‘ve talked about the brain’s interesting aspects, about how you can go to sleep with a problem and wake up the next morning with a solution. It’s amazing the way the brain processes thoughts and strategies.
But there is a darker side of the brain when it runs unchecked through your sleep cycle. Often I’ll wake up at 4am in a sort of night-panic. Whatever little worries I had have been thrashed about all night and become insurmountable, mountains from molehills sorts of things. Anything you were mulling over as your went to sleep suddenly fills you with bed-dampening sweating in the night’s darkest hour.
I remember years back when I released Early ReTyrement and realized only later that I violated copyright on something. I was already in the process of getting in touch with copyright lawyers to find out what I’d have to do (i.e. what I’d have to pay) to make this go away. But several times I work up in an absolute bloody terror that any moment the phone would ring and there’d be screaming lawyers and I’d be sued into a smoking crater. Looking up at the dark ceiling, it was nothing short of a waking nightmare.
I still get them, too. When you get a cancer diagnosis, no matter how small, 4am is a perfect time to wake up and really, really think about what the worst outcome could be. Many times I gave up on sleep and either go for a nocturnal walk around the neighborhood or sit down and code, anything to get my mind on some other track. It’s horrible to endure, and there is usually no sleep to be had after the ball gets rolling.
I’ve had a friend, a multimillionaire businessman, tell me the same thing – that 4am is the best time to wake up and access the risks of mergers and financing.
So yes, while the brain does a good job of enhancing your thought processes, it also magnifies your fears until they are screaming Poe-like extensions of our consciousnesses. So when you have them (and creative people are prone to this sort of thing – you won’t get it if your entire life is nothing but watching Netflix (who knows, maybe you do wake up, worried that your favorite streaming show won’t get a second season)), all you can do is weather the storm. So get up, play with a pet, go for a dawn-walk, play a stupid video game, read a chapter of a book, anything to fill your brain with noise and drown out the fears.
Don’t worry – be happy!