When I was a kid, there was a popular saying whenever someone said, “who”—“Your feet don’t fit a limb.” Well, maybe they don’t, but I’m an owl—a night owl. I know many other night owls. We seem to be programmed to stay up way into the night. Is it hereditary? I don’t think so. My parents weren’t night owls. They got up early in the morning. Dad always set the clock on the coffee maker to perk at some terrible early morning hour and took time to drink a cup or two before leaving for work.
Does anyone go through a ritual like me? Before Barbara, my wife, retired, she would tell me how badly I needed eight hours of sleep for my health. I had gotten by nearly all of my adult life on six hours or less. She would tell me, “You’ll be surprised that once you get horizontal, you’ll go to sleep.” I would make a commitment to go to bed at nine and read for a while. This would last for a couple of nights, a week at most, and then a process would kick in. I would go to bed at 9:15—then 9:30 and before long I would be back to my routine of staying up till midnight or 1—sometimes 2 or 3.
In January of this year, Barbara retired. I no longer needed to get up to drive her to work. This is a wonderful thing for me—it means I can get eight hours of sleep no matter what time I go to bed. Whenever she mentions my staying up late, I remind her I am getting my eight hours. I honestly think if it were left to me, I’d probably stay up all night and sleep during the day. Then, eventually, rotate around to sleeping at night and stay up during the day.
One thing I’ve noticed, Barbara is staying up later more often. I don’t know if she’s given up on me changing or if she’s been a closet ‘night owl’ all this time. She is different though in one respect. She was raised on an Iowa farm and whenever the light of day touches her eyes, she is up and doing Yoga, quilting, reading or working in her garden. Me? I’m such a sound sleeper that I don’t think a bomb would wake me.
Barbara enjoys the journey of everything. She savors every detail of whatever she’s doing. I on the other hand am a workaholic. I want to get from point a to z and start something else. Retirement hasn’t changed me. Years ago, to keep from being frustrated about running out of time, I developed a strategy. I knew the sun was always shining. Therefore, life is one long day, interrupted by naps. This has allowed me to shut down my day, relax, take a six-hour nap and go again.
I am very grateful that Barbara is my best friend. After being friends for ten or twelve years, we started dating. She knew, from the beginning, I would be a challenge that would involve a lot of acceptance and compromise when we went out to eat one night. She looked at my plate and asked, “Do you ever eat anything red, green or yellow?” I replied, “Sure-jelly beans.” I was serious. Thanks to her loving persistence, I now eat veggies. We laugh about our differences and enjoy our life together.
Well, it’s after midnight. Time to take a nap. Whoooo means goodnight in night owl language.
Tom Blubaugh, Author of Night of the Cossack and other works
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