It’s Saturday. I returned from Europe Tuesday night. I’m still jet-lagged. Jet lag is the devil, whispering dark thoughts in one’s ear and blowing smoke into one’s heart. It’s almost like losing a self, what with inexplicable surges of appetite, energy, despair, irritability. What with not knowing what you can begin or finish. What with the compelling pull of naps at odd hours and consciousness at 1:30am.
You might think I’m exaggerating. I grant you that. But the way I felt this week took me back to when my kids were babies waking me up in the night to nurse, or just to see me and hear my voice. My daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was 2 1/2. I had gotten happily pregnant with my son just as my daughter turned 2. Then my son decided not to sleep through the night until he was 2. So in all, I had 30 consecutive months of sleep deprivation, 3 months of late pregnancy sleep, followed by another 24 months of sleep deprivation.
6 weeks after my son started sleeping through the night I woke up one morning and realized I’d been suffering from mild psychosis. If there is such a thing. That I was, in fact, a different person than the sleep-deprived self I’d inhabited for 57 months. An infinitely more cheerful person. One who could jump out of bed with enthusiasm, make a plan, carry said plan to completion, and enjoy feeling tired at the end of the day. Completely different, due only to sleeping an entire night without waking up.
Which leads me to wonder whether our selves are both more fragile and more rooted in the basic systems of being than we might suspect. What with electric lights, and airplanes, and thoughts that can be typed out and sent to everyone in the world who cares and even some who don’t, the modern sense of self is probably both more expansive and less durable than it used to be. It’s possible that happiness is in fact 80% enough sleep, enough to eat, enough exercise, and only 20% all the other stuff we chase.
Of course, this could be jet lag talking. It’s a tricky devil, with a real gift of gab. Have a wonderful weekend. I will probably be napping and trying to eat a lot of dark green vegetables.