Sleepwalking: New Personal Best

I’m not quite sure why this is a month of sleep adventures.  It could be the summer solstice, and all the extra sun I’m experiencing.  Maybe my brain is trying to make sense of my recent move.  Perhaps the stress of deadlines and writing is putting me over the edge.  Whatever the cause, I’m sleepwalking.

Not in this moment, clearly, but last week I had at least 3 instances, and three the week before.  It’s a lot.  I’ve been a restless sleeper my whole life.  Any odd noise will wake me, and I sleep best in total darkness and rainstorms.  When I actually am sleeping, I kick, turn in circles, talk, dream, and occasionally sleepwalk.  I was about 3 the first time I remember waking up somewhere other than where I went to sleep, and my father soon took up a position sleeping on the couch to ease his backaches and make sure I didn’t leave the house in the night.  A couple of times he tried to shake me awake, but quickly learned not to.  Sleepwalkers can wake violently if startled, and that’s me to a T.  I flailed, cried, and screamed, and it took 2 or 3 minutes to calm down enough to realize everything was fine, but the whole house was awake by then.

I also have very definite sleep walking habits.

When I was very young I mostly stripped naked and wandered around the house.  Occasionally I’d wander into the bathroom and fill up the bathtub with water, or go to the kitchen and put all the glasses on the counter.  Once I put all the dairy in the freezer, to much confusion the next morning.  Also only once, I put on my coat and shoes, unlocked the front door, and walked to the street corner.  I stood there for maybe a minute, watched carefully by my father some 10 paces behind me, before going back inside, putting everything back, and going to sleep.

As a teenager and young adult I rearrange things in nonsensical ways.  If you wake up and find all the forks on the counter, I did it.  My favorite room appears to be the kitchen, because I’ll move everything to a place it shouldn’t be.  Occasionally I’d wake up naked, or in clothes I hadn’t gone to bed in, so I guess I like dressing too.  I’ll also hide things, carefully putting a binder, 5 plates, or cans of cat food in the back of a closet, the freezer (another favorite), or under a pile clean clothes in my dresser.  This has made for more than a few very confusing mornings.

I know I still sleepwalk, especially when I would wake up in student housing with things from the kitchen in my room, but I thought I was down to 2 or 3 times a year.  Incorrect.  Last week I woke up barricaded in my bed.  A long row of binders, sweaters, and all my coats boxed me in.  Another time all my clean clothes were gone from a drawer of the dresser.  I found them in a mound in front of the door.  I had a moment of panic when I went into the bathroom at 6am and found the contents of my roommate’s cabinet lined up in the kitchen sink. I franticly put them back.  There’s no way it was her, so it was definitely me.

However, I seem to have a new favorite hobby: Moving my roommate’s stuff.

I’d told her before we moved in that I walked around in my sleep, and she said weird, but whatever.  I’d roomed with a girl last summer who watched me open and shut the blinds 40 times in the middle of the night, and she’d told the story far and wide.  She’d even talked to me.

“Uh, hey Bettina, what are you doing?”

“Opening the blinds.”

“Why are you doing that?”

“I need to open them.  I’m busy.”

She realized I was sleeping and watched me like a hawk, assuming I would murder her as soon as I was done with the blinds.  I didn’t.

The new roommate doesn’t wake up while I was walking around, she sleeps like the dead, and I’m pretty glad she does.

Last week I woke up after a very confusing dream.  I don’t usually dream about real people and real life, if I do it turns into a nightmare.  That morning I dreamed that I’d woken up and turned to count my pillows.  1,2,3.  Odd.  I went to find my roommate who was brushing her teeth.  “I have three pillows, I should only have one.  I think I took one of yours.”  “Oh, that’s fine.”  She said.

When I actually woke up I had a strange feeling, and looked behind me to count my pillows.  1, 2, 3.  Very odd, as I moved in with only one.

Sure enough, wadded up in my laundry basket was one of my roommates pillowcases, and the fluffy, down laden pillows I’d perched on top of my own were hers.  Through careful supposition, she and I recreated the crime.

Bettina, in her sleep, walked once or even twice to her roommate’s room and stole a pillow from her bed while said roommate was sleeping in it.  I then removed one of her pillowcases, put it in the laundry basket, and replaced in with one of my own from the hall closet.  I then went to sleep, and we both failed to notice the new additions/missing items in our beds for nearly a week.

For an added bonus, Iceland is actually quite warm this time of year, and I’ve been too hot to wear pajamas.  So I stole my roommate’s pillows from her bed while she was sleeping in it while naked.

Thank goodness she likes me.




Death is Sleep Deprivation

I should probably preface with: My life thus far has been very stable and, by both global and national standards, very easy.

With that said, it’s been a difficult couple of weeks.

I finally got the opportunity to do fieldwork for my thesis, and had 3 weeks to complete it in.  This coincided with the deadline for finals, and also with the dates for cleaning and moving into a new apartment.

Yes, it must be so difficult doing all those things you’ve wanted to do.

I was also hired on to do some research for my department, and did background reading and conducted 8 interviews.  Annnnd I get to speak at a conference, which I will never complain about, but it involves a lot of prep work and is a little stressful.  Nope, nope, one more, I forgot momentarily that the draft of my thesis is due 22 days after I finished my data collection. Three weeks to read through, categorize, analyze and write about my findings.  It’s 320 pages of curriculum analysis and 98 pages of notes over 30 hours of observations and interviews.

I really have been very busy.

My daily schedule suddenly became:


7:04-Take the bus to fieldwork site

7:55-Arrive at fieldwork site

1:49/2:04-Take bus from fieldwork placement

Spending a lot of time standing here…

3/3:30-Break for lunch

4:00-Study on campus

7:30-Break for dinner

8:15-Study at home

10:45/11:30-Go to Sleep

12:45-Be awoken by roommates on the 3rd floor shouting and moving chairs

2/2:30/3-Be awoken by partying students returning home from downtown

5:00-Be awoken by person who lives below me smoking pot in their room

*Note: The interruptions after midnight sometimes vary.  They include anything from the guy who lives above me lifting weights and jumping rope (usually 2am), drunken students returning home (midnight to 5am), sad heavy-metal music parties hosted by one of the roommates (8-15 people), Helgi who plays guitar on the 3rd floor (usually not too late), THE POT SMOKING GIRL I HATE (anywhere between 2-5 am, 5-6 nights a week).  There are many fun noise interruptions in the night at student housing.

This led to a week of firsts.

Buses move so  predictably, and yet they’re still so hard to use.

For the first time, I fell asleep on the bus.  I didn’t wake up for several minutes, and had to stand because I was afraid I would miss my stop.

The last day of my observations, I didn’t quite fall asleep, but I sat there in a stupor on the bus and didn’t realize I’d missed my transfer until 8 stops later.  I had to wait until the bus went to the end of the line and took me back to the transfer station in order to catch the next bus.  I was half an hour late for the first of my interviews, and it was not impressive.

By week two I cried in Háma, the student cafeteria. I was trying to edit a peer paper and I couldn’t think, my forehead felt hot, and the world seemed overly bright and a little fuzzy.  A friend asked if I was feeling alright, and I couldn’t manage to say “I’m just so tired!” without starting to cry.  She sent me home for a nap.

I accumulated 5 weeks worth of laundry.  Who even knew I had that many clothes?!?  I re-wore quite a few of the same things, and had very unattractive and ill fitting outfits for the last week and a half, but 5 weeks it was.

Lastly, I had a headache right behind my eyes, and what felt like a low grade fever for 6 day running.  I was quite emotional, and had little or no concentration.

I know some people survive on less than 8 hours of sleep, but I have a routine and am very happy with 9.  I generally wake up once in the night, and then again at the 9 hour mark.  If I’m sick I sleep a little more, and if I get lots of exercise and in the summer, I sleep a little less. Nothing less that 8.5 hours will do.  I also really hate naps, but I think I do them wrong and sleep a little too long, because I wake up groggy and cranky.  That’s all there is to it really, I’m not about to argue with biology.

I think this is the first time I’ve experienced three weeks worth of sleep deprivation, and I couldn’t manage much.  If my field placement hadn’t given me lunch I never would have made it, and I don’t know what to do for the future.  I spend a lot of time sleeping, but am very productive when I get up, so what will I do when work calls for more than I can give, or children show up to ruin every peaceful night’s sleep for the rest of my life?


I’m just so happy to sleep!

The conclusion? Lack of sleep nearly made my life fall apart, I never enjoy crying in public, and I don’t want to do this ever again.

It’s an unlikely goal.



It’s Five o’clock in the Morning

Found a sad, angsty song I wrote at 4am one fine day this winter, but I think it works nearly as well as a poem.

I’d been having a little trouble with the noise level of some of my fellow students in university housing, and while it does make me laugh now, it wasn’t at all funny that night.  I seem to remember that it came about because this was the first time in my life I’ve seriously considered screaming out the window at someone.  In the interest of not being an equally terrible neighbor, I did this instead.


It’s one o’clock in the morning, and I ain’t sleeping,

Mind won’t be silent, thoughts are all leaping.

Roommates and neighbors, chat where they meet,

The noise echoes on concrete, a cacophonous song beat.


It’s two o’clock in the morning, and I ain’t sleeping,

This night is unending, I may end up weeping.

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Creepy Man in 16!

So, last Tuesday I met this super creepy guy.

I fully admit that one of the things I enjoy about Iceland is the general shortage of suspicious men hanging out on street corners, or following you around the grocery store, or being that guy you dated in high school, but it happens everywhere and Iceland is no exception.  I’ve had one guy who was overly persistent in a bar, but I don’t hang out a lot in those, and another who has ‘questionable’ (those are absolutely air quotes) opinions about the role of women and doesn’t seem to hear the word no, but that’s two men in two years.  Pretty good I’d say.

On this fateful Tuesday, I met man three.  A little before 8pm I saw a guy walking up to the door of student housing, and since any day you have to dig your keys out of your bag a moment sooner than you need to is a sadder one, I quickly waved goodbye to my friends and jogged up while he still had the door open.  I thanked him, and he said “you’re welcome”.

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Dream of the Dwarf King

I’m very active in my sleep.  I spin, talk, kick my sister, and any number of inconvenient things.  Additionally, and for whatever reason, I’ve also always had very vivid dreams.  They’ve changed as I get older and it’s interesting to note their progression.

What does it all mean?!?

When I was a young child, probably 3-10, I mostly remembered nightmares.  They centered around family and friends, but most often my parents.  I’d wake up terrified because I had dreamed Mom and Dad were mummies, or half spiders, or my mother had been kidnapped by aliens.  The worst part was I couldn’t tell the difference between dream and reality until the morning, so I lay utterly still hoping nothing in the nightmare was waiting to get me. I also dreamed of walking to the bathroom a lot, but then I’d wake up and walk to the bathroom.  It was a literal message that I needed to pee.

Puberty brought on some alarming changes.  I’d wake up 3-7 days a week dreaming I’d died, and almost always by murder.  It’s not unusual to dream that you die, and it turns out my Mom had the same sort of murder dreams when she was that age.  Thank you genetics.  That phase lasted until my early twenties, and brought many interesting firsts.  I dreamed regularly in black and white, and once in Spanish (if I didn’t know a word I couldn’t think it).  I dreamed that I was someone else, for the first time changing genders, and I had a couple of truly spectacular dreams.

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Emotional Labor

“Why yes, I am feeling uncomfortable.”-Cat

Thank you Charles Darwin for your angry cat illustration from The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

Ages ago (20 months if we’re going to be exact), my Insert Family Connection Here found a blog that talked about Emotional Labor: What it is and how to do it.  I recommend you read the post here, it’s very interesting to go through.  Through my IFCH, I got to do some self reflective practices on who I am, what is important to me, and my role in relationships of all kinds.  I was not particularly happy with what I saw.  There are a few things that I see other people doing, poorly… and it made me acknowledge several things that I consistently push off on other people, and how very unfair that is.

Since I obviously have no control over what other people do, and I’m very uncomfortable telling them what they should do, I’ll be focussing on my own behavior.  In the 20 or so months since I was introduced to Emotional labor, I’ve reread the blog and a couple of articles, and tried to change some of my own, ahem, insufficient behavioral patterns.  Here’s the result.

The biggest emotional labors I push off on others are:

  • Taking a turn at coordinating other peoples’ schedules for a swimming trip, board game night, or coffee brunch (etc.).
  • Sending cards and thank you notes to people I care about, or who have done something kind for me.
  • Arriving late, consistently.
  • Expecting others to understand when I want space even though I haven’t said so, or feeling upset because I need to tell them in the first place

These are a struggle for me, and although I do plenty more, they are the repeat offenders.

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Not Even My Professor

So, one of the roommates has a truly, absolutely, undeniably awful professor.  I should just back away.  I should breathe deeply and let it go.  I’ve never met this woman in my life, but  I just. can’t. take it.  Thus a post is born of my impotent rage and seething, emulsing empathy.

Nora’s in a creative writing class, and one day hopes to publish books.  Like most of us who end up trying to writing something, Nora has a voice and things to say.  I enjoy hearing her stories, and we’re at the point where each week after class we meet to chat over dinner.

Bad writing alert.

There have been many hysterical updates about a guy who uses the same three character names in every story (this has led to an excellent game, where we call each other these names unexpectedly in public, and the first one to laugh loses).  He also likes spelling things backward to make unique place names, and we did discuss how it makes the names a little less unique when you do it every time.  Liaf.  I also like the updates on Nora’s stories.  She writes, if I recall correctly, science fiction, and likes to try all kinds of new and interesting things as she learns about them.  It’s interesting to watch someone else search for ideas, and go through the editing and revision process.  It leads to insights about my own projects, and we sometimes problem solve about how to get around things like how very whiny 1st person narratives can be.

Unfortunately, not everything about Nora’s writing class is great, and the number one thing I can think of is her charming professor’s feedback.

Worst Feedback of the Semester: in descending order

#3: You need to hold the reader’s hand

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