At four am most mornings, my brain would spring awake and begin gamboling about and peeing out novel all over the floor like a naughty Labrador retriever puppy. It would be a happy, feckless brain, concerned mostly with sniffing out the right words, not at all interested in the sink full of last night’s dishes.
Insomnia, in this already extended-beyond-all-possible-interest-or-reason metaphor, was the stick that POKED that puppy, that rooted it out of the bed, the LYING SACK OF CRAP STICK that said it was time to get up, and more truthfully told it something rotty-licious was buried deep in the files of my latest novel-in-progress, and the brain should go dig it up and bring it in the house.
I paid for these hours later, with grumpy, bitter black coffee-fueled four PM times, when my brain would have aged all the way from puppyhood to a Schubert-esque old age. My brain would be creaky and foul, and it would direct me to finally tackle the crusted dishes, because that was about all it was good for. I might break a couple fumbling at them with my sponge, I was so clumsy with exhaustion, but they got DONE. By 6 pm, Insomnia would start poking at me again and telling me of COURSE I didn’t need any SLEEP and I should have dinner and chatter at my husband and kids and play games and frisk about, but the afternoons? Were awful. In the afternoons, my old creaky 4 PM Schubert brain would not be interested in novels or pleasantness; it was in charge of autonomic functions and grumpiness only.
DIGRESSION: Speaking of the old fat cat, he will NOT use the old fat cat step. I was up three times last night, setting him ON THE STEPS, and then he would step gingerly onto the bed and flop down in a heap of smugness to nap by me. I am going to season him with oregano and bake him in a pan. I see no other solution. TO UN-DIGRESS, each time he woke me up, I would put him on the step, get back in bed, and fall ALMOST INSTANTLY back into dreamless sleep! INSOMNIA, WHERE ARE YOU?
Post OMGIADLY? Insomnia is nowhere to be found. He has DITCHED me. He is on the fritz. And I MISS him. I MISS my insomnia. I can’t believe I just said that. I can’t believe also, that every time Insomnia does a drive by, and I have a bad night or two, I trumpet about it excitedly to all my friends. I THINK MY INSOMNIA IS COMING BACK, I bellow into the phone, hopeful, as if I am talking about a beloved cousin who has been deployed into a hotzone, and now has orders to return.Because as much as I used to bemoan my lack of sleep…Let me tell you, there is a fabulous advantage to a nineteen hour day. It is this: You can get NINETEEN HOURS WORTH OF CRAP DONE.
FAQilly speaking, when I teach at writer’s conferences, one question I almost always get is “How do you FIND THE TIME.” The person who asks is almost always a woman, and she will almost always have some sort of a mom-tell. Perhaps something subtle, like one perfectly shaped eyebrow and one bushier one because she got interrupted halfway through to help with a science fair project and never got the time to go back. Sometimes it is plenty obvious, like a toddler’s shaky smiley face drawn in Sharpie on her otherwise nice handbag. But the mom-tell is almost always there in these WHERE DO YOU FIND TIME question askers.
The answer was (yes, past tense) simple—-I had two things going for me; I married the right man, and I am a RABID insomniac. I am still married o the right man. Scott is my go to guy, Mr. Fixit, who repairs everything in the house, from the toilet to my temper.
But I have LOST my other edge. Instead of a week consisting MOSTLY of 19 hour days with one two hour nap somewhere and one night where I pay for up-hours with a ten hour sleep binge…I consistently have days that last about 16 hours.
My afternoons are better, sure, but that means my brain never shuts down and wants to do the dishes. That means, I lose those three SILENT morning hours when no one is up but me, not the kids or the pets or that IRRITATING and apparently IMMORTAL chipmunk has for years now spent his morning hours right outside my office window producing a PIERCING rhythmic CHUP CHUP noise.
I don’t know how to schedule my day. I have to do the writing FIRST thing, but then I am behind the rest of the morning. I never catch up. I get to the end of each day, Insomnia free, yawning and blinking by 10:30 and I have about three hours worth of crap that SIMPLY HAS NOT GOTTEN DONE. Not even the worries over how I am going to find the time to make up for those hours and hours I am losing, get my filthy house under control, finish the book, get my kids to all their activities…not even all that FRETTING can keep my brain awake past eleven pm.