I've had a few episodes of heartburn recently, which I always get in the middle of the night. Heartburn, while unpleasant, is not uncommon to those of us who eat late in the evening. Late night eating is a terrible habit I'm making a concerted effort to stop. Because I often work an evening shift, it's so easy to skip eating on a fifteen minute break and instead gorge myself when I get back home, on nonsense food like Oreos and hummus or five slices of wheat bread and a Skor bar. Because these “meals” are not only ridiculous, but will surely contribute to the spectacular weight gain I have in development with my bathroom scale and 20th Century Fox, I've made far more sensible food choices lately and not had any heartburn.
This is all well and good and hardly worthy of mention unless you consider the possibility of mindburn. Mindburn is like heartburn in that it attacks in the middle of the night, but is unlike heartburn since it is not a real syndrome. I consider mindburn to be one of the side effects of living alone, since one is less likely to be afflicted with it if they have a partner they can bother in the middle of the night. I'm talking about that phenomenon where ideas, concepts and fears strike in the middle of the night that make perfect sense when they occur to you, but if were you review them again in the light of day, you'd take a step back and go, “What the fuck?”
Dream: Do nothing under the influence of mindburn.
Goal: Achievable. Like eating peanut butter out of the jar or doing shots of Drambuie, I know I shouldn't email, Facebook message, or blog after one am. It's just unwise.
Plan: Re-read this blog when mindburn strikes and conclude that I'm probably an idiot.
I worry that I'm not explaining myself very well, or that perhaps you all are so intelligent and rational that mindburn never strikes you. In that spirit, let me share some of what's popped into my head while I've been under an attack of mindburn and see if it resonates with you. I keep a notebook beside my bed because I keep thinking some wondrous inspiration will strike me just as I'm about to fall asleep and I owe it to myself to at least try to write it down. Instead, I crank out nuggets like these:
- I think I hear a raccoon whimpering outside. I want to help, as maybe a garbage can fell on top of him, or he fell off the roof or something, but if he's crying due to emotional pain, I have nothing to offer and will have gotten out of bed for no reason.
- I should write a musical comedy about how much I hate Glee.
- I want to slide down one of those poles at a firehouse, but I don't want anyone to watch me because then I'd get nervous and chicken out. How to arrange this?
- Do the mice in the walls hear me outside their walls? Maybe what I'm hearing is their tiny brooms banging away. Adorable!
- At those resorts where you can swim up to the bar, I'd get a raft of nachos.
- I want a pedometer that tells me how many steps I take on my walks, and also alerts me to nearby pedophiles.
- I don't want to die alone, but I bet it would be worse to die in a group.
- I'll bet guys who have abs keep their abs strong because they're always bending at the waist to check out their abs.
- I know I remember to turn the stove off. I know I did. But maybe somebody broke in and turned it on. Maybe that raccoon turned it on. That's why he's crying!
So there you have it. These are silly examples, to be sure, but sometimes a real fear seeps in there. “What if I can never find a real job?” I wonder. Or, “What if I've seen my best days already and I'm too stupid to realize it?”And, “Is there something I'm not doing that I should be doing? What am I doing?” Just that awful, scary, late-night sense of dread, the same thing Leno's bandleader must feel when Jay goes up to do the monologue and he knows he's expected to laugh, but it's not going to be funny, so what if he can't and yadda yadda yadda. These are all important, big life questions that perhaps we ought to ask ourselves more often during the day so we're not stuck, awake and fearful at two am, with worries like these racing through our minds, and burning in our hearts.