Be careful what you sleep with…

Some people need absolutely quiet to fall asleep. I’m not one of them. I need a fan running on high and some background noise. Any program featuring talking heads will do, but for best results I’ve found the ones that are less objectionable to your own political philosophy are less apt to jar you awake because someone said something you want to argue about.

For my traditional bedtime process I usually rely on either Sky News or BBC Radio 4 (broadcasting the World Service overnight UK time) to deliver me safely in the hands of sleep. For the last few weeks, I’d gotten out of a long held habit that has closed out my day for longer than I want to remember. Instead it was parking on CNN, or Fox News, or, less often, MSNBC, to pick up the discussion about the Supreme Court nomination fight.

The longer I went in that vein, the less well rested I felt when the alarm went off in the dark hours of the morning. After a few days back in the old routine I find I’m certainly more rested – even if other circumstances have prevented my mood from making any dramatic improvements.

I know it makes me sound slightly mad, but there’s just something about hearing the news carefully enunciated and sent back across from the mother country that makes it more palatable. Even if not palatable, it’s far more pleasing to the ear. That probably sounds for more than I should admit.

Now if I could just stay away from Twitter for an hour before bedtime things really would be looking up.

Sleep disjointed…

For most of my adult life I’ve had a somewhat conflicted relationship with sleep. I recognize and accept it as a biological necessity, but I’m not in love with the idea of spending up to a third of each day lying prone when there are likely other, more interesting things to do.

Occasionally, my ambivalence towards sleep catches up with me. Usually it’s on a Sunday afternoon when I’m not otherwise engaged and find myself going chin down. On rare occasions like last night, I’ll nod off before ever making it to bed. That’s not an especially pervasive problem as usually I’m only down for 10 or 15 minutes.

Last night was something different, though. I suspect the last two weeks has really started catching up with me. I went down hard at 8:15 and spent the next two and a half hours drooling on myself in the living room. This was apparently just enough shut eye to completely ruin the chance of getting an actual night’s sleep. Laying abed wide awake isn’t really my style, so I read, did some internet things, watched a surprisingly interesting documentary about the Boeing 747, and then finally “went to bed” a little after 3am.

Thanks to my surprisingly persistent internal alarm clock, I was still up by 5:30 this morning. Thus is the way I begin my designated “down time.” I can only hope this isn’t setting the tone for how the rest of these next few days are going to run.

More than two…

One of my personal dreams is to find a way to live with a bare minimum of sleep and allocate those “bonus” hours to more interesting or productive endeavors. What I learned from last night’s bout with a quick moving stomach bug is that whatever the right amount of sleep is for me, it’s more than two hours. I know this because that’s exactly the amount I got – although in fairness it was split with 30 minutes at the beginning of the night and then a follow-on 90 minutes tagged right at the end.

Spending the largest part of the small hours of the morning alternating between too hot, too cold, and trips down the hall to tend other business I was at least able to do a little reading and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which was well and good until my eyes stopped focusing around 3AM. After that it was treating the TV like a radio and trying to summon sleep through willpower and determination.

Whatever it was that beat the literal shit out of me last night seems to have passed as quickly as it arrived. That, at least, is a mercy. As much as I resent the necessity of laying down and shutting off my brain for a few hours every night it’s safe to say that I’ll personally be hoping that tonight is at least closer to the norm than yesterday’s improvised two hour plan because that clearly isn’t going to be the wave of my future… although by lunch time today even the dullest meetings were just a little bit funny and that’s probably worth something.

Starry night…

Between the light diffusing from Wilmington and Baltimore I’m a little too boxed in by sprawl to have ideal nighttime sky viewing conditions. Sometimes, though, when it’s cold and the air is clear you get a glimpse of what it must have been like standing on these shores a few hundred years ago – when these lands were the outpost of civilization. 

On nights like tonight, if you’re lucky and your timing is just right, you take the dogs out, happen to look up at just the right angle to marvel again at the constellations you learned as a kid, and are rewarded with a shooting star passing across Orion for your troubles. It’s awfully hard not to appreciate the moments like that. 

The wee small hours of the morning, or Fueling the beast…

Something strange happened in the wee small hours of the morning today. Just after 2AM I found myself inexplicably awake, in the company of the whirr of the overhead fan and two snoring dogs. It was as peaceful a nighttime scene as one could hope to find, but my subconscious was clearly in an uproar, awake, and was rather insistent that we were going to be awake for a while.

I’m used to having ideas for the blog come at me before drifting off to sleep or maybe as I’m waking up. I make a habit of catching those ideas on my phone’s note pad. It’s jammed full of half formed ideas and concepts I may or may not ever get around to dealing with. Mostly those come in the form of a sentence or phrase I can use later, but last night came at me in a torrent of words. Judging by a daylight look, the grammar, punctuation, stray words, and general tone I can say that my subconscious isn’t much for exerting editorial control on the fly. In a few places things are so jumbled that awake me can’t even deciphered what asleep me might have been going after. Most of the rest, though, is clear enough in its intent.

It seems my subconscious wanted to wait until the dead of night to walk me through the outline of what I’ll only call the most dark, disturbingly introspective assessments of self I’ve ever experienced. I don’t suppose it should be surprising that such a thing would find outlet as one of my old fashioned blog outlines. It’s the method I use most often to give complex ideas form and structure before going on to put them down in the more narrative long form.

What I was left with early this morning was a laundry list of a sort. A list of the accumulated slights, grudges, broken hearts, and disappointments. A list of the battles lost, and lost causes yet to come, and standing stubborn against the running tide. A list of the moments of vanity, and pride, and ego stretching out further than grasp. A list of the times I’ve retreated behind my own battlements, inside myself, and what that’s cost me.

It was an all access pass to the oddities of mind that drive the fusion reactor deep at my core, that piles action upon action, cycle upon cycle, loss upon loss, victory upon victory and the hundred different dreams and fears that make me and that make me question who “me” really is at the heart of things. Is there more? Is this enough?

I’m left today finding the whole thing exhilarating, unsettling, fascinating, and horrifying in turn. Maybe that’s what it’s supposed to feel like when we get an unexpected look at what fuels the beast within… or maybe it’s just a sign of my impending mid-life crisis. If that’s the case, leaving off the heavy handedness and filling my dreams with visions of a new Corvette would have been message enough.

The darkest evening of the year…

The winter solstice arrives at 11:49 PM EST and with it the longest evening of the year. That means tomorrow there will be fractionally more daylight time than there was yesterday. There are still a few weeks where sunrise will keep getting later in the morning, but that will be offset by gains made in the afternoon.

This is actually the second post I wrote this evening. The first took on an altogether too bleak feel that was neither desired nor intended, but that nevertheless hung over it like a shroud. Take two, here, is an effort to redeem myself by striking a slightly less emo chord.

This time of year always reminds me of a long ago English class and Robert Frost’s melancholic snowy wood. Even now twenty years later Mr. Frost’s words and Mrs. Butler’s voice are stuck firmly in my head on nights like this.

Long, dark nights didn’t bother me much back then, but the older I get the more I find myself in favor of those languid summer nights when twilight seems to hold on for hours. They’re a long way off yet, but by morning we’ll have turned the corner – sometimes that’s enough.

Just about perfect…

The last of a good day’s sun is creeping across the tops of the back yard oaks. I’m more of a sunrise guy, but there’s something to be said about this dusky time of day too… especially on a Sunday night, which I assume we all find at least a touch melancholy. As the light drains away from another weekend, I’m almost willing myself into boredom in an effort to extend the day just that little bit longer – a fool’s errand to be sure – but it’s a well established part of the Sunday evening routine.

I don’t have much of anything to add to that little observation. The weekend was uneventful and unremarkable in nearly every way. Some people would find that disappointing, but I tend to consider it an achievement… So if you’ll excuse me I have an appointment with the back porch, a cold drink, and the setting sun.

And that’s just about perfect.