Weird hours and audio books

Now that school’s out for the summer, my daughter is adopting the natural, nocturnal habits typical of teenageris vampiriis. She’s not full-on Dracula yet, but she’s getting there. Once upon a time I’d try to intervene in a situation like this, but honestly? I enjoy not being my daughter’s alarm clock.

That’s a rough job. Bad hours, thankless, and more difficult than you’d expect if you’ve never raised a teenager. But whatever.

Now that I don’t have to be awake according to any set routine, I’ve been going to bed when I want and getting up when I feel like it. So far that means I’m crashing between five in the afternoon and eight at night, and getting up between three and five in the morning.

And it is glorious.

The whole deal looks like this: I lay down in the late afternoon, listen to podcasts or audio books until I start to nod off, then set my earbuds aside as I trot off to dreamland. And I’ve been getting a solid, restful eight hours of sleep every night since starting this routine. That’s just amazing to me.

My memory’s not so good before about age ten, but I dimly recall a time when I didn’t struggle with insomnia. Those golden years ended by the time I hit middle school, though, and ever since I’m lucky if I get one good night of sleep a week at the best of times.

At the worst of times? I have to get by on two to four hours of sleep a night for weeks on end. After a a few days of this sort of sleep deprivation, the world turns into motion hallucinations filled with human-shaped meat that cruelly insists I talk to it.

Compare that to this morning. Aside from a kind of early-morning laziness that I always feel, I’m refreshed and content. The sounds of the meat beings do not annoy me, my to-do list doesn’t feel like a prison sentence, and I’m not staring down the barrel of the next twelve hours wondering how I’m going to get through the day.

Is this how normal people feel all the time?

Oh, and audio books. That’s a new thing for me, and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.

I listened to one years ago, a biography of Steve Wozniak I think, and enjoyed it at the time, but I’ve otherwise avoided them. This is partly because I’m a snob (“That’s not really reading.”), but mostly because I tend to read non-fiction books that aren’t best read linearly. I jump around in them, referring back to earlier sections to reinforce some point, or looking ahead to see what the author is building toward.

That’s not easy to do with an audio book, and that’s kind of starting to irritate me.

Also, I’ll often read a sentence, then stop and let my mind wander around the author’s point. Or if the author brings up a historical reference or footnote, I’ll take a few minutes to look it up and be sure I understand it in context.

This is outright impossible to do with an audio book unless you’re much quicker on the pause button than I am.

I keep finding myself listening, keeping up just fine, only for my brain to suddenly dash into the woods chasing some squirrel of a thought the author’s words inspired. And it usually takes me several minutes before I even notice this has happened, so I either have to stop the book and rewind it, or plow on and hope I pick up what I missed from context clues.

It’s unbelievably frustrating, and it’s honestly starting to make me question whether or not I have some kind of undiagnosed ADD or something.

For now, I’m treating it as a kind of meditative exercise. Trying to focus on the words as they are being read, and gently pulling my attention back when I notice I’ve drifted. I’ve got another six or eight hours left in the book I’m currently on, and I’m giving my brain until the end of it to get its act together.

I’m hoping that somewhere in between this mental “training” and my newly-rested brain I’ll manage to make audio books work for me, but it’s not looking likely.

Maybe I’ll just stick to podcasts.

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