know that he knows how I sleep/don’t sleep. I felt a deep recognition, intimacy, and care in his witness. Etel Adnan: “Knowing is an extraordinarily strong bond.” I rolled over on to my side and D wrapped around me, spooning me into comfort and slumber with his care ethics.
About the Author:
Masha Tupitsyn is a writer, critic, and multimedia artist. She is the author of the books Like Someone in Love: An Addendum to Love Dog (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013), Love Dog (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013), a multimedia art book, LACONIA: 1,200 Tweets on Film (Zer0 Books, 2011), Beauty Talk & Monsters, a collection of film-based stories (Semiotext(e) Press, 2007), and co-editor of the anthology Life As We Show It: Writing on Film (City Lights, 2009). The final installment of her immaterial trilogy is the sound film, Love Sounds, a 24-hr audio history of love in cinema (2015), which will be accompanied by a catalogue published by Penny-Ante Editions in 2015. Her fiction and criticism has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous anthologies and journals. In 2011, she wrote a radio play,“Time for Nothing”, for Performa 11, the New Visual Art Performance Biennial. Her blog is: mashatupitsyn.tumblr.