When I was in college, I would often set my alarm for 3 or 4 in the morning and then go to Denny’s or Perkins to study or finish writing a paper (back when I actually wrote papers by hand which then I had to stand in line with hundreds of others to use a computer in order to type it up and print- gawd, I’m old). It was difficult to get up sometimes, but I knew that if I stayed up until 3 or 4 or 5 and then went to sleep, I’d never get up for whatever class at 9 or 10. For some strange reason, I had figured out that as much of a night owl as I was (am?), the battle in the morning to get out of bed was seldom won. I don’t know if by getting up in the wee hours of the morning when it was dark and seemed like the middle of the night I fooled myself into thinking it wasn’t actually morning or what. All I know is that I did some of my best work at 4 am.
I also used to have the ability of staying up until all hours of the night and still dragging myself to work in the mornings. After college, I had two jobs that required my presence by 6 am. How I did this for several years, I will never know. Much like I cannot fathom how I made it through the infant and baby years with my twins. It truly is a blur and I am so glad that I took a million photographs because I doubt if my mom-brain could actually conjure up an accurate picture in my head from that time. I think I was functioning at like 1% brain capacity.
One very clear memory I have from when they were babies was of a Saturday morning when they just wouldn’t go back to sleep for a nap. Nothing worked. So we played on their little gym mats until they fell asleep on the floor and taking the advice that every new mom is given: to “sleep when the baby sleeps”, I, too fell asleep face down on the floor. Toys, cats, babies and mom strewn about on the floor. I wish someone had taken a picture of that.
I’ve always loved my sleep. My brain is pretty much set to overdrive on a constant basis, so sleep is my only refuge. My early (and later) attempts at meditation have always ended pretty much the same way…zzzz. I only occasionally feel badly about it though. It is a saving grace, really. I know many people who can not shut off. They will toss and turn and think all night long and then it is time to get up and function and my lord, I have no idea how they do it. My mom tells me that even as a young child I could sleep through pretty much anything, including the oft-told tale of snoozing through 4th of July fireworks. It’s a gift.
But what is troubling now is that my clock seems to be screwed up. I can’t stay up late and get up early any longer. Well, I can, but I’m not my usual sharp self. I can’t imagine being creative at 4 am and yet I know that is the time I would need to wake up in order to write and have quiet contemplation time without the boys. You see, against all odds, I gave birth to an early-bird. A crack-of-dawn riser. A what-the-hell-are-you-doing-up-at-this-hour-for-god’s-sake-go-back-to-bed little boy. I think his brain is on overdrive too. So when he is up, he is UP. And I just can’t seem to do it. Many great writers speak of staying up late or getting up early to practice their craft. They speak of the passion and the drive and the need to do so. I want to do it too and yet if the clock strikes midnight and I am not on my way to dreamland I spend much of the next day in a fog. If I go to bed at a decent hour with good intentions of trying to beat the bird to the computer in the a.m., as soon as I hear the morning begin to stir my first thought is, how much longer can I sleep?
No longer a night owl and/or an early bird, I find myself at my best mid-morning. This is bizarre. On a number of levels. For one, I am at work. Which is great (sort of) for my employer. Except these days I feel this itching and restlessness and distraction because I want to be working on other things. I try to jot them down and make notes to go back to them. I think brilliant thoughts on my commute to and from the office. But when night falls and the boys are in bed and the house is finally quiet, it takes a lot for me to sit back down at the computer and set to MY work.
I’ve questioned myself about whether or not I want it badly enough. The answer is yes. The answer is also that I want to be a good mom and that I am the sole provider for my boys and I have a full-time job and that despite my romantic ideas about suffering for my art, I cannot neglect these other duties. Duties, it would seem, that require me to get more sleep than not on a regular basis. But I have faith that if I put in my time, if I start maybe one day a week trying to rise and write before my little bird, if I manage to cut out some distractions (hello, Internet), if I just do the next thing that is in front of me, I will be able to create the life I want. And then, when I sleep the tired, satisfied sleep of someone who has done their very best that day, my dreams will be that much sweeter.