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Friday October 28, 2005, 00:52

I've been told that when I was younger, in high school and earlier, I never liked to go to sleep. My mother would come into my room and I would be awake, first reading books (far below my reading level I might add - literary junk food) or, later, on my computer, reading and writing to friends flung far and wide across the country. This was pre-Internet but I could still converse with like-minded people from a few doors down or from across the country thanks to the online equivalent of the postman who would come by and pick up my musings and drop off the latest missives to me every couple of hours (which would generally be ready by the time I had gone through all of the messages that had come in from the last delivery).

This would go on all night, these threaded conversations with friends. We talked about a lot of nothing, and it would take combined willpower and the threat of my mother walking into my room and catching me awake to finally force me to switch off the power on the computer (by an impressively large red switch, if you must know) and curl up under the covers.

Waking up as one might imagine for a teenager who spent all night staring a computer screen.

It would require several visits from my mother (who, in retrospect, was getting just as little sleep as I was, being there to get me to go to sleep and being there in the morning) waking me up multiple times before I actually threw back the covers and faced the day. I hated the morning, hated knowing that I would have to stand with my feet on the cold bathroom floor, hated walking downstairs to a bowl of hot oatmeal (with a touch of butter and a splash of milk, thank you very much) and hated going to school in a cold car, my breath floating out in front of me as the engine warmed up.

College was more of the same, my mother having been replaced with a talking alarm clock, and my old roommate tells stories of coming home to find me sprawled out on the floor halfway between the desk and my bed.

Along the way, however, something changed, and these days, I find myself equally enamored of the early morning as I am of the late night. I'm sure I've talked about this before, about how the night offers reflection on the day gone by - an opportunity to finish off the day with a bang - and how the morning is a time to harness the power of the day before the day begins.

What I can't figure out, however, is my fondness for falling asleep on the couch. Half the nights in any given week will find me asleep on the couch, face down in a magazine, where I will sleep until the middle of the night when it gets too cold and I will wake up, brush my teeth and make my way into bed, always noting the time and calculating the amount of sleep I'll have before my alarm goes off. The other morning I woke up at five to the radio changing from the overnight classical format to the morning news program. The sound of voices woke me up and I found myself staggering into the bedroom, hoping that the intermediate walk and toothbrushing would not wake me sufficiently to disrupt the dream I was having.

I am guessing that it has something to do with my combined need to hide from the day with some nightly downtime and my fetishizing of the concept of late-night solitary intellectual activity that forces me to stay awake beyond what is reasonable for my body. I like to imagine the tortured writer, sitting up all night at a typewriter, finishing a manuscript while working days at a dead end job to pay the bills. I imagine the programmer, staying up all night working on the next Google or Microsoft. And I see the artist at an easel with a lone bare bulb hanging overhead bringing his creation alive deep into the night. I like to imagine myself in a similar position, taking on the silence of the night, creating something wonderful, or even just reading something compelling, fully utilizing every minute of the day.

Unfortunately, I also harbor similar fantasies about waking up early for a morning bicycle ride to get my brain and body moving for another invigorating day of work and play, and the two scenarios - the late night working session and the early morning work out - are mutually exclusive in all but the most dedicated and insomniatic individuals.

So I find myself, at whatever hour of the morning, face down on the sofa and drooling on the latest issue of Fast Company, cursing myself for not getting into bed when I had the chance and swearing to myself that tomorrow, tomorrow I will go to bed when my body tells me to.

Yeah. Right.

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