Early morn­ing is prime worry time

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Gary Smith Gary Smith is a re­cov­er­ing jour­nal­ist liv­ing in Rogers.

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).

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