Big sleeps, tiny diamonds

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One of my dayjobs involves editing academic manuscripts. It’s normally pretty dry, pretty esoteric medical and scientific research-y kind of stuff that I spend my days dealing with, but once in awhile, I come across something that captivates me and gets me thinking about myself and my surroundings in novel ways.

The universe threw me one such bone this morning. I found myself editing a paper on hibernation, or more specifically, the metabolic processes that cue an animal’s body to go into hibernation when the temperature drops, and, later, to emerge from it when the world begins to thaw. The profound sleepiness associated with hibernation is technically called “torpor,” and it describes a state of intense lethargy. Low-grade stupor, all-encompassing apathy. The being shutting down all but the most essential functions. The heart and stomach slowing to a crawl. The absence of movement. The hold cue.

I can relate. I’ve spent much of the fall in a sort of creative hibernation. Doing my work, but without great enthusiasm. Biding time. Staying in more than usual. Sleeping lots. Shirking ambitions of any sort in favor of rest and inertia. Thinking way more than doing. And not even really thinking that much. A stack of books on my nightstand, barely touched in a month. And a shameful litany of terrible, shamey movies and shows sitting half-watched in my Netflix queue like a bunch of greasy fast food wrappers.

It’s bothered me a bit, this amotivational bender I’ve been on, but I haven’t known how to shake it, except just to ride it out. I’ve been here before. Point in fact, it happens like this, to me, semi-regularly.

Now it’s December. Something about the end of a year always kickstarts my soul to super-duper-high-gear and it’s been the case again this butt-end of 2012. I’m picking up extra projects, getting out more, pondering New Year’s resolutions, and prepping to head to India Dec. 30. All life-affirming and very non-hibernatory kinds of activities.

As far as personalities go, I fall begrudgingly under the category of “L-C-E-O-P.” That is: “Lazy-Creative-(Substitute “Critical” and toss out “Creative” every third day)-Emotional-Overwanking-Perfectionist. Unsurprisingly, this combo of traits creates a fair bit of crackling static when it comes to my self- and world-conceptions. I expect a lot out of myself. And then I refuse to capitulate. And then I am disappointed in myself. Then, cue flurry of activity: I write and draw and take pictures of some stuff. And then I think it’s crap and rework it for 60 hours. Some stuff emerges. And then … Intense torpor, hibernatorial tendencies, sleepy sleepy sleepy.

I think we are the lot of us mostly just great, shaggy bears. Compelled to repeat ourselves in neat, endless cycles, for good or bad. Behavior patterns, as the sociologists and the psychologists like to call them. Ways of being that we hew to, usually because they seem to work. They feed us.

Lately, I’ve felt myself waking up. Sitting a wee bit straighter. Dreaming more vividly. Thinking about new projects. The stirrings of the soul and whatnot.

I could wax poetic about such fuzzy concept as “renewal” and “spiritual regeneration” and “winters of the heart,” but I find myself far more inspired by the warm, unburnished metaphors that simple biology proffers. The bloody, hairy truth of who we really are: thinking, creating animals navigating infinity from within a breakable, lazy and very finite body. It’s a fundamental incompatibility, and this creates tension. Sometimes you can mine that tension and come up with a fistful of sharp little diamonds, perfect and precise. And sometimes you’ll just roll over and go back to sleep.

Both are acceptable responses. Cause the thing about hibernation is it postpones life in order to preserve it. It is the body and mind commanding itself: “Will you fucking sit still a minute? Enough with your tiny plans and your roving about! Be still!”

Of course, you’ve got to have the will to rouse yourself after the resting spell is finished. That’s the secret. There is a time for quiet contemplation and slow digestion. And there is a time for jumping and shouting and wailing and cursing and eating that shit straight up. Life, I mean. All of it. Every bit. That’s my revelation on this fine Thursday. It’s December. It’s getting cold. And I’m restless. Restless and fucking starving.

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