Art, Madness, and Jet Lag
Before our trip to Okinawa, I had never experienced jet lag. I had heard about it, of course. I had listened to tales of its horror, yet I never truly believed that it could be as intense as everyone attested.
I will now acknowledge that jet lag is not a myth and it threw me (and my husband) for a loop. We landed at JFK on a Monday evening, and I didn't feel normal again until the weekend. My eating and sleeping habits mirrored those of a newborn whose days and nights are backward, and I think my cognitive abilities were on the same level.
I couldn't focus, I kept forgetting things, dropping things. I refused to nap during the day, knowing it would only perpetuate the problem. I was walking around like a zombie all day, waiting for sleep, only for sleep to fail me once my head hit the pillow.
One night, I awoke at 1:30 am and could not fall back asleep. I tried reading, counting breaths, naming all the countries I could think of in alphabetical order, and none of it worked. Finally, I let my mind wander.
My mind didn't wander. It swirled like a maniacal tornado, never settling on a single spot, swallowing up random things and then hurling them away into the atmosphere. My breath quickened, and my heart raced, and I couldn't make it stop. Even though I knew the cause of it, frustration and a tiny seed of panic set in. I remember thinking to myself that this is what the beginning of madness must feel like. (Seems dramatic, but I place a high value on a good night's sleep).
Suddenly, a phrase appeared in the form a question and repeated itself like a mantra:
Who has you in memory?
Over and over...who has you in memory?
It may sound strange to some, but if you know me, it's really not strange at all. My brain invents strings of words and phrases all the time. Even in my sleepless stupor, I was excited to have something for my mind to work on. Maybe a little direction would help me fall asleep.
I began thinking about all the people we meet in life, especially in childhood, and how they have memories of us that may be completely different from our memories of them. How often do childhood friends think of us, anyway? At what moments? Do certain people come up again and again? Who? Why?
Then my mind veered off to my late grandmother on my mother's side, Nanny. I don't know why she entered the scene, but she did. My sister and I used to spend a week in the summer with her during our middle and early high school years. I remembered her sending us to the grocery store for treats. The name of the store was Fedele's. Nanny would always call it Fiddle-de-dee's in a sing-song voice, and then chuckle to herself. One of the treats we bought was a brand of boxed caramel corn called Fiddle-Faddle.
Well, you can imagine how, with my adoration for alliteration, the string of wordplay took off immediately. Oh, fiddle-de-dee! We bought Fiddle-Faddle at Fedele's!
These memories raced through my mind and attached themselves to the initial phrase in a delirious, perhaps deranged turn of literary events:
Who has you in memory
From fiddle-faddle days?
Stick with me here, it keeps going.
Again, I thought of how other people shape their image of you based on their memories of any interactions you have had. The opinion a childhood friend has of me might be grounded in one single thing I did. That image of me may grow in their mind until it freezes at a certain point where their opinion and memory are satisfied.
This idea reminded me of the mythical creature Golem, which I became familiar with during my time at the school library because of this book:
A golem is an anthropomorphic creature magically created from inanimate objects, often times things from the earth, like mud or clay. I imagined someone taking memories of me, (or me taking memories of them), scooping them up together and shaping them like clay into a golem-like image.
Are all our images of people like golems? How many golems of me are there out in the world? How many golems have I created of others?
By this time, I had watched the clock slowly change as I tossed and turned and fretted and created. All was not lost, however. In my sleep-deprived madness, I had formulated a poem.
Finally, at around 5 am, I decided to start the day. I stumbled downstairs to my office, scribbled the words down, and then went to make breakfast.
Today, I read the poem, and although I find it raw and perhaps a bit silly, I will keep it as is. I know it is the result of jet lag delirium, but it's real.
Who has you in memory
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I write novels and poetry and this blog.