Why Am I Awake Right Now??
Turning into my parents on a Sunday morning
It’s four-thirty AM on a Tuesday. It doesn’t get much worse than this. In beds in little rooms in buildings in the middle of these lives, which are completely meaningless. Help me stay awake, I'm falling...
Actually, it’s six-thirty AM on a Sunday, and I have the opposite problem.
I am wide fucking awake. My eyes popped open at six, and I rolled around restlessly until I finally admitted I needed to get up. I have nowhere to be at this hour, nothing in particular to do, which is why this is so distressing. I woke up before seven on a Sunday because I am not tired anymore. This is recent, and it keeps happening.
Last night, after a celebratory birthday dinner out for the kids, we sat in the living room watching Austin FC lose to St. Louis. At least Jason and Jack did; I couldn’t have kept my eyes open if I’d propped them with toothpicks. IT WAS 7:30. Every time someone scored a goal and the crowd noise escalated, my eyes flew open and I would say “wow!” in feigned attention before settling back into what I was delusionally calling my evening nap.
I’ll rally, I thought.
I’ll just close my eyes for a few minutes, then I’ll feel rested. Then, Jason and I can watch our show; surely I can make it to midnight on a Saturday. We don’t have to be anywhere early tomorrow.
At 9:00, I admitted defeat in my mind. At 9:30, I acquiesced it out loud, and at 9:45, I dragged my ass out of the chair and upstairs to bed. Taking the time to brush my teeth felt like an Everest-worthy accomplishment.
Oh. My. God. It has happened.
I am turning into my parents.
My parents are in their seventies, and they leave for road trips at 5am. You know, to get ahead of traffic. You definitely need a nice three-hour cushion between departure and morning rush hour.
The bottom line is they’re up. Often by 5am, they’ve been awake for a couple of hours, so they’re ready to get going. Mom walks around Town Lake almost every day. In most cases, she has to wait for it to get light.
Side Note: It’s actually Lady Bird Lake, but I’m a curmudgeon now, so I can call it by the uncreative name it’s had for decades, just not the most recent decades.
This is going to put a serious cramp in my lifestyle.
How am I supposed to stay up drinking wine and watching TV I’ll barely remember the next day if I can’t keep my eyes open long enough to pour that first glass? What am I supposed to DO with myself this early in the morning on a weekend when it’s blissfully quiet and the birds are chirping amicably outside? I mean, this is fucking pleasant, damnit. How am I supposed to adjust to this satisfactory feeling happening at the inhuman weekend hour of 6am?
Am I supposed to read without someone interrupting me? Stare out the window without a sports game blaring in the background? Fucking WRITE?
I mean, I’m basically trading three hours of fatigued Wordscapes, television and Instagram scrolling at the end of the day for the same amount of time of calm alertness in the morning — a feeling in which I actually WANT to meditate, write or read, unlike at the end of the day when I’m too tired and unfocused for any of that.
I didn’t ask for this.
It feels pathologically foisted upon me. I mean, what’s next, am I going to have the unquenchable urge to go RUN? In the MORNING? This is an identity crisis, people. Who even am I?
In college, I was a world-champion sleeper. I trained hard. I could fall back asleep in the morning/afternoon multiple times after one of my lids peeled open to peer at the digital clock. Sure, I went to bed at 3am, but I could easily coast across dreamland for twelve hours, not shoving the covers back until the same time in the pm.
Even as a parent who for the past fifteen years has had to get up early — because the baby was hungry, because toddlers don’t understand that 4am is the middle of the night, because elementary school starts at an unholy hour, because 6am football practice in middle school is a thing — given the chance, I could stay up past midnight and sleep until at least nine or ten.
I thought I’m just not wired for early morning. No matter how many years in a row my alarm clock went off at 6:15 every weekday, it would not bake itself into my circadian rhythms. As soon as a weekend day without an 8am soccer game hit, I went right back to near-college habits.
I am 47 years old, and I have begun the slide toward restructuring my life, re sleep. I will start doing what my dad does and get out of bed in the wee hours because my back hurts. (Who am I kidding; I already do that.) I’ll decide, after two cups of coffee and reading half a novel, that 5:45am seems like a reasonable time for a walk.
Last night, we had dinner reservations at 4:30 because that’s the only time we could get them at exclusive Uchiko. We were home by seven, hence my falling asleep in the chair thirty minutes later. This is a harbinger of early bird specials to come. I see a future of breakfasts eaten an hour after the young people have stumbled into Denny’s for greasy eggs and bacon to soak up the booze before bed.
Sigh. Those were the days.
Wasn’t it just great to fall comatose into bed as the sun came up, with pancakes like lead in your stomach, only to wake up in the afternoon with the sharpie X on the back of your cigarette-reeking hand imprinted on your face? Trying to recall, as you drifted toward full awakeness, if you did anything between the bookends of mildly embarrassing and completely mortifying the night before? Ah, those idyllic weekend days spent puffy-faced and hungover, staring at the TV as a distraction from the nausea. So great.
Actually, at the time, they were pretty great.
It was novel; it felt like freedom. I was free of my parents’ household. I relished having the choice to stay up until 4am talking to a potential new boyfriend on the hood of his car and then returning home to puke before crawling into bed with my leg over the edge to keep contact with the floor lest the room spin completely off its axis. (I’m conflating two different memories there.)
I sometimes made choices I regretted, but they felt entirely my own. Because even in our house growing up, where my sister and I were given a lot of leeway as teens, nothing can compare to being beyond the gaze of your mom and dad, beyond having to worry that your behavior might be worrying them.
It was good times, but that kind of thing hasn’t sounded palatable for a lot of years. The biggest joke Jason and I tell each other at 10pm on a Friday night is, “So, I’m gonna take a quick nap and go shower. We can be downtown at Bull McCabe’s by 11:30.” Then, we laugh and settle in to the couch to watch The Last of Us before going to bed.
So this, I guess, is an inevitable step on my way to adulthood — a milestone I may never fully reach. I guess now, I get up at 6am on weekends and do shit? Like write a newsletter? This is so weird.
The song lyric at the beginning of this post is from Counting Crows Perfect Blue Buildings, and it often gets stuck in my head. Thirty years ago, I listened to this album on repeat during my first year at college, so the lyrics travel well-worn grooves in my brain. I keep offering to play it for Jason, but he declines. He is not as stuck…I mean, enamored, with 90's alt music as I am. He says I need to discover new music. Seriously, though, I want to like new music but everything on the radio is shit; they don’t make them like they used to.