Peacefully Thinking About Arnold


Over the last few days my doctor-wife had essentially warned me that insomnia was a common symptom of a Covid infection.

I hadn’t paid much heed, if only because I knew what was keeping me up the first night - painful severe sinus pressure. So, for me, it was no mystery why I could not sleep.

On the second night it became a matter of minus sinus, and more congestion and body aching.

And tonight, it’s a mild combination of all of the above, but with deep-set bronchitis, sore eyes and a sore throat that has lingered since day one.

That all said, there was this strange undercurrent of energy that made me feel awake and rather alert while lying in bed, futilely trying to slip into some redeeming REM.

Whereas at first I thought the insomnia must be a function of all the irksome symptoms, I now am slightly inclined to believe it could be something else, such as an innovative virus mutation that suppresses serotonin secretion or some sneaky ploy to destroy its host through sleep deprivation.

Maybe, talvez, quizás.

That said, while lying in bed, I was able to relatively control my thoughts, feelings and breathing in a way that it felt like warm butter was being poured across my shoulders every time I slowly breathed in through my mouth.

Breathing in through my nose was out of the question, because that simply triggered a sinus drip at the back of my throat that made me cough.

So, knowing how to optimally breath, I moved on to assuming the best position.

For the first two nights I had propped myself up as I lay on my back to prevent the coughing, but that only led to a lingering day of back and neck pain.

So, tonight I tried using solely my usual thin-mint pillow and experimented a little with my positions.

At first, I tried the “Matyr” position, laying flat on my back with arms splayed at my sides, palms up. That lasted a minute maybe, as my hands got cold, fast.

Then I tried one of favorites- the “Dearly Departed,” crisscrossing my fingers across my chest, while likewise crossing my ankles. It was an instant hit, for it warmed my heart and prompted pleasant thoughts…that is, until it got too hot.

Alas, relaxed, I then noticed The Silence. It was too eerily quiet, and it prompted paranoid thoughts that I would suddenly wake up to a Boom! or a scream at any given moment. Living off a propane over here often prompts me to worry about a leak, just like having two 250 gallon tanks of oil in the basement sometimes kept me awake at our last home.

Honestly, after I thought about it for a while, I chalked it up to be a holdover from the years spent in Manhattan. I lived on the Upper West Side for 8, across the street from St. Luke’s Roosevelt for a year and at the northeast corner of Central Park for three.

Since the latter was in Harlem, unfortunately hearing bullet shots was not uncommon and throughout most of New York City the sound of a siren is more common than the sunrise and sunset combined.

So, the silence of the high mountain desert is still somewhat of a stranger to me. During the day, it serves as a soothing friend, but at night it does not offer much solace to the insomniac.

And than there’s the impulse to write all this down. It’s the curse of a motivated writer who fears a greater one - writer’s block. And just as irking is the very real notion that I may not remember all these thoughts if I ever fall asleep and then wake up with a clean slate.

Hence, here I am.

Now that I’ve essentially flushed them all out, I can try “not thinking” again. You may be surprised to know that Arnold Schwarzenegger taught me that. I watched him talking on a late-night talk show in the eighties and he told the host that one of the secrets of his success was to be able to go to sleep because he thought no thoughts.

Granted, it is probably what prompted me to dabble in meditation and practice controlling my thoughts and emotions. It’s a highly useful skill in stressful situations, especially if you can convince yourself that “this too shall pass” and you must find the humor in our follies.

Anyway, the Governator, despite his marital transgressions, inspired me to do many things.

So, maybe I’ll just try to “stop being a bay-bee,” take a few ibuprofen and go back to sleep now, peacefully thinking about Arnold.