This is what I do when I travel.
After an evening out with friends whom I see only a couple times a year at best, it’s time to call it a night. We all retire to our hotel rooms. I imagine most people actually go to bed at that point. Not me.
I open my laptop, turn on the magical Internets, and stay awake. Often until I can only possibly get 2-3 hours of sleep. What do I do on the magical Internets? Well, sometimes I’m actually doing work. But often I just go off on tangents, chasing after all the things that my racing thoughts pursue.
This evening, while it’s just a little after 10 PM local time, it’s after 1 AM my time. I’m definitely not adjusted to the time zone yet. So there’s no rational reason I should be awake, alert, and working. But I am. I’ve been working on dissertation revisions. I could work on them all night long, in fact. I’m suddenly a powerhouse of mental overdrive.
My body is tired but I’m not remotely sleepy, even though I should be. Mr. Chickadee is sound asleep in NY and I’m in CA alone in my hotel room with no one to call me to bed. Without a warm body to snuggle up to with a softly murmuring heartbeat to lull me to sleep, it seems almost useless to try. Why even bother?
I pull the curtains to block streetlights and headlights. I brush my teeth, floss, and rinse with mouthwash. I strip down for sleep, sometimes even put on pajamas (chickadees prefer to sleep in the altogether) and take my trusty melatonin, but then forget to put myself to bed. I’m off on another tangent. Even when the room A/C is so cold that I’m shivering in my half-dressed state, I suddenly can’t be distracted from my distraction. My navel just has to be gazed upon.
When I finally realize how disastrously late it is – sometimes as late as dawn chorus, when birds start singing wake-up songs and USA Today is delivered to hotel rooms – I try to salvage things. I turn on my White Noise app to mask out all of the unfamiliar auditory stimuli. I turn out the light. I toss and turn a few times. And then I do actually asleep. If I can make myself stop thinking long enough to let consciousness fall away.
I need to stop doing this, but I can’t seem to break myself of it. At best, I might manage to restrain myself for the first night, when I’m adjusting to the time zone. But even if I don’t sleep more than three hours, it’s not like I won’t be functional tomorrow. In fact, I’ll be feeling great. In that “I take drugs to stop me from feeling this good” kind of way, if you know what I mean. Sure, I’ll talk way too fast, make a few too many grand claims, and jump from one topic of conversation to another like a frog on amphetamines. But I’ll also be wittier and smarter and more fun than usual too. What’s not to love about that?
When we were talking about this trip last week, I said that I intended to be good and go to bed at a reasonable hour, and Mr. Chickadee replied, “you’ll go and have fun but you won’t sleep and you’ll make yourself crazy.” And he’s right. That’s what I do. Every. Single. Time.
I’m trying to be good tonight. I’ll go and have one last cigarette, brush and floss my teeth, swish the Listerine until my tongue burns, and pop a couple melatonin. I’ll climb in bed, without a book. I’ll fiddle with my phone for a bit, turn on the White Noise, and turn out the light. At least for tonight.