'So an animal is an expression of purpose,' Sherri said. 'So there is purpose in the universe.'
'In small parts of it.'
'And unpurpose gives rise to purpose.'
Kevin eyed her. 'Eat shit,' he said. - VALIS p33
I have been teasing. Myself, mostly, since nobody else has been watching my fits and starts of internet publishing as they have occurred over the last several years. It seems like there is a willingness deep down in me to share my thoughts and views and talents with the world, but it has been lurking for so long under the surface I have forgotten what it actually looks like.
So in opening the blog section of my website I should really be pondering what it is that I want to share and what it might mean to other people. It makes me think of how others have influenced me in the same way, and if there is a blog post, in particular, that has meant something to me. There certainly is, and it is one that's pertinent to an area of my life in which I have long been struggling and only now seem to be turning the corner. I am talking about waking up.
It will probably seem to you, as to most, that this is just something that happens naturally and so not an element of life that anybody should need help with. For me, it has been a struggle intimately tied with my depression and the different forms that it has manifested over the years. I will stop teasing and share the blog post in question:
I came to this page through my experiments with polyphasic sleep. I was very interested in these lifestlye changes at the time, mostly due to my isolation and obsessive ends-driven mindset which rationalised that if I could just schedule as much possible time in the day for working on one skill in particular then by sheer number of hours I would become a master within a decade or two. My self-worth was tied in completely with my academic success up to that point and so it seemed like having left university and the comforting structure of goals and ends that came with it, suddenly I had to enforce a rigorous structure on myself so that I "didn't slip" into the realms of mediocrity.
I experimented with different sleep patterns (I was particularly interested by the most extreme version of polyphasic sleep, aptly dubbed "Uberman") which involved a HELL of a lot of alarm conditioning in order to push through the intense grogginess that one would experience when waking from a nap in a period that was out of step with one's circadian rhythm. After attempting to reach some equilibrium with this sleep schedule for a few months my body had more or less adapted. However, I realised that unless I was to be a complete social hermit it would be very difficult to reconcile this lifestyle with seemingly banal choices such as dining with friends or having a job with conventional hours. Soon my discipline faltered and I started oversleeping, my body initially resisted the adaptation to monophasic sleep, but before long I had returned to my much older relationship with slumber and the beloved lie-in.
In the following years I became very depressed. I joined and left university for a second time, then returned to my family home in Wales to recover. Sleep became both a friend and an enemy. On the one hand, it was my favoured retreat from my problems. Unconsciousness is a very appealing proposition when your waking mentality comes filled with despair and anxiety. Unfortunately, when this felt like my only recourse (and I was allowed to choose it) I would sleep as much as physically possible - sometimes 16+ hours a day. This amount of sleep left me feeling terrible when I woke up, often needing a good couple of hours to regain any sense of alertness or will to interact with the outside world. My will to wake up was never lower and I have never had a more unhealthy relationship with sleep.
Flip forward about 7 years and now I have not only managed to re-frame what it means for me to oversleep, in a guilt free context, but I have developed a self-discipline that allows me to get up when I want, even on weekends, and become the fabled lark, or as another post from the aforementioned blog describes, an early riser. This is a drastic shift in the way I view myself, and a very empowering habit when used to form the basis of a productive morning routine. I would never have achieved it without the technique described in that blog post. It seemed ludicrous at first, and felt crazy when I was doing it, especially when I became conscious of what it might appear to my next door neighbour or anyone else who might witness me "practicing getting up". It worked for me, though, and if you relate to any of my struggles against the alarm clock and are still having a daily battle, I highly recommend you give it a go.
Cheers Steve, this one's for you.