If you know me, you know that I work strange hours. I'm up at 2AM each morning, prepare for work a bit before heading out the door at 3:15 in time to get to work at 4am. People I talk to each day usually strike a conversation with, "Gee, you have to go to bed at what, 6 or 7PM right?" My facial expression usually dispels their conclusion but I follow it up with this rebuttal, "Not with kids. Try 9, maybe 9:30." It is their priceless facial expression in response that culminates with their jaw hitting the floor. The look is one of utter shock.
I'm writing about this not for pity or for sympathy. After all, many people in the world work strange shifts; many are more unorthodox than mine. I write this to cast some light--actually a huge beacon--on what is responsible for allowing me to keep this schedule without collapsing.
Here are a few hints. Its not coffee, although a good cup of highly caffeinated java is real yummy with an english muffin. Its not the Red Bull or the new "5 Hour Energy" loaded with a blend of chemicals and amino acids that make the periodic table look like a kids book. Its not some exotic herbal extract from the rain forest. (Any food or drink with the word "exotic" is really inviting.)
The best stimulant for staying conscious and fully functional doesn't come from food or drink. It comes from a loving, compassionate wife.
Yeah, yeah, I know. What is this, an episode of Oprah, you say? Sure, it sounds sappy and chessy but I meant what I said.
When you are on a schedule that runs against your circadian rhythm, your body gets pretty pissed at you. The enzymes in your stomach churn uncontrollably throwing your whole digestive system into a tizzy. You eat leftover dinner at 8AM. (Bar B-Que is my favorite). Your eyeballs feel like someone took them out unbenownst to you and dipped them in shards of glass then reinserted them into your head. Not to mention, you get fragmented sleep. Four hours here, a couple of hours there. You never feel rested. You get short-fused and testy. Basically, your body is here and your mind is in the other room. Rarely does your mind and body come together and when it does, look out! Strange things happen. A ll of the jacked up coffee on the planet won't lift your out of this funk. Your there to stay.
My wife knows this. When I get home, she works her day around my afternoon nap. Even if that means watching the kids for another 2 hours AFTER a morning of mayhem. Don't get me wrong. My kids are super-fun. But it is mentally exhausting sometimes when, for no apparent reason, your three year old's calm demeanor suddenly mushrooms up into a full-fledged temper tantrum while the 9 month old needs a diaper change. Its all par for the course. All families go through it. But it takes someone special like my wife to sacrifice her own rest and relaxation and mental sanity so that I can get a few winks. You might say that my wife is a blessing disguised in the form of REM sleep. Without it, I'd be a wreck.
I try not to take any of this for granted. Even after I wake up, my demeanor many times probably wouldn't be compared to a cuddly kitty cat. Its more like a hungry cobra ready to pounce on a rodent. Even still, each day my wife anticipates ALL of our needs. She schedules trips to the store so that I can have time to "wake up". She balances out the activities of the kids around their digestive clocks so that they are fed and ready to go. All of this is done to make the day run smooth even in the midst of the groggy, cranky cobra. Her strength and mental fortitude is second to none and for that, I am grateful beyond words.