Restless Sleep

Sarah Buttenwieser
5 min readOct 29, 2020


2016 seems like a dream to me now

I managed to sleep late this morning (nearly eight). I knew, as I slept and wasn’t awake, that I was restless. I needed to pee at one point — and shifted position to fall back to sleep without disruption. For whatever reason, I’m not getting up more nights than not, perhaps because I’m falling asleep kind of late, I don’t know. Restless sleep isn’t totally relaxing. Restless sleep beats waking up in the middle of the night. I am grateful, relatively, to restlessness right now, because I know, given how worried I am all the time that sleep could be so much worse. It’s not. It’s simply restless and struggling to last long enough.

The high temperature for Election Day (currently) is thirty-nine degrees. Sunny! Low of twenty-six, so any hope for an outdoor way to be with anyone into the long evening that probably won’t resolve anything is a no. Maybe, that’s just as well. I don’t know. I feel like on the list of things the Virus and its mismanagement or lack of management or willful mismanagement renders terrible, although low on the long list, is not getting to support one another physically through Election Night. Anyone who gathered with people to watch the returns (raises hand), has some residual pit-in-stomachache about That Night. So, it’s not like I want to invite people over to the same room, which no longer has a television in it anyway. It’s not even like I definitely want to sit on our porch and watch under the little heater. It’s mostly that when this is over, whatever happens, I’d like to hug people, as was critical four years ago. I needed to feel, physically, that I wasn’t the only one wracked with disbelief and fear and rage. Other than Ezekiel, the only people similarly undone were women.

One of the things I’m surprised to be mourning right this minute, this week, is the fact that I cannot hold onto my rage. It’s often gone. I don’t mean gone, like wow, I’m just not mad any longer. It’s gone, like it was snatched. It’s gone like something that mattered so much to me — the only physical object right this moment that comes to mind is a ragged blue chenille sweater in the softest shade of cobalt that was taken from my locker at Northampton Athletic Club like thirty years ago; I loved it so much and missed it, palpably, for so long — but wasn’t valuable, quote-unquote. The sweater couldn’t have been consigned by the time it was stolen, because it was misshapen and frayed. That sweater was valuable to me. I loved that sweater, and in a way, I guess I loved my rage. Loved might be the wrong word, but that rage was mine and I had to do a lot of hard work to connect with it. It mattered to me. It is, eerily, quite scarily, absent so much of the time. It’s not that I miss feeling so RAGEY so continually and constantly; it’s that I feel afraid NOT feeling it.

This week, four years ago, I might have described myself as roughly equal, large parts RAGE and hope. I couldn’t sleep. I loved the dream of Hillary, of the glass ceiling at long last shattering into a kazillion bits, all shiny and sharp, even lethal, like the female who upends a bad guy (and what a buffoonish bad guy he was), but also all the bad guys we possibly hated more at that moment, the obnoxious, self-righteous Bernie Bros. I mean, that pussy grab tape seemed like it should have been the end, right? I mean, that pussy grab tape made it clear men preferred to overlook so much shit not to elect a whip-smart woman. Everyone who said it was just not liking Hillary or she had “baggage” was torn to misogynist shards this past winter, when they dissed a fucking parade of strong, smart women, who collectively carried less “baggage” than she did — and STILL.


Joe. I like him FINE. I love him in many ways. I think he’s as far as we can go right now. All of this, even, just this, should induce my RAGE. Instead, I’m fangirling Kamala and believe we need the simple decency of a man schooled in grief and empathy, who reveres the women in his immediate life and loves babies. I find myself ready to say, “Man,” just like him.

I’d love to see Clarence Thomas drop dead and Anita Hill get his seat early in 2021. But even what sounds and is bitter, it isn’t RAGEY; it isn’t rage. This numb me waits and cannot phone bank no matter whether I have time (what is time anyway?) or not. I am paralyzed emotionally this week and I feel like rage would ignite action. Partly, because the week before, four years ago, I was everywhere and I talked to everyone about the vote, voting, please vote. I see no one. I go hardly anywhere. When I do, the loudest thing I can do clearly, because no one for sure hears you so well through the mask, is wear the mask. I have VOTE in black and Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight purple; I have Good Trouble; I have RBG; I have Mamalehs for Kamala. I rotate between these images where my mouth would speak, as if a picture is worth the thousand ways that I’d cajole anyone I talked to about voting. In this case, the picture tells the story of nearly eight months of this lockdown. It tells me that over two hundred thousand people have died and climbing. A pussy grab is like, the least of our problems. The buffoon, who moved into the People’s House, stole everything, with the assistance of mostly rich white men and thugs striving to be rich white men.

I’m writing these things on seven hours’ fitful sleep. I’m writing these things without the rage that would warm my blood and get me going. I am dragging myself through this time, very oddly detached and empty and terrified and lonely and sad. I would like to put on that sweater again; I would like to wear my rage again. I voted already. For the first time in many years, I did so dry-eyed. I would like my tears back.



Sarah Buttenwieser

Writer, brainstormer, networker — follow me on Twitter @standshadows