Insomnia is free time with a heavy price. Insomnia is when the part of my brain that understands how the world works decides it no longer cares how the world works. When insomnia hits I'm awake, alert, theory. In reality I drop things, have trouble following a story in TV shows I watch or books I read, and can't make decisions. Things I write in the gray hours are almost always worthless.

But in those hours when the house is quiet, I'm free. Nobody has any demands of me. I can watch what I want, read what I want, eat, even go for a walk around the neighborhood without much real risk of seeing any neighbors. The next day, when I try to work, I'll pay for it. I'll be tired, my head full of static far louder than normal. At some point the ability to sleep will return and those broken systems will reassert themselves, but wrong. Sleeping during the day means I'm likely to be up all night again, so I have to try to stay awake and sleep at the right time. The price is too high.


I have had times where insomnia was exactly what I needed. I have treasured memories of discovering a new favorite author in those hollow hours. I discovered the works of Lewis Thomas when I was in that pellucid state of mind, my thoughts flowing like clear water, and The Lives of A Cell flowed into my mind, mingled with and changed my thoughts, showed me the unexpected beauty of science.

I discovered the perl programming language late at night, when I was young and excited about making computers do what I want. The inherent linguistics of perl fit me at that moment, and I was able to connect with the concept of programming in a way that I never had with C++ or Java. Perl has its own eccentricities, but in that moment, when all the other voices were silent, it spoke to me.

Usually, of course, insomnia is just blank, hazy, gray memories of re-watching a comfort sitcom or MST3K, trying to drift off, trying to buy back some of the next day. But I can't hate insomnia as much as I should, knowing that there are times where the dark muse visits and my world is forever enhanced.