Saturday, July 26, 2008

In Praise Of My Bed

Five cats greeted me upon my return from Poland. In my exhausted and sickened state, I barely finished feeding them when I trudged to the bedroom and went to sleep. Even though stomach problems and dehydration kept me from sleeping perfectly that evening, it is amazing how much more restful one's own bed is than even the most expensive hotel room (never mind an economy class seat on a jetliner). While away, the things I missed the most were my wife, my cats, and my bed. Yes, I also missed the delicious and varied Bay Area cuisine and wine selection, the moderate weather, and the relatively exhaust-and-cigarette-smoke-free air. But it was my bed that really called out to me even whilst comfortably ensconced in the overpriced (to my proletarian sense of value for your money) Polonia Palace hotel.

I love my wife and our cats. Anu is incredibly intelligent, loving and suitably resilient and independent for my sometimes moody disposition. Each of our cats has a personality their own: Cthulhu the overgrown, clingy kitten; Sim the fickle, domineering lap cat; Ash the spaz; Shub the quiet lurker, and Yog the space cadet. But, compared to other beds, it's almost like my bed has a personality as well. I missed it too, often dreaming of it as I dreamed of being back with Anu and the cats.

Like in that bear lair of Goldilocks fame, my bed is neither too soft nor too firm (and my mastery of our climate control system means the room is neither too hot nor too cold). My bed is a comfortable height for me to get onto and off of without having to stretch it, contort myself weirdly, or simply roll onto the floor. Having only a simple frame, there is no headboard to whack my head against, no footboard for blankets to bunch-up against and make me feel constricted, and no sidewalls for me to roll and wake up with alternating pain and numbness as some poor part of my body attempts to deal with bruises and pressure-induced restricted bloodflow. Even asleep, I instinctively know how much I can thrash around on it (I do that a lot in my sleep) without falling off or hitting a wall. And Anu's side always remains free of my body (though I do steal the blankets and pillows when she's not there, presumably as my sleep-addled brain reaches out for her missing presence.

With foreign beds, I frequently knock over nearby lamps, even though they're usually much farther from the bed than my usual bedside lamp that nearly sits on my head. Headboards and sidewalls present ample opportunities for bruising and numbness, and sometimes I even literally wake up on the wrong side of the bed. It is miserable, even if the hotelier or friend has taken great pains to give their guests a comfortable temporary home.

Sleep is the realm of autonomous action. It is all habit, and adapting to a new sleep environment is a slow process. My feeling is that this, as much as time differences, is a major contributor to what we call jetlag. No matter how hard one tries -- and no matter all the strange exercises, meditation, herbs or drugs frequent travelers employ -- it is nearly impossible to be truly rested in a strange room, with strange air, an unmemorized obstacle course between you and the toilet, and worst of all, a well-meaning yet inadvertently hostile bed.

I am so glad to be reunited with my beloved after ten enjoyable yet exhausting days abroad (and I also look forward to Anu's return from New York).