I’m sitting in the Minneapolis airport right now watching the people go by. My eyes feel like they’re a little too big for my sockets, and a headache is rocketing through my temples. My arms feel heavy and rubbery. My stomach has told me that, under no uncertain terms, am I to feed it. Still, I’m not complaining. I’m tired, that’s all, after three hours of broken sleep after a whirlwind trip home.
Last night, I knew it was getting late. My best friend Kristin hosted a beautiful dinner of eggplant parmigiana, and we had a great time laughing, talking, catching up with our moms and her aunt Glenda. Around 10, we said our goodbyes and headed home, where my stepdad Peter was waiting for us and happy to pour a glass of wine. So of course I had to sip it while we talked and talked. After a long winter taking care of my husband, it was finally spring and I basked in my parents taking care of me for a few days.
The next time I looked at the clock it was 11:30, and I decided right then I would head to bed at midnight, which would enable a nearly six-hour sleep before I had to get up to catch my early flight. With the help of the wine, a six-hour sleep seemed like a perfectly reasonable amount and we kept chatting. Then it was nearly 1.
You know when you go to bed with the hope of only getting five hours of sleep that you’ve made an important decision. In my world, it means I’ve basically sacrificed the next day in favor of the night before, decided to replace my normal self with this zombie self whose only goal is to find a place to stretch out and lie down.
Still, while I may know this theoretically the night before, staying up later always seems like a good idea, doesn’t it? For a few short hours, it feels great to ignore the consequence of the late-night fun you’re having. Even if it manages to surface for a few seconds, you tell yourself it’s absolutely worth it and dunk it back down into the depths. Then, when you’re finally headed to bed, there is a part of yourself that is eternally hopeful that you’ll get away with it, you’ll fly under the radar of the sleep deprivation and manage to escape it.
But then you wake up at 4, a whole hour and a half before you have to get up, and you realize you’ve duped yourself. You feel terrible. Your joints ache, your mouth is dry. You look at the clock and then check your alarm to make sure it’s really on. You roll over but then check the clock again. Only ten minutes have passed and, yes, the alarm is absolutely on. You want so terribly to fall back to sleep just a little while longer, up your chances for feeling better the whole rest of your day. But you can’t fall back to sleep, you can just roll over and over and realize just how fantastic it feels to stretch out in a bed, a feeling you won’t have for the next 16 hours.
I’m not the first to say it, but I do feel compelled to comment on how different the world is at 4 a.m. In Winnipeg at the end of May, that means that life is getting light at that time. It always surprises me that the northern latitude makes such a difference, but it really does. But, wherever you are, 4 a.m. always feels foreign. You know you should be sleeping and not experiencing this hour, but you are awake and there is a part of you that really, really wishes you weren’t.
As I sit here in the Minneapolis airport, however, I am looking at a mother feeding a baby. She sits at the French Meadow Café, which I can tell you with absolutely certainty looks absolutely nothing like a French meadow. She is spooning food into her baby’s mouth, and I can see that, no matter how tired I feel, she is without a doubt more so. It’s when I feel tired like this that I think of how I have nothing to complain about compared to mothers with newborns. What kind of existence that constant deprivation is like I don’t know, but I can say it looks pretty tough.
As for me, I am a few hours away from Kentucky and, though I already miss my parents, I am ready to be back — and not only because it will mean I can sleep. Life on the other side of my next flight is now full of possibility, full of sun and heat, and full of long, lazy summer days. So, no matter how tired I am, I lean back and get my second wind.