Last Friday, I sent seven emails between four and five a.m.
Last night, I sent five more just after midnight.
Normally, I'm asleep during those hours. These days, I curl into a ball, my thoughts spin, and eventually I give up, deciding to read myself back to sleep, snuggle with the resident beagle, or just get started with the day.
I've begun to think of sleep as a long-lost friend -- someone who has been avoiding me, maybe, or someone with whom there is unfinished business.
The thing is, I love to sleep. Every roommate I've ever had can attest to this. In college, I used to try to make myself stay up late, but at a certain point I became silly and useless -- usually hours before the rest of my friends became silly and useless.
Occasionally I assign my students this sort of journal entry: Imagine if you had to leave home suddenly, without knowing if you would ever return. What items would you bring with you? If it were assigned to me, I would write: "My bed" followed by "at least two down pillows" and finished with "a duvet with an Egyptian cotton cover." Wherever I'm headed, I'd like to be able to sleep when I get there.
"Are you okay?" a friend asks. Her voice trails off: "You look..."
Old. Just go ahead and say it. Tired and old.
If only I could mainline caffeine, I would be fine. I would be able to make it through Job #1, teaching four sections of junior high Language Arts, a typing tutorial, and leadership. I would be able to make it through Job #2, teaching five hours of class a week at a community college 45 minutes away. I would have the creative spark to tackle Job #3, revising my novel for publication (which, to be honest, is more important than the first two right now).
"I like your hair today," says the barista at Starbucks.
"Thanks," I say, privately horrified. I can't remember exactly how many times I've seen her this week. This is usually when I begin to break off relationships with proprietors -- when things become too familiar. I become too embarrassed by the private attention, and disappointed in my own predictability. A venti skinny vanilla latte, hot as you can make it.
At 4:30, I'm suddenly awake. My alarm clock is set for 5:30, so I pray for about 15 minutes that I can please, please, please fall back asleep. Baxter, perhaps noticing my change in breathing, jumps up on the bed next to me and gives my cheek a big, meaty swipe with his tongue. I'm officially awake.
My neighborhood is not. It's still dark and too early for the paper to arrive on my doorstep. In the distance, a car alarm bleats and suddenly my neighbor's sprinkler system sputters to life, surprising me.
I take a few deep breaths. Ready or not, it's time to start the day.
Paula Treick DeBoard