Monday, March 28, 2011

The Time in Wonderland

I have changed my clocks.

Well, one of them.

I did a little math and put up a clock that tells what time my body thinks it is, just out of curiosity. Turns out my circadian rhythms work perfectly--we have dinner at the same time as everyone else, relatively speaking. Lunch, too. The kids go to bed at 8:00 compared to my 10:00, like a lot of families. But only if you're looking at my clock. The circadian rhythms are perfect the same way my childhood piano was in tune--compared to the other notes on the keyboard, it was perfectly in tune. Compared to other pianos? Not so much. (It wasn't tuneable, actually. The antique strings were too old, according to the expert.).

I wrote "The Time In Wonderland" on the clock face so nobody would get confused. Why Wonderland? Well, our lives are so far different from other people, with us up all night, that if someone else came to live with us, they'd feel like they had fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in the somewhat nonsensical world of Wonderland. (It's also a reference to the Mad Tea Party, where the clock is showing the "wrong" time.). Now that I said that, I realize that perhaps it WILL confuse other people, but it makes it less confusing to my little family.

I realized at church today that people must think we're weird. People probably think I'm a nasty, mean woman who is short tempered, stumbles over her words, and slightly vacant most of the time. They probably think our children are very very strange.

But you know what? I checked the time in Wonderland as I rushed out the door to church. It was 3:00 am. And I'd had a little trouble getting some kids to stay asleep, so we'd only been in bed 3 1/2 hours before we had to get up, and those 3 1/2 hours were interrupted at least 4 times by kids who still wouldn't stay in bed.

When I say "We have a sleep disorder," I'm pretty sure people don't actually comprehend what I'm talking about. I'm pretty sure they think Insomnia, where you lay awake for hours wishing you were asleep, and then you wake up at the "regular time" exhausted. That's NOT us. We live, eat, sleep, interact exactly like other families do. Just like other families, but at the same time they're awake in China.

So the only way I think anyone can comprehend what our experiences are is to tell you the time in Wonderland. How would you feel if they wanted you at church at 3:00 am. With all your kids? What about if they scheduled the primary activities at 1:00 am? What if the dentist always asked you to be there with your 3 year old for a cleaning at 5:30 am? Or if they wanted your kids in school starting at midnight every night? (Wouldn't you suddenly find that homeschooling became a very attractive alternative?)

Next time you stagger out of bed at 3:00 am to use the bathroom, look in the mirror and think, "Becca would be just getting ready for church right now....." And then you might comprehend why I sometimes don't remember your kids names, or I stare off into space, or I'm a little short-tempered with my children (who are a little out of control, a little weepy, who suddenly fall apart for no reason), or I'm just incoherent in general. And you might understand, at least in part, why sometimes we're 2 hours late, and why we keep forgetting to schedule our baby's blessing.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (the disorder we have) is basically untreatable. It's incurable.

And, here's the part nobody understands: It doesn't bother us.

Except for church and one day of school per week for the kids, we LIKE being awake when our bodies and brains are most alive. Don't you?  That's when we get all our creative work done. That's when we're most cheerful and productive. If we have to live on your sleep schedule, we feel as though we're living with jet lag. Every single day of our lives. We spend hours in the morning in a fog, even if we slept the right number of hours the night before. And we have to skip working on all kinds of great ideas at night (when we have the ideas and also the energy) because we're trying to sleep. And for creative people, that's a curse.

Besides, everyone in the music industry knows that musicians work from 3:00 pm until 3 or 4:00 am. It's not uncommon for Tim to get texts and phone calls from other gigging musicians after midnight. It's not uncommon for rehearsals to end between 9:00 pm and midnight. Recording sessions OFTEN go into the wee hours of the morning. These are work hours for Tim. You hit a concert or play that ends at 9:30 pm (not uncommon), and you go home and go straight to bed. But those musicians you just watched still have 2 or 3 hours of work ahead of them--plus they usually eat dinner AFTER the show (performing is hard work!), and that's when they finally get to interact with their peers, the other musicians who were also working all evening. (So new collaborations, open mic nights for pro musicians, setting up joint gigs, etc. all happen after the show. While you are sleeping.). Tim's sleep disorder is a BLESSING in his industry. He's wide awake, ready to work, perfectly coherent in the middle of your night. And the rest of us being on that schedule is a blessing for our family. Otherwise, we'd never see him--he'd start work right when the kids got home from school, not get home until long after they were in bed, and be sound asleep when they got up in the morning.

So if you find me irresponsible, unresponsive, illogical, ill-tempered....when you are pretty sure all my kids have ADHD or emotional problems and are lost causes...when we all stagger around as if we're drunk, slur our speech, and can't understand what you just said...

consider what time it is in Wonderland.

4 comments:

Tedobean said...

I want to come live in Wonderland...no one else gets that I can't sleep from 9pm-4am. I sit in my room by myself and wish I were not in a home that had people trying to sleep so I could record or just practice, or, I don't know, turn on the lights and cook something yummy. Most of all, I hate that I fall asleep at 3 or 4 each morning and then have to be at work at 7 am and drive for 10 hours. Then up all night, but coming home I don't leave until 11:30, so I at least get a good 5 hours on those "nights." I miss you. I miss talking with you. I love reading your blog. I wish I weren't in a house filled with public education students and a school teacher so that I could call you when we are both up and talk for a few hours. But, I will content myself with this incredibly lengthy comment. : )

Becca said...

You can always google chat with me in the middle of the night. I'm often online then, working on projects, answering emails, doing school with my kids, etc. I'd love to hear from you!

Esther said...

Beautifully said.

Brooke said...

So . . . maybe the solution is to take a trip to China. :-) What do you think -- if you were to move into a different time zone, would your wakeful hours match up with daylight, or would you still be up at night? Just curious.