A Eulogy for my Inner Night Owl

Originally published March 2016

It was 2:30 in the afternoon last Friday and I was struggling mightily not to fall asleep.

There were probably a number of factors at play—I could have been sugar crashing from the horde of Easter-themed candy in my desk drawer. I met a few girlfriends for drinks the night before. But I was home by 9:30. I mustered enough energy to watch a little Kimmel, but established a hard cutoff at 11 p.m. so I had a hair’s breath of a chance to get 6 hours of sleep.

6 hours. Pfft. I remember the days when I was fully functional on 5 hours of sleep and could make it through the day in reasonable fashion on just four hours of shuteye.

God I miss the old me.

It’s a cruel twist of fate that energy should be wasted on the young. Back in the day, staying up late wasn’t a choice – it was mandatory. From my days in a college dorm room to having newborns and collecting middling freelance gigs that meant I was writing at 1 a.m., being awake, for all intents and purposes, was a necessary evil. But I grew to love it—especially toward the end of that stretch, when it felt as if that 11 p.m. – 1 or 2 a.m. time slot was the only time I had for myself. Just me and a deadline, with Craig Ferguson in the background, yukking it up.

There’s something about those wee hours that feels intimate-whether it’s just you, or you and a midterm paper, or you and your newborn, or you and a sick child, or a new puppy, or the thawing Thanksgiving turkey—you get the idea. Watching snow fall outside, or catching a cool summer breeze while watching the late innings of a West Coast ball game. It’s just so damn peaceful.

Now? I’m thrilled if I can keep it together until 10 p.m. without wanting—no, needing—to dive under the covers. Sleep has slowly morphed from a minor nuisance that got in between me and the ending to a great book into a necessity to function the following day. I miss those hours, that “me” time. But I hate the very probable reality of my forehead hitting my keyboard at work even more.

Plus, it just doesn’t feel good—that all-consuming exhaustion. It’s enough just to function at work, but with a full time job, exercise comes later in the day, and it’s hard enough to muster up the willpower to go to the track when I have some energy, let alone no gas in the tank. And forget making dinner and engaging with the kids. Fat assing it on the couch in a semi-coma is not way to go through life, girl.

So I say goodbye to my night owl ways and embrace the fast approaching cliche that is the early bird dinner. I’m transitioning those circadian rhythms so that I can find that “me” time earlier in the morning—just me, a cup of coffee, the birds and a book. Not a bad trade at all.

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