One of the good things about getting older (and I understand there are one or two) is that I need less and less sleep.
I’ve never been a big sleeper. Over the years I’ve dated people to whom sleep was sacred, at the top of their most-fun-things-to-do list. I found it frustrating and hard to understand. I was twenty-one when I last slept-in on a regular basis. I lived in a studio apartment in Aix-en-Provence whose window treatment looked, sounded and functioned like a garage door, creating blackout conditions that mimicked a basement room with no windows - no hint as to actual time.
Aside from my ex-husband Ron who went to sleep later than I did and got up earlier, I want and need less sleep than anyone I ever slept with. Sadly recreational drugs, alcohol or bad colds do nothing to change this. I’ve always been envious of those who drink a few too many, fall into bed, dead to the world, and sleep it off until noon. The concept of “sleep it off” is non-existent to me.
If you know me you might have a sense that patience and self-sufficiency are not my strong suits. I’m a bit of a want-it and want-it-now kind of girl. The concept of getting to it later is anathema. In this way, I am loathe to admit, I am like my father. But unlike my dad who gets up and gets to it, letting my mother sleep, I tend, particularly when there are tasks and activities that require two, to move around, make little noises, poke my partner lightly, whispering “are you awake?” loud enough to ensure they are. I wait until 8:30. 8:30 is sleeping in isn’t it?
When I wake up the on-switch is flipped. I have no idle setting, just full throttle. That lazy, hang-out-in-bed, drift-in-and-out-of-sleep gene must have skipped me. I’m ready to go, the to-do list of chores and activities fully formed and immutable. This makes my girlfriend a bit crazy – she both likes to sleep and needs more of it than I do.
I suspect I can also credit my father with my “slight” intolerance for those who do things differently than I do. I’m not a religious person so I’m not sure when Idle hands are the devil’s playground became one of my unspoken mantras – perhaps it’s simply a useful justification for my whirling dervish approach to life.
Part of it is stress. Even when I’m alone I get anxious about all the things that need to get done. Buy milk, clean windows, book flight, buy shorts for the kids, write novel, get published. They all line up beside my bed, elbowing their way in behind my shut eyelids – pick me! pick me!
I’ve been known to get outside on a chair at 5:45 am in my red rubber boots to clean the eavestroughs.
The beauty of the writing life is I now have something potentially productive to do when I open my eyes at 4, or 5 or 6 am. The laptop, my trusty companion, is beside my bed, charged and raring to go – just like me.