That sound is of course something you hear when you’re not doing it.

If you’re asleep you can’t hear snores.  Your snore might wake you up.

If you’re living with someone who does snore, and you are hearing this sound? You are likely awake.

We come to my least favourite feeling. I love the extra light from having the clocks set ahead. But it’s the worst cast of rubato, of stolen time.

Because we have to pay right away. My body usually likes the one in the autumn, when I get that stolen hour back. I aim to do something that keeps me awake like watching a late movie or going out, so that I’m craving an hour of sleep. If I am being gifted with an extra hour of sleep I try to be in need of this gift, so it feels like a blessing.

But in the spring? This weekend (gulp)?  doing the late night concert thing is riskier, when I’m going to lose an hour of sleep.

So this year I’m trying a bit of an experiment. It’s Friday night of time-change weekend. I’m usually a creature of habit, rising at the same time each day, whether or not I got enough sleep. My gut feeling is that this sounds really dumb, that I should sometimes sleep in. But my body goes with this cycle, including being bleary-eyed the morning after a late night.  I actually tried it (sleeping in) on the Thursday after I was out late the previous night this week. My brain was still hyper-active, pumped with the conversation I had started in my head concerning the show I saw. So while I published around 12:15, emailed it to the publicist and then unwound enough to sleep in the next half-hour, I was awake in fewer than six hours.

Oh well.


Why is the phone lying down? because i wanted to give it a rest. How else would it lie? But I can’t tell if it’s really sleeping though.

By a funny coincidence I heard one of those little Zoomer segments on Classical 96.3 just today about sleep. No maybe the coincidence is to be expected because–you guessed it– that’s what got me to write about this subject. In the report they spoke of an experiment helping people sleep. One of the best things to help one sleep–and it’s something we all know—is that we’re more likely to sleep well if we stop using our precious devices, especially in the hours just before we sleep.

So if you’re awake at an odd time, the worst thing you could be doing is reading Facebook or Twitter. I find T is worse than F, because so many tweets are provocations, attempts to either make you laugh or cry or make you furious enough to reply. My current mythology however twisted and self-delusory, is that I’m more able to be passive with Facebook, to let the images flow past me with the gentle feed, often telling me about shows and dogs and beautiful images.  I can click the like button, just saying a glib yes yes yes to the feed.  It feeds and I am fed.

But Twitter excites me, wakes me up, gets me upset.  And in case you can’t tell I am conflicted about Twitter. Conflicted could be my middle name, as that’s where I come from.  As a child I was loved dearly amid tears, losing a brother and a father before I was 5 years old. So while I felt hugs and kisses, it was normal to hear sad voices.  I am in the process of re-orienting myself with Twitter, to find harmony without the conflict, to be completely positive. I think I may have to stop tweeting after noon, the same way i avoid caffeine for fear of being too awake at bedtime.

But really they’re both a dumb idea. When I wake up in the night as I sometimes do –particularly if I had too much coffee- I try to stay away from social media.

My usual policy is to write my reviews the “night of” rather than the next day, because sometimes I am stacked up with several in a row. I really like to get a first impression down, and move on the next day to something else. The great thing is that I can sleep after that. In the morning I habitually re-read, because of course in the late night hours ooops one sometimes stumbles, making a spelling mistake that must be fixed the next morning. But I’ve really learned to let go, so that I am asleep within a minute or two of my head hitting the pillow. Funny I’m embracing coffee because I want to be wide awake driving home to Scarborough. And of course, that means I may be awake after driving home and writing.

When I do sometimes wake in the night, there’s a regular ritual I go to. It’s something I encountered in a few places, such as the book Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman. Saying “gratefuls” as a kind of prayer really helps me relax into sleep. Think back on today. To whom or for what are you grateful?

And so I am often thinking of my mother, grateful that she’s alive. And I circle through events,  the things I lived through. A customer may have done something that was challenging or stressful. I prefer to thank them in the darkness, for what I learned, at least for the sense of relief when I seemed to dodge a bullet. There are usually things my colleagues have done for which I can be grateful. My organist or my choir? collaborators? Family? The PR lady who helped me who told me about a show? the interview subject? The long-dead composer for whom I thank the gods that they lived and created. The instruments for which they composed. Their works. The venues that make them sound good. The loving audience who surround the artists with loving support.

We’re lucky here. I find that my regular mantra is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I say “I’m a lucky guy” and it’s usually something that easily proves itself to be true when I think about it.

I learned gratitude most eloquently from a man whose name I forget. That must sound ungrateful. But a very long time ago, in the 1980s, I had my first taste of restructuring. The department for whom this man worked had just made some changes and he was out, offered a package if he would retire, as his job didn’t exist anymore.

He took the package.

I was sad because this man, one of my favourite people, would vanish from my life.

He said softly “God is great”. I think he meant it the way you hear Muslims pray, as he was (I think) Pakistani, and a Muslim. He explained it to me.

He would see more of his grand-children.

He would see more of his beloved wife, who he had been missing all this time while he worked.

I think he said a few other things about projects he would work on? Or maybe happiness for the package he received. I can’t recall.

The point that struck me though was that he was clearly choosing. This mood wasn’t an accident, wasn’t something that came to him like a merit badge or manna from heaven. He chose to see the positive side, by emphasizing his gratitude.  At a moment that looked like a kick in the teeth, he embraced the kick without flinching, such an image of nobility that I will never forget his face.

(his name? ha, that’s another story)

We choose our reality. We make our lives, whether we realize we’re choosing or not. I remember this from my undergraduate reading of Paradise Lost. I was struck by the epic choice Adam makes. (hmm it’s been decades since I read this, so I have a very vague recollection) Adam is tempted. But although he must leave Eden, he will be back. The epic journey of redemption that is presented by the poem is one we all face, the question of how we confront the consequences of our actions & choices. Indeed, those consequences confront us all the time. How do we handle it?

At the end of each day, rather than dwelling on what I should have done, I try to focus on who helped me, what was beautiful and true, and being grateful for those moments. It’s how I aim my reviews, too. I’m not here like Consumer Reports, to assess the flaws in the design of a car you might be considering for purchase. If anything, I’m more like the rocks in a bird’s stomach, helping you to digest something that might otherwise stick in your throat or make you feel queasy.

I sleep better when I’m in harmony with what I saw and heard, helping to unpack details and subtleties.  I am in awe of the artists who put themselves on the line. IF something didn’t work –and it happens all the time—I simply omit mention, or try to concentrate on what worked. If the voice wasn’t great but the portrayal was good? the voice won’t be mentioned, but the acting will.  I’ll always stick to the thing I can say that’s supportive.

So the funny thing? Sure, sometimes I can’t sleep.

I used to agonize about it. Oh dear oh my oh no! I can’t sleep. It’s necessary for my health. I must sleep but can’t.

But I let go. Sometimes I don’t sleep enough. Big deal. I catch up within a few days. I love the excitement of a late-night, gathering my responses to a show and aiming to capture what was wonderful in their work.  That’s what I live for, not the sleep.

I think people worry way too much about sleep. I know someone who is in their 90s who regularly has trouble sleeping. Yes perhaps sleep is healthy, to be desired.

But there is no point losing sleep about it.

This entry was posted in Personal ruminations & essays, Psychology and perception, Spirituality & Religion, University life. Bookmark the permalink.

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