Saturday, October 23, 2004

(On a quest for) Perfect Timing

So many raggedy blog thoughts, so little time...

On sleep: I'm such a fan. Last night, I didn't get to bed until 1. This morning, I turned off the 7 a.m. alarm and didn't wake up until 9:30. (Ick. Had fifteen minutes to get ready for a 10 a.m. appointment with friends.) Both because of the work hours lost and the fact that my partner goes to his computer every morning at 6 a.m., sleeping in felt rotten. But there was no denying that physically I felt fantastic. Felt much clearer of head, in both the figurative and literal sense.

Adam and I used to be night owls together. We'd stay up reading until 2 or 3 in the morning some nights. That pattern changed a bit when I got a visiting professorship -- although, for a good part of that year, I was up late AND up early, pressed by a need to prep my new classes and to finish my dissertation. (Blech. That sleep deprived year, I'd almost rather forget.) Adam was on a fellowship, so he'd often stay up with me, but then he could nap in the afternoons. Now, let me not mislead you — I was no superwoman by comparison. On Fridays, I'd often collapse on A's sofa not long after my last class ended at 4 p.m. And I'd not wake up again until around 10 p.m., by which time Adam would had cooked us dinner.

Those were our patterns in that last, dreamlike year of grad school. When we moved here, I had a class to teach at 8:30 a.m. That didn't stop me from staying up too late the first semester (again, for the prep of a new class). Adam, meanwhile, abruptly disciplined himself into an early bird, forcing himself to be in bed by 10 and up by 6.

This new habit was disconcerting at first. "I don't know you anymore!" I joked, but I really wasn't joking. Being nightowls had been a significant part of who we were, and how and when we did things. (In our old city, it wasn't uncommon for me to go grocery shopping at midnight, for instance.) So, yes, this new Adam was odd to me. Also, in spring of last year, we had a shrinking window of hours in which we were both awake to spend time with each other. I often didn't go to bed until hours after Adam, and this got lonely.

It also got liberating. And here's why: In the wee hours, I was awake alone, yes. But that meant my work habits went blissfully unobserved. Getting up early connotes an industry that staying up late will never match. And lingering in bed only becomes a virtue if you have a buddy to linger there with you. Once Adam became locked into his "report-to-the-desk-at-6.a.m." routine, I started to feel like a slacker, no matter how many hours I put in at my own desk. Worse, I started to feel as if Adam controls the time spent working in this, the first living space that truly belongs to us both. And, worst of all, I started to feel he was the gauge of how well I spent my work hours. Certainly, he's never been judgmental about my patterns, but, let's face it, he has the authority of the institution behind him. No contest. I'm always the one teaching, advising, or making dinner for a gaggle of freshmen, as I must this coming Monday. Meanwhile, Adam is the one adding publication after publication to his CV.

Adam protects his time, he says. By implication, that means that my own time is... vulnerable? Abused?

This is not a post about being subjugated. I'm sensitive to that, ever since SOMEONE (hint: he gets up each day at 6) blurted that my subjugation is my own doing. I don't protect my time, he said. I say yes to people and things I should blow off.

Unfortunately, the first thing I want to say no to is his example. I might consider getting up at 6, but that would be humiliating, because 6 a.m. belongs to him. (Does that sound petty? Or does that make sense?) I also function poorly at 6 -- and am loathe to drink all the caffeine that Adam consumes to keep alert.

I definitely miss Adam when he's out of the house, but, because he is so rarely gone, I also can't deny that time — that is, the work-at-home time — feels more my own when he's not here. In those infrequent occasions when he is on the road (as he was earlier this month), I long for his presence on a personal level. But on a work level? Where work is concerned, I can relax more when he's gone. I am eerily efficient. I get more written. I get everything accomplished in less time. Tell me, why is this so? I've always believed that women without familial obligations tend to achieve more. But I don't even have children. And I have a partner who's become quite good about divvying up the household labor. So what's wrong with me?

Experiment: From now until next Saturday, I'm going to do a little experiment. I'm going to rise at 5:30 each day (the blog stamp will tell if I'm succeeding or not) and be in bed by no later than 11. This won't be a permanent pattern, but one that will be necessary in a final crush of deadlines this week.

Why 5:30? In the past, when the cats have awoken me at that time, I've always been able to get my head together pretty quickly. It's an oddly alert time for me, if I'm shaken out of sleep. The same is true of 3 a.m. Go figure. But, if the alarm goes off anytime between 6 and 8, I'm sunk.

This week, caffeine and chocolate will be my very important friends. Just so long as I don't go crazy. Will try to keep alert with exercise as much as possible. Afternoon naps are allowed, too, so long as they do not stretch beyond 1/2 hour. Such naps are crucial because I know myself, and I know that I often work out writing problems in my sleep.

So, I'll try this new pattern and see how it goes. I don't want to get too uptight about it, but I also can't deny the fact that there is quite a lot at stake this week. And, no, it doesn't help that I live in one of the most depressing, overcast parts of the world. Wish me luck, okay?


At 10:59 AM, Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

Good luck to you! I think I know what you mean about some of this - I had similar schedule issues with my husband. When he was getting up so early, though, he would leave for school and I would have the house to myself to get the day started - it did make it very strange, those times when he was actually there when I was trying to get my day started. And when he's here and working I do feel a kind of guilt that I should be working and I tend not to want to work, just b/c I feel like he's suggesting I should be working. Very weird.

And now I'm the one getting up at 5 or 5:30 most days, given my teaching schedule. I definitely do feel like I earn the virtue points for being at school by 7:30, although I don't think I get more done than anyone who's working at night. But the feeling of virtue is encouraging.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Manorama said...

Somewhat different, but I get this feeling with my partner, not about working, but about socializing. When he goes to a bar to grade or to read, I feel like it's this subtle hint to me--"See, I'm still social. I'm not a recluse like you." I still struggle with knowing what to make of it, since the idea of grading or reading at a bar is so strange to me. I even tried to do it a few times, and I didn't like it, but I kept it up for awhile to try to "keep up" with him, so to speak.

It didn't work out too well. There is this one bar that he loves to go to alone, but whenever we were both planning on going out together, he'd always say he didn't want to go to that bar. Made me suspicious (though I know I have little reason to be), and made me really uncomfortable. Am I embarrassing or something, that I can't go to THAT bar? In some ways, this made it impossible for me to "keep up," as silly as I now think the trying to "keep up" was.

At 2:30 AM, Blogger Mel said...

you are brave, gutsy, steely, all sorts of things if you are getting up so early. (yes, I'm reading your posts backwards since i've been out of touch with blogs for a couple days) My partner and I are both mostly night owls, but we go thru phases where we are out of sync. It's very disconcerting. And even though I know I frequently do my best work between 10 pm and 2 am, I'm often visited by guilt for not getting up early with the birds and worms.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Kevin Jackson said...

Well, this is interesting. I did a blog search for how much caffeine in coffee and found your site. When I get some time I'll come back and find out where how much caffeine in coffee appears and how it relates - if it even does. Take care - nice work.


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