Stream of Consciousness

It’s after 1:00 a.m. and I can’t sleep. One of my ulcers, that stubborn one near the tip of my middle left finger, won’t stop smarting. I try shifting positions, rubbing my hand, warming it under the pillow. Sometimes the pain is caused by a Raynaud’s spasm and eases as soon as my blood flows more freely.

But not tonight. I have to get up and redo the bandage. I don’t want to. It’s chilly in our bedroom, because I’m a fresh air freak and left the window cracked and it’s windy outside. But the ulcer stings and I can’t sleep. So I pull myself out of bed, grab all my hand stuff (bandages, Aquaphor ointment, Sorbsan dressing, cotton swabs, manicure scissors) and go into the bathroom so as not to wake Al (even though an overhead thunderbolt won’t disturb his slumber), turn on the light, cut off my bandage and redo the dressing.

This works, thank goodness. I must not have used enough Aquaphor the first time to salve the sore. Or maybe I didn’t cover the ulcer with a large enough piece of Sorbsan, an ecru-colored, felted material made of processed seaweed that binds with the ointment to create a gel-like cushion of protection. Or maybe it was the cheap CVS fabric bandages I use at night, which have some kind of waterproof coating that can irritate on occasion. I’m using my good, soft Coverlet bandages for this round. Not worth the night-time rationing routine.

So I go back to bed, snuggle under my blankets. And am wide awake.

Maybe it’s because I had to get up, even though my ulcer has finally quieted down. Or maybe it’s because I was writing well into the evening, eight hours of solid composing at the computer, working against a deadline to finish a client’s web content. Too much light from the computer screen before bedtime can affect your ability to sleep, I’ve read.

Maybe all that typing is why my finger was irritated in the first place. Except I don’t use it to type. I’ve become a master at touch-typing with only the fingers that can stand the pressure—and since I use a Mac wireless chiclet keyboard, the pressure is very light.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been immersed in words all day. When I write, I slide into a zone where an hour or two will disappear as the words fly from my mind, through my fingers to the keys onto the screen, and I won’t know what time it is. Even when I’m finished writing, the words whirl in my head, narrating story lines, fantasies, worries, what I have to do tomorrow, what I forgot to do today.

I lie in bed and the words swirl and swirl, until I remind myself that everything I’m thinking about will still be there in the morning when I wake up. I pour all the words into a large square box—this one is sea-foam green—close the lid, lock it and put it on a high shelf in the back of my mind where I know I can access it tomorrow.

Usually this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight, with God’s grace, it does, and I fall asleep. In the early morning, when my dreams are so sharp that I’m certain they’re real, I’m convinced I’ve been awake all night.

The sun shines through our bedroom shades, then slips behind a cloud. Wind puffs the curtains of the one cracked window. Half an hour after my cell alarm vibrates, I realize that I did sleep, for six hours, after all.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at


  1. Pat Bizzell says:

    Again it pains me to hear of your physical struggles, Evie. But I sure do recognize those swirling words. I think you are right that composing before bedtime makes it hard to sleep. My image for it is an old-fashioned switchboard with all the lights flashing–have to pull the plugs out one by one before I can sleep.

    • I like your switchboard analogy. A key to all this is knocking off with work early enough in the evening to enable myself to “power down.” One of the challenges of working for myself is to not get sucked into writing just one more sentence or email or whatever as it gets late.

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