I've always been a night owl. I know I got this from my mom, the most extreme, non manic-depressive night owl I know. She does stuff when she's up late like clean the house, fix things (she's big into DIY) or, my most favorite example, paint the house. I think I was 14 or so and I woke up around 2 or 3am and walked into the living room to find her using a roller, painting our living room walls. She was wearing a white ribbed tank top that belonged to my father. I still remember her response when I asked her what she was doing: she wiped her forehead with her arm and said "What does it look like I'm doing? Go back to sleep."
She pulls these types of stunts all the time. When I was home last month, my stepfather told me she was up all night cleaning the house. I asked him what does he do with her when she gets like that. "It's just who she is."
When I was a kid, I usually went to bed after 11 or, if it was Saturday, after SNL. Then I'd stay up in bed and read comic books or whatever young adult books I'd bring back from the library. I never got busted for staying up, but I kinda wanted to feel like I was getting away with something. One time, like on TV, I grabbed a flashlight and a book, turned off the lights and got under the covers. My mom walked in at some point, flicked on the light. Instead of getting mad at me for being up, she got mad at me for reading with a flashlight and said I had to read with the lights on.
When I went to live with my grandparents, from 17 to 21, I remained a night owl but something changed. Everybody else was asleep. When I lived with my parents and was up late, I was always comforted knowing that most of the time my mother was up and doing stuff in the other room. But with my grandparents, they retired early and the house would become unreasonably quiet for me. I remember one time standing in the doorway of my bedroom looking out into the rest of the house at my grandparent's closed bedroom door and at the darkness of the living room and kitchen, hearing the soft hum of appliances. Actually, now that I think about it, I did this a lot. It just felt so alone and empty. I started to not like staying up late because it exaggerated this feeling of aloneness. I'd feel trapped in my house, because after a while it was too late to go outside, too late to call my friends. Television at that time of night only had infomericals. So I stayed up, full of angst, and read and wrote poetry. It actually ended up being the most fecund time of my life, writing and thinking and writing some more. But I have to admit, there was also a lot of emotional darkness. So nighttime has always had this quality of aloneness and emptiness that I desperately wanted to escape along with the creativity I would escape into. Creation out of destruction. Life out of death. These were big themes for me back then. (and, as an aside, it's why I've wanted a tattoo of an ouroboros.)
These days I try to go to bed around 11, because I want to exercise in the morning and obviously I need to go to work. But it's always a struggle to maintain that routine. When the weekend rolls around I break it and spend the next few days to try to get back onto an earlier schedule only to break it again and again. When I go on vacation, I revert. But I seldom find pleasure or creativity staying up late now. I'll sit up thinking about how I don't like my life, or how much I dislike one thing or another about myself, I'll beat myself up for not being able to sleep earlier and wake up earlier or I'll look out of my living room window at the stillness of the backs of buildings and scare myself thinking about how when I'm elderly, I will still be up late at night battling myself.
These past few weeks have been particularly bad. I just have not been able to return to my routine. I have considered, why am I hell bent on changing something that is so much a part of who I am? Why can't I just roll with this? Because I'm afraid. Being up late brings up a lot of darkness in me and I've just not wanted to deal with it. Back when I was 20 it was different because the darkness was complemented by creativity. Now, I just stay up and try to numb my brain out so I won't think of anything uncomfortable. I see the clock tick and know what is coming. I put a lot of pressure on myself to not pay attention to what I'm actually feeling.
And then some time earlier this week I decided that I should just loosen the reigns a bit. Instead of trying to force myself to exercise at 7am and the self-flagellation that follows because I can't get up that early, that I should run after work. That maybe I should let go a bit and not be so hard on myself. That I should just let go and embrace this part of myself that I have really disregarded and treated badly. I started to remember what it was like to be in my grandparent's house and that maybe I shouldn't be so afraid of facing my own thoughts. Thursday, I picked up a book and read into the early morning which is surprisingly something I haven't done in a while. And here I am writing this blog post at 1:55am. Yeah, it means I will face some things I'd prefer not to, but who am kidding? It doesn't go away just because I'm not looking.