Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nature Wins Out

I'm a pretty self-aware person. I think it comes, in part, from being a writer, and having to dig deep into what makes people who they are. But there are some fundamental things I know about myself:

1. I need 8 hours of sleep a night.

2. I am required to get up at 6:20 a.m. on weekdays, and sometimes even earlier on weekends with away soccer games that the bleeping officials set for first thing in the morning even though we have to travel nearly 2 hours to get there.

3. I am not a morning person. It's difficult to struggle out of bed any day, never mind when I'm operating on too-little sleep.

I've known these things for a very long time. Before my kids started school. Before I had a 45-minute commute to an early day job. Before I scheduled 8:30 classes in college (frosh mistake--I hate being a cliché!). So why is it such a challenge for me? Simple equation:

Bed at 10:00 + Up at 6:20 = full complement of sleep = happy Natalie

But there are a couple of other factors that trump this self-awareness and solid logic. I'm not only not a morning person, I'm very much a night person. My body tries very, very hard to follow its preferred pattern: Stay up until 3:00 a.m., sleep until 11:00 a.m., repeat cycle. Some nights this summer I was up until 4 or even 4:30, and it was easy. I wasn't tired! Not at any point during the day!

Yes, some of it is a matter of training. If I force myself to go to bed at 10:00 or 11:00, I can maintain the week with no trouble. So far, I haven't been able to make that happen. The problem is work.

Any of you who freelance or work for yourselves know that one of the drawbacks is constant availability. It's okay if I don't do this data entry while the kids are at school, because I can do it after they go to bed. I'll critique this friend's manuscript over the weekend, which will let me work on my own book Monday...until the proofing jobs come in, pushing the writing back to after the football game. That kind of thing.

So what happens is I come back down to my office after the kids are in bed, and that's it. I keep working and working until it's stupid time, then I need unwinding time (pleasure reading, and--an unfortunate side effect--a snack, because it's been 5 or 6 hours since dinner and my stomach is growling).

It wouldn't be so difficult if I got progressively tired. But I don't. I'm at my most tired between 3 and 7 in the afternoon/evening. But I have to push through, because of after-school stuff and soccer practices and meetings and school events and kids' bedtime activities. Then I have my second wind, and if I'm not tired, I should be productive!

Then the alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., and I want to stab somebody in the head for being such an idiot.

After three solid years of this with no real change, I've come to decide that imposition of a "smart" pattern is impossible. Nature is winning, and all I can do is hold on until the kids are both old enough to not need me, and then I can follow my own pattern...for the rest of my life, if I'm lucky.

I know Mary either has the opposite nature or has greater control over her natural rhythms (as evidenced by daily 4:00 a.m. blog posts). How about the rest of you?


Jamie D. said...

Yes. I followed a link over here from twitter (Megan Hart posted it), and this is me too, absolutely. Only thank goodness I can get by on 5-6 hours of sleep, or I have no idea what I'd do. I'm never in bed before 11:30pm (midnight, most nights - I do my best writing between 9:30 & midnight), and have to be out of bed by 5:30am, which sucks dirt. I hate every weekday morning equally, and my body is only too happy to greet Saturday morning with much sleeping in.

No end in sight for me though - my schedule is day-job induced, rather than kid-induced (no kids). But I'm always hoping I'll find a way to escape the 8-5 job someday.

MJFredrick said...

I definitely have the opposite nature. The only way I get a second wind is to have a nap (30 minutes will do.) Last night I was fading by 8, but had to "stay up" until after 9 because Big Bang Theory was on.

In fact, going to take my bath soon.

vickyb said...

Unlike you, I *am* a morning person and staying up late does not work for me. Unfortunately, most of my friends, and my hubby, are night owls which causes all sorts of problems. I am slowly learning to change. But it's not easy! :)

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Hi, Jamie! Thanks for popping over!

You and I are almost exactly alike--and you're me when I had the outside day job! My best writing was always between 9:30 and midnight, too. But ugh, 5:30! I lament for you. I'll keep my fingers crossed for a hugely successful writing career for you, so you can one day allow your nature to rule. :)

Mary, you make me tired just with the time on your blog posts. LOL I sometimes snatch a 15 to 20-minute nap in the late afternoon if I have to.

Vicky, I almost wish I was like you guys! Mornings are awesome, and I like being up as the day wakes--I just don't like GETTING up. LOL I would say don't change for anyone, but sometimes you have to compromise.

MJFredrick said...

Hey, today I slept in until 5! Then ran around like a mad woman, because I forgot to iron and I had to get gas. I have to be at school at 7:30 and it's across town, so I wouldn't be sleeping much longer anyway.

Ava Quinn said...

I'm a late morning/early afternoon person. I want to sleep in until at least ten, take a nap at three, and hit the hay at 9:30. So I'm s.o.l. no matter what!

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I KNEW you were part cat! :)

Cindy Procter-King said...

I rarely sleep well. If I wake up once at night, I consider it a good night. I also rarely take naps. If I manage to fall asleep, when I wake up I'm more tired than when I laid down.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

That's stinky, Cindy. :(

Yeah, naps are tricky. They can do more harm than good.