Yes, this is one of those Andy Rooney posts. In my defense, well, I'm jet-lagged. A friend informs me that the Japanese word for jet lag literally translates as "time difference senility". Which is a good term for it. This morning I spent twenty minutes looking for my car keys, before remembering that I'd parked the car up at my sister's house while I was away.
The enduring mystery of my jet lag is how picky it is about when I sleep. China time is 13 hours off my current and normal time zone, so why would my body care whether I go to bed early, or woke up late? Either way, I'm off by just about the same amount.
Stupid body. In China, I snapped awake at 4 am every morning, and nodded off during dinner--the first night I apparently gave a rather impassioned defense of American exceptionalism that I (blissfully) can't quite remember. Now I'm back in the states, I can't get to sleep before about 3:30 even with the help of Ambien. This was tolerable over the weekend, when I didn't have to get up for work. But you can imagine how chipper I was this morning.
My body is really rather remarkably set on its circadian rhythms. I normally get up at the same time every day, regardless of how late I was up the night before. And when it's time to sleep, I go to sleep. As a toddler, I had to be fed by five o'clock, because at 5:35 I'd be passed out facedown in my steamed carrots. As a grad student, I disconcerted people with my habit of falling asleep in unlikely situations, such as standing against the wall in a Mexican night club.
This has perhaps made me more sympathetic to the arguments that people who struggle with their weight are in the grip of a powerful biologic drive that can't simply be overcome with "willpower". I know what it's like to have a body whose blind, mute will is far stronger than my own.
Now that its rhythms have been disrupted, the body's will is just as strong; it's just that now it's also pathological. And extraordinarily long-lasting. Five days home, I feel as if I just got off the plane a few hours ago. Consider this post a symptom of the pathology. At least I'm not talking about American exceptionalism.
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is a columnist at Bloomberg View
and a former senior editor at The Atlantic.
Her new book is The Up Side of Down