Early morning is prime worry time
In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald “Actually, I’m thinking more along the lines of 3:30, 3:45 at the latest…” — Me.
On those occasions — and they happen more than I’d like —when I come awake at night and realize that’s just the way things are going to be for the next 17 hours, the one consistent factor is not thunder or phone calls or other things that go bump in the night.
It’s three numbers: 3, 3 and 0 (maybe 3, 4 and 5). In that order, but with different punctuation, always glowing out at me from the bedside clock.
I’m not quite sure how whatever in me controls that sort of thing settled on 3:30 a.m. (3:45 at the latest) but it’s becoming my own personal witching hour. At that hour it will take some pretty amazing math — the sort you typically couldn’t do in broad daylight with a calculator — to decide if it’s worth it to even try to go back to sleep.
If it’s 2 o’clock, roll back over. If it’s 4:30, what’s the point? But 3:30 (3:45 at the latest), now that’s a gray area. Or at a least it would be if it weren’t pitch black.
If you’re looking for light at the end of this tunnel (which most people would call “dawn”), it’s that 3:30 (3:45 at the latest) is the very best time to get in all your good worrying. As if you were looking for a chance.
There’s a reason for this, I’ve determined. After much thought. At 3:30 (3:45 at the latest). I mean, leave out the “should I stay or should I go?” conjecture about being in bed in the first place and there’s not really a thing you’re going to worry about at 3:30 (3:45 at the latest) that isn’t available for your consideration and/or consternation and more likely solved in the daylight.
The problem is that, at noon, your mind is in the heavy mental traffic of staff meetings and home issues and Cajun vs. regular fries. You know, all the important decisions of your day. While at 3:30 (3:45 at the latest), it’s a long, long stretch of open highway rolling out there between you and morning. And you’ve put the psychic pedal to the mental metal.
The beauty of after-dark despair is that, while you pretty much stay on the reservation of the reasonable during your waking hours, at night, it’s an open range. For instance, that bump on the back of your leg? At 8 a.m., that’s a blemish you’ve had since you were 16. At 3:30 (3:45 at the latest), it’s cancer.
At 3:30 (3:45 at the latest), you get to worry about things you didn’t do (“why didn’t I buy Apple?”) and things you did (“why did I have that sixth piece of pizza? And no, it wasn’t to keep the fifth piece company.”).
You get to worry about things that are breaking on your house, like the fence and things that are breaking on your children, like their hearts.
You get to wonder about long- and short-term consequences. For instance, money. At 3:30 (3:45 at the latest), you get to worry if you’re saving enough that your golden years won’t need to involve a side job at the Golden Arches. And you get to worry if you remembered to pay a bill, which will keep that long dark night from extending into early morning.
And you get to determine if that strange howling noise is one of the dogs having a nightmare or if a banshee has gotten trapped in the laundry room. And then you wonder, OK, exactly where did you come up with “banshee?” I mean, “banshee”? Really?
Sooner or later, dawn will break, and your one-man debate society will come to a close. Like the good little monsters they are, your darker considerations will head back into the closet where they belong. The lights do come on, so, score on for fulfilling financial obligations in a timely fashion. The pizza is officially shaken off, your kids will be fine, you’re probably as healthy as you were when you went to bed and you’ve got a goofy-looking mutt, not an Irish spirit, locked up next to the washer and dryer.
All’s, relatively well. For now, anyway. No telling what you’ll be thinking about tomorrow morning at 3:30 (3:45 at the latest).