Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A little existential death

I have become convinced that we humans have internal clocks that cannot be reset entirely, or at least mine can't. I started sleeping late when I was a little kid. I remember one morning my mother coming into my room and saying "Get up Vanessa, it's 10 o'clock!"
This was, I think, before I started school, so I would have been four or five. I remember thinking-- wow I slept late but it feels SO good, I want to do this every day!
I never could go to sleep at bedtime either. I would always lie there for hours, my brain refusing to turn off. I remember pestering my brother lying in the bed next to me, trying to stave off the boredom. I never wanted to go to bed until I was really tired and it seemed to take later at night to make me tired.
By the time I was a teen, I had pretty much cemented myself into my night owl ways. I had my own room and I could stay up as late as I like if I didn't get caught. I remember the first book I read by flashlight when I was seven. It was Fantastic Mr Fox.
It was only the beginning of my sleep rebellion.
When I was fourteen, I went to ninth grade camp and we were sent to the Wichita Mountains. I was starting a new school and my parents thought it would be a great idea. It wasn't.
I hate hiking and camping and mountain climbing-- all of which was required. And they would say "you don't have to do anything you don't want to do." but they didn't mean it. The first time I said "I don't want to climb that," someone got behind me and pushed me up.
I cannot tell you how resentful I was of that. Still, I tolerated this great 'get up early and see the sunrise' experiment. It was supposed to be life changing, amazing, this dazzling experience, we were so close to nature...
Very reluctantly, I got up at least a half hour before the butt crack of dawn in those very cold pre-dawn hours and then we had to hike three miles- thanks for that- before breakfast.
We sat in the middle of a clearing waiting for the sunrise. I yawned, and waited for this life changing thing to happen. I waited, and waited AND waited. We were not allowed to speak at this time. Any conversation was certain to RUIN the moment.
Finally, this weak, pale yellow sun peeked over the horizon. I waited. It grew more and more light and I waited, I shivered a little, the warmth of the sun was really taking its time.
Okay-- hang on here. Where were the lovely colors? Where was the breathtaking beauty in the sky? Where were the pinks and oranges and deep darkness? Oh right, this was not a sunset. This was a pale and pathetic imitation of an unwilling sun, weak, tired and merely doing its duty getting up in the morning to groggily make its way to the kitchen and pour itself a nice cup of java. That sun was not even going to hit its full glory until 8 AM-- by then it would have stretched its hydrogen filled arms and woken up a little, given us some light.
Silently, we trudged back to camp. And all I could think was: I got up for THIS? I have missed nothing over the years!
I have always regarded the sunset as the deepest beauty in nature. The coming of night thrills me-- the dark mysteries, the evocative shadows. This is what poets write about with flourishing pens. Not this mamby pamby sunrise crap.
Sure I have stayed up all night and witnessed the sunrise but I have always looked at it with a critical eye. For me, it is a little metaphorical death. It is the death of my freedom. I used to be able to stay out til dawn and when the dawn came, I had to crawl back home. It is the death of the darkness, the murder of the night, the killing of the soft shadows.
I tried to acclimate myself to a morning world. More than once. Once I had a job that required me to be at work at 9:30- and that lasted a year or so before I switched to nights-- but the real horror came when I took a job that required me to work 7AM til 3PM.
I thought to myself, I'll just reset my clock. I tried my best to be in bed by
10 PM but I tossed and turned til midnight. I tried to fight it, I tried to acclimate to this morning world. I saw that dang sunrise every single day. I finally gave up, stayed up til midnight and took an afternoon nap. It was the only way I could cope with that schedule.
But I learned an important lesson. My clock is set.


Anonymous said...

"The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep." - Rumi

VanessaMRR said...

I'll only hear it if I stay up all night :)

Jennifer said...

Hey, THAT is a way to get around that whole getting up early business, AND, still learn the dawn's secrets. Take that, Rumi ;)

I just heard this really interesting piece on NPR re: insomnia/late night schedules as they relate to creativity. Essentially, when you are up while everyone else is sleeping, you can have your most creative moments (no distractions?). I wish I could find you the link! Bah :(