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Lyrics and Life


By Caitlin Ward


Remember Who You Are
Sly & the Family Stone

When we know we are hearing
Everything we say
What they think they’re feeling
Are the games they think we’re playing

If you’re like nobody
Remember you’re nobody else, ooh
Know you tried too hard to get along
Then you’re only being yourself

Remember who you are
Remember, (that’s) who you will be
Remember who you are
Remember (that’s the person)
Who’s going to be free

When things seem so hazy
And facts attempt to blind
The few that think it’s crazy
Confused with peace of mind

They must know you’re hearing
Everything they say
Giving you more of a reason
To keep on doing it your way

Remember who you are
Remember who you are
Remember who you are
Well, remember who you are

Flirting with what you shouldn’t
Very little chance to grow
Hurting when you know you wouldn’t
No win, no place, no show

Somebody else’s medicine
Could be a poison to you
But you can always bet it some
‘Cause when you pay, you play

Remember who you are
Remember who you are
Remember who you are
Remember who you are...(fade out)

I am not sure if there is anything that makes me more impotently furious than insomnia. There are many other things that give me negative emotions — poverty, war, injustice, my stupid fuzzy hair — but I hold a special place of rage in my heart for insomnia.

I could probably be more serene about it. Just as I have negative emotions about many things, so there are many things worse than insomnia: poverty, war, structural violence. My stupid fuzzy hair. But insomnia is just so pointlessly terrible. There’s no reason for it except my brain and/or my body has a vendetta against my peace of mind and/or my attempts at productivity.

There are many remedies for insomnia: wake up earlier, exercise, stop consuming caffeine after a certain time in the day, have a bedtime routine. None of them work with any consistency. I can get up at 7 a.m. after four hours of sleep, stop drinking coffee at noon, go through a comprehensive sleep ritual, and still be wide awake at 2 a.m. Medical intervention is often worse. Sleep aides either don’t work, or work so well that you sleep through your alarm and five phone calls, and wake up so groggy you feel half asleep for the better part of the day. It’s not much different than if you hadn’t slept at all, except you end up being two hours late for work.

People say to get up and do something if you can’t sleep; lying there isn’t helping. There’s not much you can do at 3 a.m., though. If you live with other people, you’re disturbing everyone else in the house if you get up. Even if you live alone, your options are limited. Watching screens, whether computer or television, hinders your ability to sleep, and reading is not easy when you’re that tired. I live in an apartment building, so it rarely seems like a good idea to start playing guitar at 3 a.m. Once upon a time I would have gone outside to smoke for a while, but since I quit two years ago, it’s no longer a viable option. And let’s face it: it wasn’t a super helpful thing to do, in the first place.

Of course, I tend to ignore the list of things you’re not supposed to do when you are trying to sleep — for obvious reasons, I think. The trouble with being on a computer that late at night when you’re somewhere between asleep and awake, though, is that one tends to have less common sense than one would at other times of the day. And thus, I have wakened up in the morning on many occasions to find a variety of order confirmations in my email inbox for things I was sure I should buy online at 4 a.m. the night previously.

I would mind, except it seems that my half-asleep self makes better purchasing decisions than I do. Things I stress over and research and finally buy after much hemming and hawing often end up a disappointment, whereas the witching hour purchases of your average Tuesday night lead to strange and wonderful things you might not have thought of getting, otherwise.

Sometime last week, for example, I heard the opening strains of Remember to Be Yourself by Sly & the Family Stone, and realized that A Tribe Called Quest had sampled it in After Hours. Much later that night, I must have realized I’d never heard this later, less well-known Sly album, because it arrived in the mail two days ago. I must have been on a bit of a kick, because two other albums arrived the day after: Fresh, also by Sly & the Family Stone, and When Jackie Met Basie, a rather obscure collection of Jackie Wilson recording covers arranged by Count Basie. They’re all magic. All three of them. Magic.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that everyone should start buying things willy-nilly, let alone buying things willy-nilly in the wee hours of the morning when you’re suffering from chronic insomnia. And I’m not sure if it’s a fair trade-off that sleep is a constant source of anxiety, but I occasionally have good albums showing up in the mail as a result of it. But perhaps it’s a reason to feel less impotently furious about this insomnia, however unproductive it makes me sometimes. After all, there are bigger things to be upset about: poverty, war, injustice. My stupid fuzzy hair.

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at