Sleepless nights

By Chad Ingram

I’m an insomniac, or at least a part-time one.

That’s been the case for virtually all of my adult life, the insomnia coming in waves. Typically it lasts a few weeks then goes away for months, or even a year, maybe. Typically it happens when something anxiety-inducing is taking place in my life. 

It’s been back again during the past few weeks. I go to bed, get a few solid hours’ sleep, and then am up, wide awake through the middle of the night, sometimes into the morning. The anxiety-inducing thing in this case is of course the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and all its myriad implications.

In the days before we had kids I would sometimes pace the house when I couldn’t sleep, but I don’t dare do that now, lest I wake a sleeping toddler and her baby sister. Sometimes I watch old movies, the black-and-white variety, but during this particular wave of insomnia, I most often find myself sitting at the island in our kitchen, some time between 2 and 5 a.m.

I think about how strange the past seven months have been. I wonder how long it will take for a safe vaccine to be created, how long it will take to mass-produce it, how long it will take to vaccinate billions of people (yes, I know not everyone will get it), and what life will look like beyond that. The phrase “new normal” has become pretty old-hat at this point. We all seem to understand that the post-pandemic era will be different than the pre-pandemic one, although the ways in which it will be different will only really become clear in time.

I’m almost 38 years old, so let’s say my life is roughly half over. For those of us who are roughly halfway through our lives, it seems clear they are going to consist of pre-pandemic and post-pandemic halves. We will remember what things were like before the pandemic, and how they were different after, and not just in terms of Plexiglas shields at checkout counters or screenings at airports, but in little, day-to-day things. I think of scenes from own life, my youth in particular – crowd-surfing at concerts, high fives with strangers at Blue Jays games, handshakes and hugs with complete strangers in some instances – and wonder if that kind of utterly casual, unthinking contact is gone from our culture, at least during my lifetime. Will face masks, at least for some, become something they wear in public places for the rest of their lives? Will my children be able to look at photographs and tell if they were taken before the pandemic based on what’s happening in them?

Only time will tell, the first major hurdle in that timeline the creation of a vaccine. Still a few sleeps before then.