Ever since my high school days, I've ruminated over a story, The Prisoner Of Sleep. Every so often, I'd write a few a few chapters, before putting it aside, sometimes for years at a time. I don't seem to be able to write a story, if I can't see a clear path to the end of it. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. I haven't been able to see a path to the end of The Prisoner Of Sleep, not yet, anyway.
My story is based upon my experiences with narcolepsy, a relatively rare sleeping disorder. Over the years, friends and family have told me about the odd things that occur while I sleep. In part, my story is about some of those events. Some day, I'll finish it, when The Muse moves me to do so, and not until that twist of fate happens.
This past weekend, my gaming friends came over to my house for another Gaming Extravaganza. These events go the entire weekend, where we game from Friday night until Sunday afternoon, with some amount of sleep dispersed in there somewhere. These sessions usually involve lots of gaming of the role-playing variety, eating the copious amounts of food I made in advance of the affair, listening to the mix of music I created, chain-smoking cigars while drinking more soda than any ten people imbibe in a month, and chatting about whatever nonsense pops into our minds.
Every group develops a dynamic in the pursuit of their purpose. Our reason for getting together five times every year is to pursue creative bliss. Think Tank is the proper term for our weekends, the name my friends gave it some twenty years ago. Think of it as unfettered creativity, wheeling like a bat out of Hell through our collectivized, cerebral construct. With that in mind, this past weekend was a success.
Something out of the ordinary occurred this time around the cerebral merry-go-round. This occurrence connected the weekend with my work in process, The Prisoner Of Sleep. Not too many things accomplish that feat. Writers have so many works in the wind, and I'm no different on that account because I haven't thought about that story in a couple of years. Maybe, this is my Muse's way of telling me to get on it, right now!
If you've ever witnessed a friend or family member sleep walk, or if you've ever done so and been told of the odd things you did while in that state, you may have some context in which to understand what I am about to relay, but I doubt it. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. My truth is more bizarre than any about which I had read or heard.
You may be inclined to conclude my friends are punking me, but I don't think so. The facts that underlie their stories are too closely related to something verifiable for that to be the case. In any event, what I am about to relay is the sum total of what my friends said had transpired as I slept.
Friday night we gamed until four, Saturday morning, after which we all went to sleep. My friends later told me they awoke somewhere between eight and nine in the morning. I continued to sleep, until I started to move around ten-thirty or eleven. The rest of what I write about is what I've been able to sift from the stories relayed to me by five people. You be the judge of whether any of it is true or not.
Being told I sleepwalk is nothing new to me. This has been my reality since being diagnosed with narcolepsy at a sleep disorders center run by Dartmouth Medical Center. However, being told I did very particular things for hours on end is altogether another wrinkle in the matter.
When I get really tired and some noise or other disturbs my sleep, that is when I tend to walk in my sleep. On those occasions, my wife redirects me back to bed, and nothing unusual occurs. This past weekend, my wife and friends were unable to redirect my unconscious state. Apparently, I had something on my mind to express.
When I first stirred, my wife told me she managed to get me to lay back in my recliner. She said I sang my favorite Dylan and Stones tunes between bouts of attempting to head for the front door. So far, nothing out of the ordinary.
In my sleep, I seem to have the escape mentality of a rodent. My buddy said I even tried to sneak by him with a blanket over my head. I've heard that one before on more than one occasion. It even makes sense within the framework, if you can't see it, then it can't see you. He said that bit didn't fool him. I'm still waiting for the situation to occur where the bit does fool someone.
At some point, my wife and friends gave up on containment. My subconscious was just too hell-bent on movement. They hoped I would wake up, but my subconscious had other ideas in mind. Even asleep, I have an unrelenting, stubborn streak.
They followed me around the house, as I dressed, grabbed a cigar, and shambled out the front door onto the porch. At some point in this journey, I attempted to put on a pair of shoes that weren't mine. My wife said I groused my shoes had shrunk because the one's I had attempted to don were too small. The things you do in your sleep.
Once on the porch, the strategy my friends had conceived was to contain me there, which sounded easier in theory than in practice. They did their best to get me to sit down. They said that effort was absolutely hilarious.
Apparently, I needed my chair to be in a certain, exact location. They said I scooched, shimmied, twisted, and contorted, moving my chair back and forth, fractions of an inch at a time. I did that odd dance with my chair, until I was satisfied the chair was in the right place. Then, I would sit down, look around, let out an exaggerated sigh, get up, and do the whole show all over again. Eventually, after three or four attempts at making the world right, my chair had found its rightful position. I moved onto the next task of lighting my cigar.
How the cigar survived the chair shenanigans, I don't know. One of my friends said, "You pulled your clipper from your vest, clipped your stogie, replaced the clipper, took out your lighter, flicked it with your thumb, then puffed and puffed until we told you it was lit. After that, you put your lighter back in your pocket. It was uncanny, as if your muscle memory was on fire. At times, I thought you were wide awake, until you did something that assured me, you were definitely not with us in any normal manner."
The next part is the most bizarre of all. My friends said I ran my game for them. Yes, I dungeon mastered, while fast asleep, and it made sense. Talk about sleep walking through life. Try your hand at gaming in a sleep state. Of all the strange things I've done in my sleep, that has to be the strangest.
The stories are confused about how the gaming actually came to fruition, but it all began with some comment from my wife, whom my dream state thought was one of the gamers. She sat where one of them had always sat. I guess my mind filled in the rest. From that jumping-off point, according to everyone, I interacted as I usually do for the next couple of hours. The only difference being, I didn't look at any notes. Asleep, I appear to have a photographic memory. My memory is pretty good, but far from being photographic. Afterwords, as my friends relayed what happened in the game, I checked and the details were correct to a "t". However strange it seemed to me, it didn't make sense to make the gamers do what they had already done. Asleep or not, plenty of deeds were accomplished in between rants of "kill the rabbit!"
They said my shenanigans went on for three or four hours before I finally gave in and went back to sleep. That is, I stumbled back to the security of my recliner. When I did wake up, boy, did they have a tale to tell!
Now you know the rest of the story, at least all that is fit to print. Take a page from this tale and don't allow yourselves to sleep walk through your lives. Make the most of every moment, and along the way, always keep faith with The Dark.
Not too dissimilar from Johnny Law, the long arm of Mother Nature reaches out across the universe at her pleasure to touch each and every one of us. The longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice is almost upon us. Although it happens every year, I rue that day and wish I could sleep through it. I usually manage to do just that, but not this year. No, I'll be spending the day doing my best to avoid Mother Nature's caresses of golden sunshine and preparing food for friends who will be arriving later on that fateful day. If you ask me, sunshine is way overrated. Maybe, it'll rain all day. Oh, to be so lucky!
Those of us who adore the darkness of night will have to put up with longer daylight hours. The only solace for us is the fact the day after the solstice, days will get incrementally shorter, until the best day of the year, the shortest day, the Winter Solstice. Do I hear a resounding hip-hip-hurrah for the coming darkness?
On a lighter note, a funny thing happened to me on the way to the market. At least, I think it was humorous. Maybe, it was just weird, or perhaps, both funny and weird. Mm. I'll let you be the judge of what to call the circumstance.
Walking down Main Street, while bobbing my head to tunes playing over my Bluetooth headset and smoking a stogie, an elderly lady approached me, and I do mean elderly, with the bent-over look, blue hair, and the whole nine. If she was a day under eighty, that would be quite the surprise. She was nice enough, and trying to be helpful. She asked me in a sweet, little, old lady voice, "Are you alright, Sir? Is there any way I can help you out?"
Her question caught me by surprise. I have a cane and some gray hairs, but don't think of myself as being old or an invalid of any sort. At first, I didn't think she was talking to me. I looked around and nobody was nearby. Her eyes were firmly fixed on me. I chuckled, then replied, "No, Ma'am. I'm doing just fine. Why do you ask?"
For a moment, she looked perplexed, as if my reply was somehow off base. Once she collected her thoughts, she said, "I have a grandson with epilepsy, and it looked to me like you were having one of them seizures!"
However misplaced her ideas about seizures may have been, she wasn't trying to be insulting. Her intentions were pure, and she was trying to be helpful. After swallowing a belly-laugh, I said, "I'm okay. I was just enjoying my music."
The lady looked up and all around. She took one or two steps away from me, and said, "I don't know what you think you're listening to, but it's not music!"
I said, "No. I'm not crazy. I have a headset. Music plays on that."
She cocked her head in a way that I could almost see the cogs and gears of her mind whirling in an attempt to understand what I had just told her. After a fashion, she asked, "How is that possible?"
Pulling my phone from my vest pocket, I replied, "The music's on my phone, and it plays in my ear from the headset around my neck."
She stepped closer and took a good look at my neck and phone, before saying, "I have one of them cellphones, but not one of those neck contraptions. How does music play from your phone?"
It pleased me to no end to discover the one person on this planet who didn't know about all of the things one can do with a phone. I thought I was always the last person to be informed of these things. Apparently not, because that old lady was the last person on the planet to learn of such things. I said, "There are lots of ways. I download music to my phone from a service called, Google Play. Then, I can play them to my heart's content."
She rubbed her chin for a bit, looking at my long hair while she did that, then said, "That could work, Sonny. Your long hair hides the earphone. Mine will do the same. I can wear a scarf to cover up the neck thing. My phone can be in my purse, as usual. No reason why that wouldn't work. Music can be just the thing to drown out the old bitties at my Senior Luncheons. I think I'll get my son to fix me up with some of that. I thank you for giving me the idea. Are you sure you're alright?"
I replied, "I'm just fine. Glad to be of service."
Before turning toward the crosswalk, she said, "Bye, now. It's terribly hot out. You might try not wearing so much black. With all of that heavy clothing, you must be so hot. Just looking at you, makes me so hot!"
She didn't even realize she made a double entendre. Her last statement confirmed it. Yep, she was old. I said, "I'm fine. Have a good day, Ma'am."
Once she finally went to cross the street, I continued on my merry, little way. The encounter still tickles me. If Mother Nature is going to torture me with her glare every summer, it's nice to know I can have a few moments of pleasure between the hours of annoyance!
Well, I better go onto my other tasks that are chafing at the bit. Hopefully, all of you can have a few moments of fun as well. Until we meet again, good luck in dodging the sun's rays, and don't waste a minute of darkness!
Everything falls into place like pieces in a well-designed puzzle. Art is no exception to this rule of thumb. My life as a writer is the perfect example of that principle. It's as if some invisible hand wants to guide me into the great unknown. For that to happen, I only have to let go of my preconceived notions about how things oughta flesh out, and trust the greater force knows what it's doing.
Letting go is the appropriate term for it. It's so human to chafe at the thought of surrendering control to anything, particularly to something that is beyond perception. I fall prey to that because I am human. I need to loosen up on the reins of control in spite of my humanity. Too much control lessens the possibilities I can achieve with my art.
When a door closes and another opens, I must be flexible and courageous enough to waltz through it. Every artist should be willing to do that. The alternative leads to stagnation, which does nothing to increase beauty, the purpose upon which art rests.
The world may view my stories as drab and ugly, but I think of the tapestry of my tales I paint with strokes of a pen as being darkly beautiful. They sing to me with themes I find elevating. They do say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I do hope I'm not the only one with my kind of eyesight, which would mean I'm the only one with a penchant for my sort of art. Nah, that can't be, but Time will be telling on that point, and everyone knows, Time never lies.
All of this self-reflection was caused by Twitter late last week. As they say, something happened to me on the way to the forum. Granted, a forum existing in cyber space, but nevertheless, a market of sorts. Getting back to the point of this story, sorry for my digression and rant, I was in the midst of minding my business and growing my Twitter following. Mind you, I did nothing different from what I had been doing since I started with them. That's right, I had been using the same process since late November of 2017. Apparently, that doesn't matter to those bastards. Anyway, while going along my merry, little way, out of the blue, BAM!
For some reason unfathomable to me, Twitter got their panties in a bunch with my process and lowered the boom on my sorry ass. After a night of tweeting, unfollowing those who had unfollowed me, and following new prospects, I went to bed as usual. That Friday, I was pleased as punch because I had a banner week on Twitter, and my dreams reflected that pleasure.
I had managed to exceed every measurement possible. Twitter has a nice analytics system which gives you data about everything from the numbers of people who are exposed to your tweets(an important indicator, by the way), how many people retweeted your tweets(another critical measure), to how many new followers followed you. All of these measurements were slamming!
Imagine my horror when I awoke six hours later to discover Twitter had done the unthinkable and had closed my account. The first thing I noticed was I couldn't get into my account. Then, I realized my wife had sent me a text hours before, asking why she couldn't access my profile. Those corporate bastards had done the deed an hour or so after I had gone to bed. Of course, they couldn't have closed my account during any of the hours I was working their system. That would have made my life much too easy. No, they laid in wait for my account to be dormant. At least, that's how it felt, after I had caught my breath like I had been kicked in the chest by a mule. In any event, my account had festered for hours while I unknowingly slept. A lesson learned, Twitter never sleeps. That'll teach me to sleep!
After I changed my password at Twitter's request(They had the audacity to say a password change was necessary because they "noticed unusual activity on my account"), I noticed Twitter had deleted the list of everyone I was following. That action in turn triggers a reaction from those I was following to unfollow me. I immediately went into damage control mode and put up a tweet to my followers, telling them I didn't unfollow anybody, I was experiencing technical difficulty, I was working on the problem, and to please not unfollow me. Then, I sent a message to Twitter Support, explaining the problem that they already knew about. After all, they were the ones who had suspended my account, not I or some other body.
Hours later, Twitter reinstated my account. When the dust had settled, I had lost pretty much every gain I had made that week. Boy, was I ever pissed!
My first reaction was to say, "To Hell with Twitter," and close my account with those corporate goons. Doing that would be akin to cutting my nose off to spite my face, but principles are principles and damn the consequences. My usual modus operandi. Before I did anything stupid that couldn't be taken back, my wife served as the voice of reason and said, "Not so fast, Sparky!"
Between the two of us, my wife is always the voice of reason. Although she's also an artist, a painter, among other things, she always looks before she leaps. I appreciate that quality in her. I really do.
After reflecting several hours on the situation, while speaking with my wife, I decided I had built something useful and important on Twitter. Despite that corporate titan's ways of conducting their business I do not like or admire, Twitter does have its advantages. For one, my tweets direct traffic to this website and to my Amazon Author Page. More importantly, other than friends or family, who more or less feel obligated to buy my stories, Twitter has been the primary way of letting the world know my books exist. That is something to behold and not throw away in a knee-jerk reaction because I'm pissed off!
Because I think big and see the possibilities, I'm probably the source of my own troubles. I saw Twitter as a market of millions of individuals just waiting to discover my stories. All I needed to do was find a way to get my word out, and I went right to it. I thought all was good, and I was following all of the rules. In fact, I know I was following every last one of Twitter's rules to a "t". It turns out, regardless of their rules about following and unfollowing, which are numerous and cumbersome, Twitter doesn't really want anyone to unfollow any account, at least not in the numbers necessary for growth. Artists need to grow to great numbers because all art is divided into niches. Imagine that, not everybody is interested in what you are selling. I know, inconceivable!
I can deal with that reality, but need to do something different, which means something else, to get my word out. Twitter is not my one and only answer. Too bad, because there is so much, untapped potential there. Well, potential that can't be utilized, not by me, anyway. Twitter slammed that door shut!
Okay, I might be thick-headed, but I'm not an idiot. My Twitter following is a little more than thirty thousand. Yes, my account did stabilize over the past week. That is nothing to sneeze at, but future growth will be too slow and clunky to be able to depend upon. I'll still use Twitter to get my word out as much as is possible, but must find new avenues. I'm looking for other doors to open, but as of yet, I haven't seen any evidence of those. I'll just have to be patient, which, by the way, isn't my middle name, and wait and see what pops up or occurs to me. Something will shake out. It always does.
And now you know the rest of the story of what happened to me on my way to the forum. I don't know the shape of the puzzle pieces with which I need to work, but am confident everything happens for a reason and will come together, just as it should and was designed to fit!