And It's Late In the Evening
Of course, we all have insomnia. It's a world of wonder and a world of fear and stress and short-term job contracts and sexting and bee colony die-off. No right-thinking adult should shut their eyes somewhere around 11 and not open them again until eight or so hours later. So when I say I have insomnia, what I'm flaunting is the sheer cussedness of my insomnia. When Daughter was a baby, she ate at 3:30 a.m. We could do what we liked during the day, she was game and up for new experiences, each day was a special snowflake, but I knew one thing; at 3:30 in the morning, I'd find myself halfway down the hall, having sleptwalked towards the sound of low-blood sugar.
And then at her six-month checkup, the doctor asked after her sleep schedule. I mentioned our standing date. "She can sleep through the night," he said, wiggling her toes in an affectionate yet professional manner, "Now, it's just habit. Tonight, don't nurse her, just give her water. She'll sleep through the night in a week."
And so she did.
[Well, until she turned 11 months old and molars became The Boss of All of Us, but that's another story.]
Within two nights, she was asleep at 3:30. I, however, was not. As if one of the world's atomic clocks was installed in my head, at precisely 3:30 every morning my eyes would snap open and I would contemplate the relentless dark which is 3:30 in the morning. In that darkness, my brain would inform me of every single thing I had ever done wrong, every stupid thing I ever said, every baffling financial decision I made. Well, it wasn't always about me; sometimes I wept for the dolphins. For the first few weeks, I would attempt to go right back to sleep, because I was foolish and thought I had some say in what my body did. What my brain was going to do was stay up for about an hour, maybe ninety minutes, itemizing my failings and then allow me to fall asleep as the sky started to lighten. That Daughter was going to wake up an hour later was immaterial to my brain.We had a job to do, my brain and I, and my selfish desire for a REM cycle wasn't going to keep my brain from making sure I know it was very disappointed with me. Reading never worked, as there is no book which mutes internal decades-long lists of failings. Experimentation taught me to get up and watch sitcoms, as the rampant dolphin-concerns were muffled by Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia. I tried melatonin, camomile tea, even prescription medication before bed; they acted upon 3:30 in the morning as a mosquito acts upon a herd of wildebeest.
Flash forward a decade. 3:30 in the morning and I weren't always hanging out, but I was still seeing a great deal more of her than I liked. One extra cup of green tea? 3:30. Political unrest? 3:30. Holidays coming up? Hi, 3:30; let me at least get some wrapping paper and make use of this time. A doctor told me it has something to do with the adrenals; you know how you feel droopy right around 3:30 or 4:00, go looking for something carbish to keep you awake? That is this feeling's more tractable twin, because a carb will wake you long enough to hold you through the trough, but it you take something to sleep at 3:30 in the morning that means at 7 in the morning, it's going to be 2:00 in the morning in your head and you'll be basically a houseplant, only mean.
Thankfully, I worked from home, so at the very least I wasn't driving at 8 in the morning, which is why I am not dead. Also, we had Roku, which meant I could get caught up on sitcoms in the hour and a half I was up every night; if it's formulaic, twenty-two minutes long and has a laugh-track, I've probably seen it in the last two years. I periodically have to remind myself the people on "How I Met Your Mother" aren't my friends and don't need to be on the Christmas card list. I grew sort of maschochistically fond of 3:30 in the morning. It certainly isn't cute and there's some pretty damning evidence that entrenched insomnia will shorten your life, but I knew who I was; the one who was awake at 3:30 in the morning.
And then, four months ago, I slept through the night. First for one week, and then two, and then a month. Stressful things happened and my brain shouted at me a lot, but I saw nothing of 3:30 in the morning, or 3:40 in the morning, or the underappreciated 4:10 in the morning. I fear even mentioning it, but it appears we are done with 3:30 in the morning for the moment.
I am, however, getting up at 5:20 in the morning; 5:20 is the new 3:30. Sometimes I go back to sleep at 6:30, when my alarm clock goes off at 7:15, which seems a little sadistic on the part of my brain and it's still disrupted sleep, not-enough sleep. And yet, I'm positively giddy about this new development. Why? First, daylight. If it's almost light outside, it's not a night of sleep brutally rent; it's just Tuesday, earlier than usual.
Second, there's Steve and Edie. The rescue-group I work with has a pair of Jack Russell terriers who were found literally dashing across the freeway. Obviously, they are very lucky and they also happen to be very nice. What they are also is very Jack Russell terrier and that's more dog than any morning volunteer wants to encounter, let alone two jumping higher than your head when you're trying to spoon out breakfast for forty animals. A request went out; could someone walk them in the mornings so they would stop molesting the morning crew? I could do that. In fact, I could go and get them and take them for a long hike before the sun was fully in the sky. By the time I get them back, all three of us are sweaty and smell a little less than flowerlike, but we're happy. It's not dark outside, it's light. I can start my day. And when the voice in my head whispers meanly "You haven't done nearly enough," I can snap back "No, I haven't, but right now I'm walking two maniacs who are thrilled to know me and that's enough. So shove off."