Act Your Age… Going to Bed Early

First appeared in the April 15, 2011 issue of Retirement News Weekly

I am an evening and night person. I always have been.

My mom likes to tell the story of the time a high school friend called me in the early morning (and by early morning I mean 9 am-ish). She woke me up, gave me the phone, and I had a five minute conversation of grunts and one-syllable responses. When I woke up with the phone in my bed moaning out its dial tone an hour later, I couldn’t recall the conversation or ever receiving the phone.

My ex revealed her distaste for my morning persona when she let me know that she tended to try to avoid me until around noon because I seemed distant and generally unresponsive.

But there’s something about evenings that I adore. It could be that bite in the evening air, the stars dotting the sky to remind us how small we are in this universe, the sound of cricket’s chirping their song, or a day of productivity behind me; but whatever it is, I feel at my most motivated and most pleasant between 8 pm and 2 am.

It’s with this in mind that I embarked on this week’s Act Your Age. Stereotypically, people of a certain age begin to go to bed earlier and earlier. I don’t know if this stereotype is true, but I felt like it would be an interesting retirement activity for me to attempt. Considering I’d had a particularly long week with six evenings of plans and a persistent cold, the idea seemed to have many perks.

Now to make things just a little trickier, I’ve had problems sleeping of late. It started post-break up. I’d lie in bed for hours, lost in thought, and eventually I’d make myself so upset that I’d give up on sleep. After a couple of weeks, I started getting into the habit of lying in bed until around 3 am watching TV until I eventually would pass out and avoid the whole lying and thinking situation. While I now lie and think all the time without problem, the habit stuck.

So there I was, climbing into my queen-sized bed with new light blue sheets and my old tan comforter, at 9 pm. While I wasn’t particularly tired, I assumed the position. I laid down on my stomach with my right foot hanging off the end of the bed, my left leg propped up on a pillow, my right arm under my pillow, and my left arm over it. Then I closed my eyes and started breathing through my mouth.

As I lay there, I started to think about all the things I could be doing: There are jobs to apply for, stories to write, and movies to watch. Maybe I should write this all down, I thought. I reach to my desk for paper and pen. But no, I’m going to bed early. So I laid back down.

Before long my mind was wandering again: This is a new sheet. My last sheet had a huge hole ripped in it so large a person could crawl through. This new sheet is comfortable enough, but it looks a bit ridiculous with my tan comforter. Once I get a full time job, I could buy new sheets and maybe even a new comforter. I read in Esquire, my favourite magazine, that women are impressed by sheets with a 400 to a 600 thread count. I wonder how much of a thread count this sheet has. Probably not high. And a high thread count probably can’t compensate for a low income anyway.

But what was I doing? I wasn’t going to fall asleep with my mind rambling on. So I tried to clear my head of everything. Once again I closed my eyes and tried to lie in peace.

Blank. Yes, blank. This is good. Blankness. Thinking nothing. Black. But black is something. It’s a color. I’m picturing a color. Even thinking of blankness is something. ‘Cause I’m thinking of this word: blank. Blank, blank, blank. Bank. I need to go cash that check tomorrow from temping. Where had I worked again? Oh, yeah I was binding books. And I told that story about when I got an MRI. My co-workers thought that was funny.

Clearly I was having trouble with this whole exercise. I went to the fridge and pulled out the milk. Movie characters who can’t sleep always drink a glass of warm milk. I poured some into a mug and heated it in the microwave for a minute before taking a sip. It was… weird. Not necessarily bad. The flavour was actually pretty good. But it just seemed wrong. Plus, doesn’t warm milk curdle? So I poured the rest down the sink and went back to my bed.

I didn’t feel comfortable anymore. Forcing myself to rest was just making me restless. I tossed and turned. I flipped back and forth… left to right. I tried counting sheep, but again it devolved.

One sheep. Two sheep. Three sheep. Is it racist that I’m imagining all white sheep? Let’s throw in a black sheep. Four sheep. Why did I watch that Youtube video of a rhinoceros pooping? I bet sheep pooping is equally gross and entertaining.

I got up again. Then I lied back down. After an hour, I started to worry I’d never get to sleep. Time dragged on and on. Eventually it was past midnight. But I still lied there. The thing about sleep is that it’s kind of like love. When you really pursue it and seek it out, it starts to elude you. But when you just stop chasing it… when you let yourself be in the moment and let the chips fall where they may… it’s then that you find it. So after hours of lying in bed trying to sleep, I gave up. And then I fell asleep.

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