Monday, March 5, 2012
You can only go on so long like that. At one point, sleep deprivation defeats you.
A few months ago I voted against defeat. I would teach myself to sleep, I vowed, if it was the last thing I did. I didn't want it to be the last thing I did.
Sleeping more (or trying to sleep more) would mean a lot of things. Whereas I had, for decades, squeezed two days worth of work into most every day, I'd have to learn to hold myself back. To make fewer promises. To say yes to fewer things. To work at a slower clip. Fewer corporate projects, then, fewer book reviews, fewer guest appearances, fewer yeses, fewer emails, a diminished presence in the Land of Blog, three days a week at the gym instead of four, and never the 5:30 AM Zumba call, and maybe I'd dust less often and also, I'd do more cooking with a Crock Pot—making two meals at a time instead of one.
Harder stuff: Staying in bed when I wasn't sleeping. Keeping my heart beat down. Talking myself out of giving up. You can't invoice for sleep and it doesn't put you on the bestseller list and when you have to increasingly say no to "pick your brain" invitations, it doesn't earn you any new friends.
Perseverance, I knew, would be everything, and for the past six months, I persevered. No matter what else was happening I fought toward my own personal goal—at least five hours of sleep each night.
In time (but yes, I struggled) things changed. I wasn't nearly as on edge. I was far more patient. For better or worse I grew more honest in my exchanges, more clear in my priorities, more focused during the hours that I was working, more open to new ideas in both my books and my teaching, less inclined to fall asleep (for a dead-to-the-world fifteen minutes) watching the 9 PM show. I didn't feel as brittle inside. I had more hope, more capacity within. I danced better, walked farther, thought more clearly, did not cede to the unconsidered impulse.
Last night, I had my father for dinner—a Crock Pot meal. When he was leaving I told him that I'd been working on sleep. "I can tell," he said. "I can tell just by looking."
A victory, then. Far from defeat.