Thursday, January 4, 2018

Jet Lag is my Friend

Whenever people talk about struggling with their jet lag, I feel a pang of envy. I'm a lifelong insomniac, and the ability to put my head on the pillow and fall immediately asleep is something beyond my reach, with one exception: I can fall instantly asleep only after having flown half way around the world.

It feels like an absolute miracle to feel tired in both body and mind, and to put on my jammies and climb into bed while still feeling tired. And then to place my head on my pillow and think, "I am falling asleep right now." And then to wake up some hours later, having actually slept with no interim period involving hours of tossing and turning while my brain churns through everything I said or did during the day. It doesn't last too long, generally three nights, max.

Very early the morning of January 1st, 3:30 a.m. to be exact, we drove out of my parents' driveway and made the journey to the nearest regional airport, which happens to be in the adjoining state of Alabama. Our first flight was at 6:30 a.m., taking us to Chicago where we had a 4.5 hour layover (made short by the leisurely but expensive breakfast we had at a Chili's right next to our arrival gate). Then we boarded our 16+ hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong, which is brutal. It somehow makes the 12 hour flight to Los Angeles just seem like a jaunt around the block at dusk to work off your dinner.

Once we arrived in Hong Kong, our bags were delayed for nearly an hour, meaning we missed not one, but two buses that take us from Hong Kong International Airport into the little beach community on Lantau Island we call home. Once on the bus, we had a 30 minute journey, followed by grabbing a second bus straight up the hill to our apartment building, and into our cozy, still Christmas-decorated home. All told, it was 28 hours of travel from door to door. Which is actually two hours shorter than our journey from Hong Kong to my parents, yet coming home always seems somehow longer... the thrill of a holiday is worn off and home means heaps of laundry and finding a spot for all the new treasures you've brought back.

Regardless, we arrived at our door at 10:00 p.m local time, and by 11:00 p.m. I was completely passed out. Or almost... my husband says that when he came in from making sure the boys were in bed, I leaned up and asked him if he was ready. Perplexed, he asked for an explanation, which I gave: the parade was about to kick off and all the motorcycles were lined up ready to go, just waiting for him. Side note: I don't remember this at all, but it's an accurate description of what goes on in my brain on the regular so I believe him completely.

I slept long and deep and woke at 7:00 a.m. to the dim light of dawn, alone in bed. I was very confused. On the wall was a large piece of art depicting the original concept drawing for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle, making me think we were in a Disney hotel somewhere. On the bed was a quilt I didn't recognize at all. And I was dripping in sweat, unable to find any heater in the room to turn off. It took me nearly ten minutes of pondering where in the world I could be before I stood up and walked to one of the two doors in the room. I heard water running. "Michael," I said, loudly, "are you in here somewhere?" Yes, it was Michael. And when I turned on the light, I realized it was my own bedroom of five months, and there was no heater to turn off, in fact the problem was that the air conditioner wasn't turned on and the heat of the morning sun in subtropical Hong Kong made the room toasty warm. The quilt was one we've only ever used for the guest room, but our house guests over the holiday had used it in the master bedroom, which added to my confusion.

Yesterday afternoon at the time I was used to falling asleep late at night while in America, I crashed hard. I napped for an hour in a square of sunlight streaming through the window. I dreamt that Michael came home from work while I was napping, and woke me up to say that we needed to get packing as the movers were coming at 6:30 a.m. to take our stuff to Hong Kong. I was so confused. "We already live in Hong Kong," I tried to tell him. He told me to look out the window. Sure enough, our Hong Kong flat was somehow in Shanghai. "No," I started screaming, getting into a huge fight with my dream-version of my husband, "We never would have planned a vacation if we were moving the next day! This is not real!" I woke myself up and breathlessly looked out the window, grateful for the picture-perfect view of Hong Kong, exactly where it was supposed to be.

Last night I fell asleep once again before Michael even came into the bedroom. And once again I woke at 7:00 a.m., feeling lost and unable to figure out where I was. Lucy Rocket, our tiny poodle, was snoring, pressed into my side, and that did indeed remind me that I am home right away. I suspect I have one more good night of sleep ready for me tonight. At least I hope I do. Then it'll be me, tossing and turning while my husband (whose superpower is the ability to fall instantly asleep regardless of being jet lagged or not) sleeps peacefully beside me. Maybe I'll use those hours of non-sleep productively, planning our next big trip to a different timezone in the hopes of achieving that (mostly) blissful state of jet lag!

What about you? Is jet lag your friend or foe?

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