My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends —
It gives a lovely light.
— Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)A Few Figs from Thistles, 1920
There are two kinds of people in the world: morning people and night owls.
When I was a kid, my mother let us extend our bedtime by 15 minutes each year. As a consequence, I came to believe that by the time you were an adult, you didn't need to sleep at all. This would explain four sleep-free years at college (well, this and lots of No-Doz and even more diet Pepsi).
I used to hate going to sleep at night. I loved pushing past the point of no return to finish a book — even a lousy book. I loved late-night TV — talk shows, bad movies and infomercials. I loved hanging with dormmates or roommates or friends and solving all the problems of the world before dawn.
As a working woman, I would still push the envelope. In an office, you need merely to be polite and professional in the morning, not necessarily friendly. After a few hours and a little caffeine, everything would be all right again.
Then came children. It should be illegal, or at least biologically unfavorable for a night owl to give birth to morning people. Three of my four offspring, however, are morning people and one of the little mutants is known as the "Crack-of-dawn Boy."
You can't get by with simply grunting at your children in the morning. You have to be awake. And pleasant. And ready to go. You don't get weekends off. There are no holidays from these morning people. There they are, every day, little faces hovering over you as you sleep, whispering anxiously: "Mama, are you awake?"
"Now are you awake?"
The only human in this bunch would sleep to a reasonable hour if it weren't for the fact that the poor bugger shares a room with Crack-of-dawn Boy. No matter how much COD Boy is threatened by the late sleeper or me, he just can't seem to resist waking up his brother.
My children have forced me to adopt a semi-pleasant morning outlook. I no longer hit the snooze button 75 times before I finally drag myself out of bed. I have learned by rote to smile and say "good morning". I have developed a reasonably effective routine that keeps me from killing anyone before 8:00 a.m. And I do it all without caffeine.
But I have not trained myself to go to bed at a regular, reasonable hour. Instead I have developed a schizophrenic cycle of pushing myself to ridiculously late hours three or four nights in a row, and then having to crash by 8:00 p.m. for the next two or three nights.
Van Gogh said: "I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day." Of course, he cut off his ear and committed suicide.
I know I get my best, most creative work done at night. Perhaps there are fewer distractions. Maybe I have come to think of the night as my time. Maybe it's just a bad habit. But if you find yourself fighting insomnia, send me an email. Three or four nights a week, I'm likely to respond.
Let me know if you are a
(n) annoying, perky, pain-in-ass morning person or a normal, creative, interesting night owl by clicking here. In the meantime, it's 1:10 a.m., so before I cut off something important, I'd best get to bed.
If you're still awake, check out this truly angsty interpretation of Cole Porter's classic Night and Day by U2: