The Horn

Twenty-one hours and counting.

It’ll be 30 by the time I get to sleep tonight. I do this quite often. We call it “going around the horn.” My normal sleep schedule is from five in the morning to two in the afternoon. It provides me with quiet, isolation, darkness for when I’m writing. These things are essential to me. But every now and then, life demands that you get up at a reasonable hour like reasonable people.

I’ve never been good at being reasonable.

My life has been filled with extremes. Extremes in relationships, in tangible ways. I’m bipolar. Extremes are my life. My work and my world, all of it is turned up to a higher volume. I could walk my schedule back on days like this, get up at noon, that night go to bed at three. Get up at ten, that night go to bed at one. I could walk the extreme sleep schedule back. But that’s not how I work. Never has been. So, I go around the horn. I’ll be up for 30 hours. I’ll sleep for 12. Then I’ll be on a regular cycle, be able to exist with regular people.

We do this to regulate sleep, or to help with the writing schedule when things get really intense. There’s a lot of practical reasons I could give you, but none of them really make sense. It’s the work. The work I’m doing right now has gotten so complicated. It’s so many books. It’s so much backstory, and so much history. It’s all overwhelming. It’s with me all the time, driving, eating, talking, when I’m with my kids, the work is always right there. It started as a gentle brook rolling through my life, but as I’ve added to it, day after day for the last 15 years, it’s become a raging sea. So I go around the horn.

When I get like this, once it’s been 20 hours, once it’s been 25 hours, I’m put in a state of mind where I can step back, take a good look at it, see it all set out before me, and after about 28, I can walk away. I can think about other things. I can reset my mind. There’s a lot of practical reasons to go around the horn when you think about it, sleep schedule, making it to appointments, but I think the real reason I’m up right now is because I need to feel this, I need to see it all and I need to be able, for just a little while, to walk away from it.

It’s normal for the kids. They don’t see anything wrong with it now. Dad just didn’t go to sleep last night. He’ll be a little shaky all day, and a lot of fun at the dinner table. They see this all the time. And sometimes I think about what it must be like to watch their father engaging in such extreme habits. I wonder what it’s teaching them, the effect it will have on them. I think that deep down, in my kids’ minds, they understand that this is just their father. This is just the way he lives. Sometimes he needs to go around the horn.

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