What I Wrote Instead of Sleeping

I haven’t been sleeping very well this week. I’m tired, but I’m just not…into it. I blame it on The Panic. The Panic is what I’ve started calling the feeling when my brain suddenly whites out and my only thought is, “Dear God, what am I doing with my life?” From what I’ve gathered, it’s a feeling that seems to plague one drifting through his or her “Odyssey Years.” After this deer-in-the-headlights moment, my brain tries to make up for the brief lapse in activity by over-thinking, or what some people might call “fretting”. I start doing ridiculous things like job-hunting on Craig’s List, which I guess is only ridiculous because most companies are looking to fill the position within the month, so I couldn’t even interview, let alone accept one of these jobs. I make lists of things that I need to do before I leave Japan, after I return to America, things that are in my room, things that are in my room and shouldn’t be, things I want to ship home as soon as it gets warm enough to wear less than three layers of clothing.

I make up schedules. Literally *make up.* I start trying to guess what my school schedule is going to be like and then conjure every possible kind of daily routine – school in the morning, volunteer in the afternoon, work in the evening; no, no, school in the morning, work in the afternoon, volunteer on weekends; scratch that, work AND volunteer on weekends since I’ll probably have lab in the afternoon. Don’t forget to squeeze in some time to exercise. Or that you have to make a lesson plan for tomorrow and get fruit, instant soup, tofu and gas today. And this is all in my head. None of these lists or schedules get put down on paper because I worry about someone finding them and thinking I’m crazy. ::rethinks writing this post::

My brain never shuts up to begin with, but when The Panic sets in and my brain goes into over-drive, I’m left with something that resembles insomnia. When my mind won’t stop racing I try one or several home remedies – yoga positions that are supposed to reset your internal clock, hot baths, Mom’s stress-relieving hippie cocktails, several conventional cocktails, hour-long workouts, meditation – but nothing works.

Last night was no different. As I lay in bed wishing my neighbor would turn off his porch light and counting the number of times the rain started and stopped, I tried to make myself fall asleep with some tough love: You can’t do anything about it now. You may as well just go to sleep. Even if all your planning was in any way productive, The Future would just come along and muck everything up. You should just enjoy The Present, which you can’t do if you’re worrying about The Future. Worrying about The Future is a completely meaningless exercise. Just like Sisyphus rolling that rock up to the top of the hill just so it could roll back down again.

The name Sisyphus inevitably triggers the same string of thoughts – futile – unending – laundry, dishes – any household chore for that matter – teaching Japanese children English – well isn’t it all in vain? And completely absurd when you really think about it? Camus.

When I got to Camus, I thought about his “Myth of Sisyphus”. I thought about how his Sisyphus is defiant, happy even. How I wrote in my own essay that I understood this feeling, that I painted my nails to chip off the polish. Then I started thinking about slugs.

I get all sorts of callers at my house – wingless termites, spiders, a family of cats, a mouse or two (that I’m convinced the cats ate despite my neighbor’s firm insistence to the contrary), the NHK guy (who I shamelessly dismiss by pretending not to speak even the most basic Japanese. Or English for that matter), a crow (who broke the cats’ food dish), a mukade and the slugs.

*Interesting Slug Fact #1: Most of you may have noticed that slugs are pretty slimy. The production of mucus is required for a variety of reasons (well, really just three: food, sex and death), the most interesting of which is that they occasionally use “slime cords” to suspend themselves and their partners in the air during copulation.*

The slugs boggle my mind. I have NO idea how they get into my house and I’ve never actually seen one outside. They show up in the most random places, my favorite so far being the rice cooker. For a while, I picked them up and carried them outside, but lately I’d just been leaving them to their business. I stopped carrying them out because it seemed like a pointless activity. I had no idea how they got in, so I couldn’t fix the problem, they weren’t hurting anything, and no matter how many I carried out, more would always return. I’ve tried asking them how they do it, but it turns out that talking to slugs is also pretty pointless:

*Interesting Slug Fact #2: Slugs are hermaphrodites. But this isn’t the interesting bit, I already knew that. Sometimes a slug’s penis (which is shaped like a corkscrew, apparently) gets stuck in its mate’s genitalia and no matter how hard they try, the two slugs can’t separate. So what do they do? They chew off the entangled penis. But it’s no big deal because like I said slugs are hermaphrodites and once the penis has been chewed off, that slug can continue to mate, but only as a female.*

“Christ! You really gave me a scare!” I say. The slug ignores me. “How do you guys keep getting in?” I ask. The slug remains mute. I press on, “No seriously, how do you do it?” Smirking, the slug replies, “A ninja never reveals its secrets.” I mean, how else can you react to that other than to be momentarily awed and then walk out of the room shaking your head in disbelief?

*Interesting Slug Fact #3: Some nudibranchs (sea slugs) can absorb chlorophyll from the algae they eat into their own bodies and become photosynthetic. Others do the same with nematocysts and are able to sting predators or prey in the way other cniderians do. (Sorry, I was short on really interesting slug facts, so I had to fall back on one of my favorite nudibranch facts. I know you’ve all heard it, but whatever.)*

I’ve thought about tagging them and running my own little experiment, but I kind of like the mystery. I like not knowing where they come from and when they’re going to appear. I like that it’s freakishly weird. And for the record, I’ve started carrying the slugs out again. After all, I wouldn’t want them to think they owned the place.

*Special thanks to wikipedia for previously unknown slug facts.*

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2 Responses to What I Wrote Instead of Sleeping

  1. kim says:

    I’ve felt this sense of sweeping away and returning entropy often. And I know The Panic well, and I think I’ve told you before I tend to be insomniac during those times too. I’m not sure if this is particularly comforting, but the insomnia lasts after The Panic disappears, because I still get it. But at least you know that The Panic is not all-defining 😛

    Situations change but our thoughts are still parallel 😛

  2. Audrey says:


    Haha…I imagine the insomnia will continue beyond The Panic for me as well. I doubt I’ll ever stop over-thinking. Of course, at this point, I also doubt that The Panic will ever go away. =P

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