Night Owl

When I was a teen, I had no trouble staying up really late. I found some of my most productive time for schoolwork was between midnight and 2 am. I often had trouble getting up in the morning and I started my life of waking up cranke. One of the main reasons I wanted to sell our bed and breakfast was because I had to be nice to strangers in the morning. It was uncivilized. If you want to piss me off, be cheerful in the morning. I’ll find ways to punish you for it. If not in reality, in my fantasy life. I considered staying up late a sign of freedom, of breaking rules, of nonconformity. I didn’t stay up late to rebel though. I stayed up because I had so much energy that I wasn’t tired.

I don’t think my parents or siblings understood this. They all went to bed at “a decent hour.” My parents were always disciplined in their lives. For them, staying up late was something they did on rare occasions when they were celebrating. Staying up late meant they didn’t want the party to end. They wanted to sop up every moment of pleasure when they had the opportunity. Staying up was an indulgence. It was decadent, bacchanalian. My parents barely drank and didn’t use recreational drugs so their worst vice was staying up past their bedtime. I don’t think they considered it a sin. It was a luxury. It was a celebration of life. For others, transgression might be eating that piece of cake, of smoking that cigar or cigarette, of using recreational drugs, having sex with someone other than their spouse that created the naughty, slightly dangerous endorphin rush. To my parents, it was breaking the rules to squeeze every moment of pleasure spending time with their friends and family. Being with people they loved as much as possible was the height of their decadence.

My first job after college didn’t require me to get up early. I often worked late and that suited me. My next job, the one I held for 25 years, did require me to be up around 6 or 6:30 at the latest and often earlier. Somehow, I managed to reset my body clock. To this day, nearly 15 years after leaving that job, no matter my time zone or when I go to bed, I tend to be up before 7. Now, during Covid, I often have the luxury of taking a morning nap.

When working at the theater, I often stayed up late. I would be wired working the shows and it would take me awhile to wind down. Also, in the early days of The Acorn Theater in particular, we often partied with performers after the audience had departed. Cathy Richardson would have a hootenanny every time she came. The Steve Evans Quartet would trade instruments and jam. Miles Davis’ music director played amazing jazz chord progressions on our pipe organ. I have so many memories of post-show parties. I never had trouble staying up late for these events. If I was going to drive back to Chicago instead of sleeping in Three Oaks, I was wide awake on the road.

Now, with the pandemic in place, I find I am tired more than ever. I assume it is due to the stress of living with this disease looming. I feel like it doesn’t get to me, but I know it does. I now sleep with a mouth guard because, for the first time, I’m grinding my teeth. I am often sleeping more than 8 hours a night. I’m unable to stay up late most nights. I fall asleep so quickly when I get to bed, even if I want to watch some tv. American Ninja Warriors and Judge Judy are like Ambien. Judge Judy in particular puts me under quickly. I think an angry Jewish woman yelling at people is my comfort zone. I am not sure if all this fatigue is an indication of depression that I ignore. I sure hope not. Maybe it is just part of my aging. I don’t know. I love getting a lot of sleep, but I don’t like feeling like I am sleeping too much. I just don’t know what my body needs and if this is the new me or if it is temporary. Is sleeping a lot a sign that I’m depressed and I am not self-aware enough to notice?

I will say that I feel really good and refreshed for the part of the day when I am awake. I feel like I’m sharp minded and have good energy. Maybe I am sleeping so much because I am running on full energy until I crash? Perhaps I’m just as productive as I would be on a longer day but I’m squeezing all my activities into a shorter, more condensed time. Maybe sleeping this much is more efficient? My basic instinct is to be critical and judgmental about myself, but maybe I’m actually doing it right? I think many of us are built differently. Some of us do better with more sleep and some of us require less sleep. Maybe I am sleeping more because I am sleeping less soundly? I don’t know. Maybe I should be trying to optimize my life by adhering to a desired schedule? I kind of wish I knew the right way to do this.

Everything is different. I am home alone a lot (which I enjoy a lot of the time.) I am writing way more than ever. I don’t love the writing, but I love the self-awareness that comes from working on my pieces. I am taking a class that I am enjoying and probably would not have taken had it not been for Covid. I know this new normal is temporary and that someday I will be able to travel and visit with people again. And I’ll be able to attend arts events. In the meantime, I’m trying to stay productive and make the best of the current situation. Maybe I will once again start staying up late and sleeping in like when I was young.

I'm a midwesterner who is living this phase of his life in the arts.

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