Nocturnal Baggage

Photo by Esther on

When you’re royalty, is it predestined you must have a separate bedroom from your spouse, or is that only what TV and movies are showing me?

I started watching The Crown last night (yes, I am four years late to the party) and I noticed something I’ve seen before. Despite being shown throughout the pilot episode that King George and his daughter Princess Elizabeth adore their spouses, they have seperate bedrooms from them. We see George ease himself out of bed at least twice but Queen Elizabeth the First isn’t anywhere to be seen.

Then, George awakens a naked Duke Philip by barging into the Duke’s bedroom without knocking to go duck hunting (this is a ridiculous sentence). Princess Elizabeth is nowhere to be found. I’m assuming the King wouldn’t have Chuck Norris-ed the bedroom door if he knew there would be a chance his daughter would be in there. So, either these women are early risers or they have seperate bedrooms from their spouses, whom they claim to adore.

“Why would they sleep separately from their spouse if they keep talking about how much they love them,” I wonder from my couch, brownie crumbs sprinkled across my chest. “How frigid is the old school Royal Family?”

Googling tells me that yes, they indeed have seperate bedrooms due to a royal tradition. Isn’t that crazy? Their lives are so regimented they’re told how to sleep. And that made me think about my sleeping traditions.

My sleeping tradition is throwing elbows when my boyfriend is snoring.

He’s a kind man and doesn’t deserve this. But when I hear snoring, something feral in me takes over and I go apeshit.

Snoring is literally a trigger for me. Every time my current partner snores, I tense up. I’m propelled back into my past, from our apartment in Chicago to a townhouse in Seattle. I’m living with an alcoholic, who choked on his own Jameson-infused tongue nightly, causing bear hibernation snoring that cut through walls and closed doors to where I laid on the couch for the five hundredth time. Back then, furious and feeling trapped, I would try to sleep as the walls rattled around me rather than deal with the obvious problem: I was dating an alcoholic.

Today, snoring is something I cannot fucking stand not only because it is one of the worst sounds in the world, but it reminds me of a shit time in my life. But have I woken up every time my non-alcoholic boyfriend has snored? Probably not. There’s a good chance there have been times when my current boyfriend’s snoring away next to me, making sounds like an excavator scraping gravel off a street and I’m sound asleep next to him. But other times, when my mind is whirling and I’m fighting to fall asleep and I hear even the slightest rattle of breath, I snap. I yell or dig an elbow into him to make it stop. I bring up my anger from the past and dump all it over my present.

Once, I over reacted to his snoring. And it wasn’t even that bad that night, just a bunch of off-beat muffled snorts. But my mind was chewing on other problems, but instead of trying to solve those or put them aside tell morning, I decided to take it out on his open mouth breathing.

After screaming his name a dozen times and a few pokes with my pointy ass elbow, he lunged out of bed without a word and disappeared into the night. I heard him flop into the guest bed. My mouth formed a silent O.

I was not expecting that reaction. For some reason, I expected him to sleep through my shouts and jabs. I forgot that this is a sleeping man, not a dead man.

“Fine,” I thought, glaring into my solitary darkness that only a minute go held the breath of someone I loved. “Sleep in there. I do that all the time because of your snoring.” But I didn’t feel confident in my righteous. In fact, I felt rejected and like an complete asshole. Like it does with every issue in the universe between the hours of 11pm to 5am, my mind chimed in:

“Was the elbow to the soft flesh above his kidney really necessary,” ethos asked me.

“But snoring is annoying,” ego said, while looking at itself in the mirror.

“It’s involuntary. It’s not malicious,” ethos pleaded.

“Get fucked!” screamed my ego.

So, that night, we both lay in our separate rooms, confident we’re right. He can’t help that he’s snoring, which is true. I believe I’m in my every right to jab an elbow into his side when a snore rips through the stillness, scaring the shit out of me. After some time, or days, whichever, I have to admit to myself shouting or jabbing isn’t the kindest solution to the problem. And also, his snoring is rarely the actual problem.

Of course, the actual cause of my tossing and turning is anxiety stemming from my waking life. A pandemic, neverending political strife, family problems, unemployment, to-do lists, and the always unanswerable, “what am I doing with my life” meta nonsense that either keeps me up or wakes me up at 4am. Blaming external factors like snoring, a hot room, or a cat jumping on me is a lot easier to deal with than irrational fears clawing their way out of my brain and into the darkness.

When I’m keyed up on something that happened in 2005, one snore sends me into fight or flight and my senses start working overtime. My hearing becomes more intense so every snore sounds like a garbage disposal in my ear. My brain is telling me this innocent snore is a threat because it used to be a signifier of a larger problem in my past. The next thing I know, there’s an argument at midnight, I’ve dragged past garbage into the present, and I’m still sleeping like dogshit.

This makes me think about the ferociousness we use to defend ourselves based on what we experienced in the past. We become almost feral, trying to protect ourselves from an outdated threat. When in reality, the person in the present is simply trying to understand us, love us, or just sleeps with his mouth open.

It took me a long time to learn how to solve problems other than shutting down or arguing. Learning how to sleep next to someone who snores is a problem. I learned ways to deal with that gently, rather than go on the attack. I rub his arm. Place my ankle over his. If it’s too bad, I sleep in the other room. But my favorite way to stop the snoring is to play snoring sounds from YouTube. Which is a new, improved, and more hilarious sleeping tradition.

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