6am, 11pm, Whose Fault is It? /by Natasha Oliver

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How changing my relationship with sleep helped my anger.

The school year is underway, and 6am and I are getting reaquainted. I’m not a fan of 6am or anything that happens at that time. And because I’ve told him as much, 6am doesn’t like me either. I’m convinced he arrives early just so I can begin my day cursing him.

I didn’t always hate 6am. There was a time when I didn’t even know he existed. Well, I’m sure our paths crossed once or twice. I mean, we must’ve attended the same party at some point — after all, I am a mother — but I’m certain we never spoke or acknowledged one another’s existence. And I was happy that away, and I think he was too.

But then my second child was born a “morning” person, and I started to notice him. I want to tell you that 6am is evil — the way he just pops up when you least expect or how he’s always there even though you’re actively trying to avoid him — but I’m told there are some who don’t mind his company. I actually know a very successful person who begins his day with 5am! He and 5am meditate and exercise together. Because this person is someone I admire, I wondered if 5am was different than 6am, and decided that I should try to get to know her.

After 21 days of hanging out with her, I must say that 5am is a real bitch. Look, I was the one who approached her, and so you should know that I went into that relationship committed to making it work. Think of all the writing I could get done with her! I could finally finish the edits to my novel. And if we exercised together, I would shed those last 5kg (11lbs) that are just sorta hanging around, literally. It would also mean that I wouldn’t start my day nagging my kids to get out of bed. But it takes two to tango, and she wanted nothing to do with me. I could tell by her attitude.

5am was abrupt. She woke me up from a deep sleep and forced me to get going whether my brain liked it or not. She didn’t care what kind of night I had, whether my kids were sick or if I had a bad dream. She wasn’t interested in my sob story about how from 6am onwards my day was full or how I needed this relationship to work because I was feeling lonely ever since I ended things with 11pm. She just watched me whine and cry and drift back to sleep at my desk until it was 6am.

I know you’re thinking I went about this all wrong. First of all, 5am is a hard core, intense kinda friend, and so if I couldn’t handle 6am, what on Earth made me think I could cope with 5am. Not to mention that I just ended things with 6am, and I shoud’ve spent some time getting to know myself, perhaps train in 15-min intervals because one has to work up to a 5amlifestyle. Well, I realized the same thing, albeit 10 days later. So I started hanging out with 5:45am, and while she wasn’t as bad as 5am, I realized I didn’t like her anymore than I did 6am.

So, like many who are in a bad relationship they’re thinking of ending, I turned to the internet to find out what to do. I can’t begin to tell you the weight that was lifted off my shoulders when I came across this article, “There’s a Scientific Explanation for Why You’re a Morning Person […]”. It showed me that there was a good reason why I disliked 6am. And 5:45am. And 5am. Basically all the ams.

After reading it, I took the rest of the day off and napped. And I didn’t feel guilty about it. I was tired and that was okay. After I woke up, I was able to think about this entire thing rationally for the first time in a month. I had to accept I was not a morning person. I enjoy the evenings. I was, afterall, genetically programmed that way, and then also, my lifestyle supported that.

I realized that my problem wasn’t with 6am. My problem, all along, had been with 11pm. He and I had a lot in common, but when we got together, it always resulted in a disastrous next day. Recognizing that he had been sabotaging all my other relationships was an eye opener.

Ending it with him took time. We did the whole dwindling thing, you know, break up, but then get back together only to break up once more. Then we slept together, which brought us closer until I realized that I was only falling into the same destructive pattern. 11pm wasn’t going to change. If I wanted things to be different, I had to change.

And so I did. But if I’m honest, he’s not completely out of my system yet; I still yearn for him some nights. But I’m keeping strong and starting new habits. I now set a bedtime alarm so that I don’t lose track of time. I have two hours in the evening to relax and handle household necessities. I’m more accepting of that time limitation than being angered by it.

I recently pulled 6am to the side and apologized. I was honest. I told him that I seriously doubted we’d ever be true friends, but I was committed to being civil and would stop cursing him. He didn’t make any promises to me, but that was fair enough. Time is consistent, and I need to accept that.

Since then, things have been… well, they are what they are. My alarm goes off to remind me it’s time to go to bed. I’m tired anyway, and I’ve stopped fighting it. Besides, whatever I’m doing can wait.

My alarm goes off again at 6am, and I get out of my bed to start the day. I’m not happy per se, but I’m definitely not angry anymore. And that’s a huge improvement.

Natasha Oliver grew up reading, and so writing seemed like the obvious next step, until it wasn’t. Like many people fresh out of college, Natasha had no idea what she wanted to do. So, she accepted the highest-paying job offer and journaled on the side. She wrote short stories because there was something in her that demanded to be expressed in unspoken words. For many years, she made her living in Human Resources, working throughout Asia and “trying out” the various HR specialties until she could no longer deny her desire to write. After earning her MFA in Writing, she moved (again), switched careers and gave birth to two children. Natasha currently resides in Singapore and is a freelance ghostwriter and editor. Her short stories fall into the fantastical realm, and she’s currently working on a novel about the challenges a middle-aged woman faces when seeking her true identity. You can follow her on medium and twitter (@natashaoliver) and www.peaceandcenter.com

This post originally appeared on Medium.