For a long time now, we've had a ritual where when we got to bed, we try to combat the millions of things swirling in our heads with "sleepy-time thoughts."
Sometimes the conversation is a bit contentious, as when L* says to Ktrion, "what are you teaching in class tomorrow?" and Ktrion protests "That's not sleepy-time thoughts!"
My version of sleepy-time thoughts often involves kittens being groomed by their mother. I used to be able to semi-hypnotize L* into going to sleep, with a ritual of "leaving off the cares of the day." That was quite a while back though, prob'ly six years or so.
Since the cancer diagnosis, L*'s sleep schedule has really gone to the dogs. You can imagine all the scary thoughts that swirl in her head while she's lying in the dark awaiting that elusive sleep.
Or if you can't we can supply a few:
Does that cough mean that I have cancer in my lungs? What if my body can't metabolize Tamoxifen? Someone on my board just went from stage zero cancer [DCIS] to full-blown mets [metastasized cancer]! Should I get ovarian suppression or surgery?)
So first, Ambien was the sleep drug of choice. It worked really well way back in the dissertation writing stage, when L*s head was full of Freud and the Wolf Man, and she wanted to just write straight up till bedtime and then go right to sleep.
But no go on the Ambien this time around. And many of the cancer ladies are also having a lot of trouble sleeping--not only from worry, but because either the lingering effects of chemo or the tamoxifen itself--is interfering with their sleep cycle.
While L* and her doctors attempt to find the right pharmacological solution, we've been trying alternative approaches. We got the ipod plugged into little speakers and we've tried a variety of relaxation tapes, chakra balancing, yoga, buddhism, sleep technology...let's just say it's been a variety.
Our current favorite is Clarissa Pinkola Estés. She of Women Who Run With the Wolves fame. Now I gotta confess to never actually reading WWRWtW. Although we used to have a copy. I think every lesbian in the country had that book fifteen years ago. The fact that a lot of dykes I knew in Colorado were changing their names to Wolf, or WolfSong or Wolfsdottir--something just turned me off to the whole idea. L* was in LA at that time, with the Chicana crowd, so she knew a woman named Loba.
I was sure this book was about getting in touch with your inner wolf. So again, I never read it.
But the sleep situation was getting desperate. And one of the things L* found when looking for sleep resources was a cd called Bedtime Stories: A Unique Guided Relaxation Program for Falling Asleep and Entering the World of Dreams, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
This thing is the bomb!
It's set up just like a real bedtime story, with a gentle adult tucking you in, and helping you get comfortable. She speaks in a really soft voice, with a little Spanish thrown in, so you know she's Latina, but a couple of things wrong, so you know she's just a pocha like the rest of us, which is pretty endearing.
She starts with talking about entering into the dreamtime, and how we all fall asleep as children and wake up as children, and she has a nice segment from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe when the four children first cross over together.
She tells stories like Sleeping Beauty. Sometimes there's a hint of the Disney animation in her descriptions, but the structure of the story is not about heterosexual romance, but about the spell and it lasting a hundred years.
The whole audio is really well produced, with strains of music occasionally coming in and out (a cello here, a violin there). It contrasts pretty sharply with some of our more low-budget audios (I'm thinking of the talk by Thich Nhat Hanh where you can hear audience members coughing).
There are mouse tales, the Sandman, and Sleeping Hero stories, and it ends with Winken, Blinken, and Nod. We've been listening to it about a month now, mixing it up with different yoga meditations. We wish she'd come out with a sequel.