Time It Was

Overheard from the crazy lady at the gym: “None of the clocks in here are right. They had to come in last week and reset them all – but that doesn’t mean anything.”

I should note that she said this before the time change.

Yes, due to popular demand, I’ve started writing down what the crazy lady at the gym says, in my little notebook where I keep track of weight lifted and distance run. On those occasions when I don’t have the solace of my earbuds, I sometimes catch what she’s saying to some other poor soul she has trapped in conversation.

Clocks and time have been on our minds this week. At least, for all of us in places who embrace the antique custom of Daylight Savings Time. For the record, we just went off DST and back to real, actual, dictated by the cycle of the earth’s rotation time. Amazing to me how many people don’t know which is which.

Yes, it does so matter! (This message brought to you by the People In Favor of REAL Time, aka PIFORT.)

People have been feeling the pain of the time change for the last several days, complaining of lost sleep, children awaking early, pets being a pain. It seems that we shouldn’t feel the impact of the autumn change (back to REAL time), because we get to sleep an hour longer in the morning. Well, yes, this would work great, except that we’re staying up later.

Instead of acknowledging that we feel sleepy and ready for bed earlier, we look at the clock. Hoo boy, no! we chortle. It’s *way* too early to go to bed. But our bodies know, regardless of what the clock says.

Changing our clocks reminds us, rather brutally, of our circadian rhythms. Otherwise we tend to ignore our animal selves in favor of our tech selves. We stay up late, with our lights and our TVs and our computers, working into the night and ignoring the sleepies.

In the morning, the alarm sounds and we force ourselves from bed, to meet our carefully detailed schedules.

It’s not really what Ben Franklin had in mind at all. We’re not taking advantage of shifting the pattern of our days to take advantage of the light so we can work in the fields more effectively or save on artificial lighting. And yet, our representatives in the House and Senate voted to expand DST as an “energy-saving” measure.

Yes, our PIFORT lobbyists are working on this.

The truth is, I think, that we’ve made the clock king. The digital readout, not how we feel, runs our lives. Sleep science has long shown that we spend more time in healing Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) in the early part of the night and more time in REM sleep (Rapid-Eye Movement or dreaming sleep) in the morning hours. You can really witness this if you sleep during the day at all. Sleeping in late into the morning produces lots of dreams. Afternoon naps are heavy and dreamless.

So, if we don’t go to bed until late at night, guess which kind of sleep we miss out on?

Sometimes I think it would be interesting to live a non-electronic life. I think people must have slept long hours in the dark of winter, which is what my body wants. Once black night fell and you fixed and ate supper, you wouldn’t sit around by the fire knitting or whittling or reading for all that long. Even if you woke at dawn to feed the chickens and milk the cows, you’d still be sleeping maybe ten hours a night?

I think about this sometimes, when I look out the windows and see the slanting glare of our electric lights spill into the night.

Then I go back to whatever brightly lit thing I was doing. I reset the clocks, but that doesn’t mean anything.

Dream a Little Dream of Me

I’ve never had a cat before who curls her toes.

Isabel curls even her back toes, when she’s especially deliciously at rest. If you pet her in this mode, she’ll purr and flex her toes, then curl them tighter.

She makes it look enviable.

I’ve always been a good sleeper. David says that if the house burned down, he’d have to carry me out over his shoulder. Indeed, when I was a girl, the house across the way, outside my bedroom windown, burned down, complete with excited neighbors and screaming fire engines.

I slept through it all.

But in the last few years, I’ve developed this weird sleep thing. I’m actually not sure when it started. At first it felt like a kind of anxiety. I would worry at night about where my rings were. Why my rings, I don’t know. I wouldn’t even wake up, really — just fret in this kind of limbo state about them. And no, they’re not incredibly valuable rings, nor have I ever lost them. I have lost other jewelry, and it bothered me greatly, so I suspect that’s where the fear comes from.

The point is, though, that it doesn’t matter what the object is, it’s the emotion that troubles my sleep.

I put it down to stress, though it doesn’t always seem to happen when I feel most stressed. It waxes and wanes, occurs in little clusters. Over time, the object of my concern has changed. (Possibly because I keep telling myself to quit thinking about the damn rings.) It some ways, it has expanded to involve some incredibly important object that I’ve left in a hotel room drawer (yeah — there’s my business traveler anxiety) and, since last fall, a cat that I’ve contrived to forget about and leave to die somewhere.

I can even see it: a grey, tiger-striped short haired cat. Unlike one I’ve ever owned.

Once I found myself up and out of bed in a hotel room in San Francisco, rummaging through the bedside table drawer, looking for the thing. Which sometimes feels like a puzzle box. Interestingly, when I have the thing about the cat, I connect it back to that hotel room in San Francisco, as if the cat is still there, dying and alone.

Yes, I’m probably crazy.

In fact, I spent time thinking about this. I’m a writer. I tend to be dreamy, to read in omens and signs. Who is this cat? What does the puzzle-box mean? Is it some deep meaning about my inner self? Some part of me neglected, locked away? Am I really a were-cat and I’m going to Fight Clubs at night while I think I’m sleeping?

Hey, crazy, but also imaginative!

It happened again a couple of weeks ago and, for the first time, David was there to witness the whole thing. I had been asleep for about half-an-hour and he was still lying awake. (Recall I’m the girl who’s out the moment her head hits the pillow.) I sat bolt upright, thinking the grey tiger cat was out being chased by coyotes. I’m always deeply confused in these moments, if you hadn’t gotten that already. Not sure where I am, even who I am.

I was struggling to remember how many cats we have and why I thought there was one missing, when David stroked my back and said everything is okay.

“I thought we had a kitty outside,” I tried to explain.

“Both kitties are happily walking around inside,” he told me. And he rubbed my back until I laid back down and, of course, went instantly back to sleep.

In the morning he told me that he’d been listening to my breathing and that I’d been really deeply asleep and then stopped breathing. He was on the verge of waking me up when I sat up.

So, now I’m thinking it’s some kind of sleep apnea. Which means the waking up is a healthy thing and the formless (and formed) anxiety might be related to that.

Now I’m just watching it for that. Fortunately, I’m not one of those several or hundreds of times a night people.

Eh, I’d probably just sleep through it.