Oh, the Shame of It!

It takes a big man or woman to admit to doing something about which they’re embarrassed.  Nobody enjoys being made to feel uncomfortable for any reason, least of all for their own stupidity.

But it’s an even greater risk for any of us to confess to something about which we are truly ashamed.  Humiliation, mortification, indignity—who among us would open ourselves up to that sort of approbation?

Take the raising of children, for example.  I have never in my life heard anyone confess to being a horrible mother or crummy father.

These kids are driving me crazy!  They talk back, disobey me, refuse to eat what’s in front of them, fight constantly with each other!  But, you know what?  It’s not their fault.  It’s me who’s to blame.  I’m such a lousy parent!

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No one says that.  The shame would be too great.

Another example is driving.  I’ve never had anyone confess to me that they’re a poor driver.

People are always honking their horns at me!  An’ giving me the finger!  One guy even banged on my window at a stoplight, yelling awful things.  But, it’s my fault and I know I deserve it.  I’m such a crappy driver!

Said by no one, ever.  Too humiliating.

Passing gas in a crowded elevator is another prime example.  When it happens, everybody shuffles uncomfortably, casting sidelong glances at everyone else, but no one ever owns up.

Oops…sorry, everyone.  That was me.  Been having GI problems lately…that’s gastro-intestinal, heh-heh-heh.  Shouldn’t have had that Hungarian goulash for lunch, I guess.  With garlic bread.  But, I’m getting off at the next floor, so you’ll be spared any more of ‘em.

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Small comfort to those left on the elevator, even if the culprits ever did ‘fess up.  But, they never do.

Those examples are trivial, however, compared to this next one.  People have been known to tell bald-faced lies, often in the face of incontrovertible evidence, rather than admit to doing it.  And, though it pains me to admit it, I have long been one of those deniers, people from whom you would never hear these words.

Yeah, that’s right, I snore!  Every night.  Sometimes I actually wake myself up.  Reminds me of my father.  I feel badly for my wife, because it’s hard on her, too. 

Nobody, it seems, wants to admit to snoring.

The switch for me, which occurred recently, was not because I suddenly decided to accept the protestations of my wife.  My change of heart came after I agreed with my doctor’s suggestion to be tested for sleep apnea.  The results staggered me; I stopped breathing, on average, once every three-four minutes during my six-hour sleepover at the clinic, wired stem-to-gudgeon to their monitoring machines.  And, apparently, I snored—loud and long.

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I remember waking frequently during that night, and sleeping only fitfully—much as I do most nights at home.  The clinician explained why.

You feel that way because, when the soft tissue at the back of your throat closed off, which is typical for older people, you stopped breathing.  When that happened, your body woke you in order to start the breathing again.  It’s a reflexive, defense mechanism, triggered by your brain.  Without the oxygen your body needs, you could die.

Not the sort of thing I wanted to hear.

Anyway, after a few trial-and-error sessions over a period of weeks on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, my problems seemed to have resolved.  The pressure kept the soft tissue in my throat open while I slept, allowing for a freer flow of air, and the incidence of breathing-stoppage was reduced to less than once per hour—perfectly normal, I’m told.

I’m also told (by my wife) that I reminded her of Darth Vader when I was asleep.

She wasn’t unhappy about that, though, because I didn’t snore while using the machine.  Peace and quiet evidently reigned as I lay dreaming in the bosom of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

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The very first night I wore the mask, I lasted almost seven hours, removing it around 5:30 in the morning.  My wife reported later that, within ten minutes of doing so, I had begun to snore steadily, after having been quiet all night.  Subsequent nights showed the same pattern.

Both of us agree that dreaming is eminently preferable to snoring!  Numerous studies have shown that people who sleep poorly do not dream, so I am delighted that I now do—as many as three or four different dreams every night.

Excellent fodder for my writing pursuits, I tell myself.

In any case, please be assured that I was always an excellent father to my daughters, I continue to be a very good driver, and I have never passed wind in a crowded elevator.  Honest!

I was, however, an active snorer, a fact to which I now confess.  And, because of that, I am a nightly CPAP user, probably forever—or whatever fraction of forever is left to me.

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Oh, the shame of it?  Maybe a little.

But, ah, the serenity of a good night’s sleep!

 

Sure-Fire Cure for Insomnia

Sleep apnoea!  Really?  Me?

Apparently so, according to a recent visit I paid to a sleep clinic.  During five hours of REM sleep, the two dozen probes affixed to various parts of my head and body recorded ninety-two times where I stopped breathing for periods of up to forty-five seconds.  Who knew?

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Remedies will have to be explored, of course.  At one time in my life, I had trouble falling asleep, but no longer.  Now, it would appear, my problem is trying to avoid expiring while in slumber-land, because of a shortage of breath.

I waken sometimes with my wife hovering anxiously over me, checking to see if I’m still inhaling and exhaling.

It’s all so bothersome.

When I used to lie awake for hours after going to bed, my breathing was perfectly fine—ranging from slow and regular to quick and fitful, depending upon the thoughts and images running through my hyperactive brain.  Given that I had to rise early for work in the morning, it was the wakefulness, not the breathing, that was the problem.

Along the way, a wise (but somewhat snide) friend offered me the perfect solution to those sleepless hours. “Pretend you’re interviewing yourself for a TV talk-show,” he suggested.  “As the host, ask a series of questions, and then, as yourself, answer them.”

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“How will that help me get to sleep?” I asked, unmindful of the wicked gleam in his eye.

“Because nobody, including you, could stay awake if they had to listen to you being interviewed!” he cackled.

Despite his merriment, I thought the idea had possibilities, and so I set about trying it whenever sleep proved elusive.  At first, it had the opposite effect, however; I was so busy thinking of questions to ask myself, my brain went into overdrive.

With practice, though, the questions began to come more easily, and the answers flowed.  And sure enough, listening to myself proved a soporific boon.  The veils of Morpheus descended on me much more rapidly than ever before.  I don’t recall that I ever made it through an entire interview before falling asleep.  Insomnia was banished!

But now, in addition to the vexation of sleep apnoea, I am bothered by the fact that, as my friend predicted, even I cannot last through an interview with myself!  Can I really be that boring?

Speaker boring

So, I determined to find out.  As an avid reader of the magazine Vanity Fair, I always enjoy the quick-hit interviews with people of renown that are found on the final page of each edition.  It occurred to me that, if I could be asked those same sorts of questions, perhaps I would prove to be a stimulating subject.  Surely, I reasoned, listening to myself would not be a sure-fire cure for insomnia.

But you may be the judge of that.  Here are the questions, with my answers—

When and where were you happiest?  I’m very happy now, but my fondest memories are of the years when we were raising our two young daughters.

What is your greatest regret?  I don’t have many—life is too short—but I suppose it would be that I didn’t listen more carefully when my parents were talking about their hopes and fears.  I could have been more attentive and receptive.

What is your greatest fear?  Living beyond the point where I can be mentally engaged and productive.

What talent would you most like to have?  Playing the honky-tonk piano…well!

What is your favourite occupation?  Writing.

Who is your favourite character in fiction?  Travis McGee.

What quality do you most like in other people?  Two—integrity and a sense of humour.

What quality do you most like about yourself?  An ability and propensity to see others’ points of view.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Certainty.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  Impatience.

Which living person do you most admire?  Stephen Hawking.  I don’t understand most of what he says, but I admire his courage and strength of will.

Which living person do you most despise?  Any fundamentalist or ideologue, of any political or religious persuasion, who would seek to take away someone’s liberty, personal dignity, and sense of self-worth.

What is your motto?  It changes from time to time, but a recurring favourite is ‘Don’t believe everything you think!’

What is your idea of perfect happiness?  Spending eternity in the loving arms of my wife.

How would you like to die?  Quickly…but not soon.

What is your current state of mind?

Mr. Burt? What is your current state of mind?

Mr. Burt?  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…..

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