Back when I was a responsible adult working a full-time job, I tried hard to keep a relatively set bedtime so that the waking up portion of my day would be posed for minimal discomfort. I've always been this way, and yeah, I did the whole flashlight-under-the-covers thing as a child, mildly scolded for the virtue of reading; in reality the scolding came more for the trouble I'd pose in the morning covers pulled tight over my sleepy eyes. In high school my father used to phone me from work to wake me up at 6:45 am. The neighbor who drove me to school would usually phone again at 7:10, wondering if I was ready yet. Just a minute was generally my mumbled reply to my earnest callers.
Just another minute was also my bargain to myself whenever I tried to push back my bedtime. I'm almost through watching this show; I've just got another chapter to read; I'm already IN BED, I'll turn the light off in a minute; I'll stay up just another minute, we're out of bread so I don't have to make lunch tomorrow; I'll let him shower first so I can stay up a few minutes longer. I'd steal minutes from the morning trying to extend my self-imposed curfew, the extravagent pleasure of indulgence of the night owl so much more satisfactory than the thin satisfaction of virtue of the early bird. Each quarter hour had the attendent burden of guilt as a penance, each hour the self-scolding voice a little louder a little harder to ignore.
The day I got laid off last week I couldn't sleep that night, though all I wanted was to fall into the dark warmth of dreams. Every time my head fell back onto the pillow, the rear projector in my mind went into overdrive, clicking images from the day, the accompanying soundtrack of my thoughts and judgements blending faster into a high pitched whine youshould'veseeitoldyoujustnotgoodenoughwhydidn'tyoucan'tyoudowhat'sthepoint. The shot of disbelief I'd received that day was wearing off, and my brain tingled and ached, thoughts sparking and not quite connecting into meaning. I know that a haphazard late night is fertilizer for bad habits; an unoccupied brain gasoline for self-doubt, self-loathing, clearing the brush of inertia to reveal the bleak, dark landscape of depression that morning light can't push away. Luxury can molder into sloth, the velvet of night becoming a musty damp garment I can't unbutton from around my throat.
Simply put, I can't trust myself yet to find the natural rhythms of my body. I've bartered and bargained my sleep for so many years that I can't seperate the gentle tug of the night from the sucking eddy of excess that keeps me from the restful current of falling into sleep.
Last night I went to an open mike to watch a friend play guitar. He was supposed to go on around 10, but his set didn't start until nearly 11:30. I kept glancing at the time, stifling my yawns, vacillating between a glass of water and another beer. I wanted to stay until the end, proved I could still stay up without becoming peevish. Instead, I came home within another hour to go to bed. I walked past the tv, got only a glass of water from the kitchen instead of a sandwich. It was time to go to bed, I was tired, I'd done enough. When I finally scooted the cat out of the way to lay down, I sat up for a few minutes. It felt like I'd forgotten to do something. I looked over, noticed the YOU SHOULD slightly dusty on the bedside table. It seemed smaller than I remembered. I picked up the soft I CHOOSE, curled up, and went to sleep.