I tiptoed out of my bedroom this morning, as is my habit. Grabbed my things and sneaked out, so as not to disturb J. I went downstairs, stepped outside, and there he was, walking in from work!
It's not the first time this has happened, and it's always disconcerting and a little embarrassing. A doctor on call keeps odd and unpredictable hours, and I guess I've grown accustomed to tuning out the phone calls and the arrivals and departures. My bedroom could be a train station and I'd just sleep right through.
I assume (I hope) that if something were ever really important, some aspect of my subconscious would know the difference. I certainly awoke easily to baby cries and wheezing children back in the day. I suppose I was perpetually on call during those days. I realize how fatiguing that kind of enforced alertness is. Sometimes I worry about my dear life companion, age 50, still having to push his body to some extremes of fatigue on a regular basis.
In the last month I've noticed a difference in my general state of being. It gives me a reminder, and perhaps just a taste of insight into what J. feels most of the time. For the last few years, whatever other stresses may have been upon me, I have almost always been rested. On a fairly regular basis, I could sleep until I awoke naturally. Nothing hung over my head, creating that internal alarm clock that prevents you from really falling deeply asleep - test the next day, plane to catch, sick child, deadline to meet, Christmas morning.
My sunrise outings are self-imposed, but I am thoroughly committed to keeping up with the challenge. They are enriching me in a lot of ways, and I do not want to slip. I also have a new set of pressing jobs to do which pull on my subconscious. Obviously they don't keep me from deep sleep, since I am oblivious to the traffic flow in my bedroom (don't quote me on that). But I no longer sleep unfettered by an impending alarm, barring the occasional nap. My body's rhythms are overridden.
What I have learned is: 1. I am able to function reasonably well on much less sleep than I thought I could. 2. I am generally NOT rested. 3. Not rested isn't the end of the world, but there is a limit.
"Not rested" is a particular state of being. It can work with full productivity for a while. It can even be dynamic and exciting up to a point. If it gets too far along, however, it affects your whole outlook on life in a detrimental way. Many people spend months in this state, I think, and it's no wonder if they get feeling negative, or at least apathetic about the daily grind. Physical ailments often ensue as well. I think it's crucial to recognize that tipping point when functionality and quality of life both go downhill. When the drawbacks outweigh the benefits, then it's time to get some rest.
...and we both got to say our good-byes to Heidi and Pepper.