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Mistress of the Mix: Catching Some Zzzzzs (Not)

Sometimes it feels like I just can’t catch a break.

Remember just a few short weeks ago I mentioned that I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep since April? Well, that’s still happening. And not only that, I’m starting to feel like life is slapping me around so fast and hard that I don’t get a chance to recover from one blow before the next one lands.

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I kinda feel like the guy below in the white shirt. Poor fella.

Everything seemed pretty good up until a year ago. It was late last August when a 16 year old kid in a Honda mowed down my 83 year old mom as she was crossing the street. He didn’t mean to, he just wasn’t paying attention. You can read about it here, but after a week in the hospital and 99 days in a rehab facility, mom came back home with 17 screws and a couple of metal plates. It’s been a long, tedius recovery.

And not just for her. The accident and subsequent fallout has taken a huge toll on the family. My sister and I (thank god for sisters) took a divide and conquer approach and divvied up the insurance, lawyer and long term care duties to advocate on mom’s behalf. And there’s been so much advocating. This is mainly because pretty much everyone is waiting in line to find a way to take advantage of the elderly. The insurance system. The healthcare system. The care giving system. Oh yeah, the caregivers.

There have been a few rare gems in the long list of caregivers who have been assigned to caring for my mother. But the first one, right out of the gate, stole my dad’s cat. You can read about the cat burglar too. We had to fire another one for being inebriated on the job and almost plowing into my daughter’s car while driving (with my mother in the passenger seat) on the wrong side of the road. And hard to believe, but that’s not the worst caregiver story I have to tell. I’ll save it for another column all on its own, because it’s a doozie.

Moving on.

Glossing over everything else as best I can, Christmas was a trainwreck, in January my boss decided to start conducting brutal weekly airchecks with all of the on-air staff (which leaves everyone hating themselves and obsessing over every little breath and vocal nuance), and by Valentine’s Day my husband had taken a new job in Oregon that required a five hour drive by one of us (me) in order to spend time together. By March I was in therapy.

Where was this fabulous Trojan Cat graphic when I needed it months ago? Selling flea & tick medication in the Czech Republic, that’s where. The Czechs. They understand my pain.

In April the Trojan Cat (one feral pregnant cat and a million billion gazillion fleas) moved into the backyard, one of my lifelong dearest friends passed away, and my sleepless nights started piling up like a cheap sweater all the way through May, which is around the time my dad broke his hip. And now he has a caregiver too.

In June my husband drove home for the first time in months, and the engine in his brand new car blew up in a remote part of Trinity County. He had to walk a few miles to find a land line since there was no cell service to call for help. The only upside to that weekend was that he ended up playing nine holes of golf while waiting for a tow truck to bring him back to Redding. Miniature golf, that is.

Chocolate pudding. Or is it?

In July I had the shit show of all shit shows. An actual shit show. It’s worth telling you about, although you’ll probably wish I hadn’t. And I will tell you, later, I promise. Next time. I relish a good poop story. But for now I’ll just leave you with the lovely image of chocolate pudding above, and tell you about the shit show later. Just take my word for it. It was the crappiest weekend ever, and I got a kink in my neck from sleeping in the recliner in the living room. The good news was that my husband came home, briefly, once again (to pick up his car with the brand new engine), and then on the way back the air conditioning stopped working while he was stuck in construction traffic in Mt Shasta on a 104 degree day.

Is it still July? Yes. Its still July. The very next day after the poop show the Carr Fire started, and who got any sleep after that for the next month? I know I didn’t. I may have been able to lay my head down on my very own pillow in my very own bed at night unlike about twenty thousand other people, but I woke up every hour or so to check my phone to make sure I wasn’t missing the next evacuation memo.

Then August. Oh, August. Hate is such a strong word, but I am very disappointed in you. That was around the time that my sister-in-law was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer that has metastasized into several other spots in her body, including both legs and her brain. She’s on radiation already, and starts chemo this week. She weighs 88 pounds. She was working full time as a waitress until the day she was diagnosed, and the government is still denying her disability benefits. Her diagnosis has broken the family into little pieces. I am committed to being the glue that helps hold them together, but its taken everything I’ve got. And I mean that with every serious bone in my body. And did I mention that some creep tried to roofie my daughter (TWICE) while she was at work? As if I didn’t have enough to keep me awake at night. And then my husband’s air conditioning went out AGAIN. And I’m not even going to talk about the night a rat almost did me in.

As August turned into September, I tried to leave for the weekend so we could visit my husband’s sister in Coos Bay. On the way there, we got stuck in traffic for several hours because a fire broke out along the east edge of the freeway in Grants Pass. On the way back, we saw a brand new fire burning on the west side of the freeway in almost the same place. Tuesday morning I found that one of the most vibrant, lovely humans I have ever known died over the weekend in a tragic freak accident, and I spent most of the day crying off and on. Kelle Clark will leave a huge hole in all our hearts. And then another fire started, and my husband and I will be taking the weekend off from traveling to see each other. Because Delta.

I’m not telling you all this to get sympathy. Well, maybe a little sympathy. But mostly it’s to commiserate. To be co-miserable together. To rage and despair with each other. Because I know I’m not alone in this. It’s been a pretty miserable year for a lot of people. Yes, we’re holding it together. Yes, we will persevere.  In fact that’s what I’m doing right now as I write this.

Am I doing it right? I’m trying…

Let me tell you how I’m handling this mofo of a year. I sit in front of the TV drinking a couple of glasses of wine or three until I can’t keep my eyes open. Then I shuffle off to bed and I just lay there, obsessing about all the things that weigh heavy on my mind. My mom. My dad. My daughter. My husband and his family. My job. Politics. Tomorrow. Why am I not writing my novel? And I’m wide awake. At least the dogs are snoring, and not scratching.

So I turn on Netflix, and start streaming an old sitcom from decades ago. Last year it was That ’70’s Show. This year I’ve moved on to Frasier. But what really puts me to sleep right now is Golden Girls. I think it’s the familiarity with the characters. I know them all so intimately that I can listen with my eyes closed in the dark and visualize the action, occupying that portion of my brain that would otherwise be obsessing over my anxieties all night long. Is that left brain, or right? I’m able to fall asleep eventually, but it’s only for a few hours, because on average I wake up and re-set the timer 3-4 times a night. EVERY NIGHT. My poor husband. No wonder he never comes home anymore. He hates Golden Girls. Every night when we go to bed and I turn the TV on, he says (and I’m not even exaggerating), “Anything but Golden Girls.”

The Golden Girls. I think they haunt my husband’s dreams.

My dear friend Amber texted me a few nights ago and said, “OK, expert! Can you please recommend a few classical pieces to create a playlist to fall asleep to?”

I knew exactly what was going on. 2018 has been the mother of all years for her, too. Even more than me. I know she’s tossing and turning at night with the same things going on in her head. Mom. Dad. Kids. Husband. Job. Politics. Tomorrow.

So I started throwing songs her way…until finally it dawned upon me that everyone I know is suffering from the same kinds of anxieties right now, and I’m pretty sure that if I was to wake up any given night at 3 a.m., that I could reach out on the interwebs and a bunch of you would already be there. Awake. Sleepless. Anxieties having their way with us. Eating us alive from the inside out.

So I told my friend that I was just going to come up with a playlist to help everyone go to sleep. It’s got all the songs that lower my blood pressure and regulate my heart beat, and leave me feeling like a normal human again. Like a 2017 human. You know, back in the good old days. Pre-accident. Pre-aircheck hell. Pre-fleas and poop and rats. Pre-fire. Make that fires.

So. Here you go, friends. If you’re suffering through sleepless nights, check out this streaming Spotify playlist that’ll hopefully allow you to catch some Zzzzzs. If you’re a subscriber to Spotify, that is. Those of you who aren’t…well, this playlist could be interrupted by ads that could jar you awake just as you’re drifting off to a peaceful slumber. Maybe you can share some of your crappier 2018 anxieties, or let us know how you’re finding a way to catch a few Zzzzzs at night, because I could use a few more suggestions.

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Valerie Ing

Valerie Ing

Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.

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