Tuesday, April 20, 2021

6. I Stay Up At Night (And Other Space Oddities)

I was born fifty years ago at 1:12 in the afternoon, and I haven’t wanted do anything before 1:12 in the afternoon ever since.  For as long as I can remember, I have had a proclivity for staying up late at night.  I have always felt better, thought clearer, been more productive, experienced more meaning and purpose, in the later night hours.  Pretty much every word of these 50 Lessons of 50 was written between 12am-5am.  Most of my two books were written during the same hours.  

This used to be a source of great struggle.  While growing up I thought I “should” be like other kids who went to sleep at 10pm and woke up 7am but I couldn't sleep when I tried.  Getting up in the morning has always been an uphill battle and when I had to do it in school, and the early days of my career, I felt constantly at odds with my body’s natural circadian rhythms.  This however, came to be of great benefit when I opened my private psychotherapy practice  in 2010.  I could lay claim to being the only shrink in Manhattan who saw clients until midnight, and that helped position my business from others.  When my clients expressed surprise I worked that late I told them, “You’ll find me here at 11pm but you’ll never see me here at 11am.” 

In other words, I took something that was different about me, something I often felt made me “wrong,” and turned into a strength.  I realized there was no shame being who I am, just struggle in trying to be someone I’m not.  I’m not a morning person, I doubt I ever will be.  But even just ten years ago that is not a fact I ever would have admitted publicly. 

The night before I “came out” on the Huffington Post Live about using PrEP, I was scared.  Although I had talked about HIV prevention publicly before, I had never talked about my HIV prevention before.  Could I really tell the world that I was using a pill to have sex without condoms?  Would I ever be able to work as a healthcare provider after saying such a thing? I had been quite slutty in my time, but this was not something I could readily admit publicly.  But once again, my proclivities came in handy, given that talking and teaching about PrEP, using my own personal experiences,  ended up becoming one of my more successful endeavors and certainly one of the more meaningful chapters of my career. 

The older I get the “less fucks I have to give” (thank you, Amy).  The longer I live in the world the more I realize there are certain things that are true for me that aren’t true for others, and vice-versa.  I no longer have any attachment or shame about this, I no longer think there is anything “wrong” with me for thinking and feeling this way:
— I absolutely hate talking on the phone (this was true before Internet)— I have never been excited by “Sunday Brunch”
— New York City at sunset is close to Godliness on earth
— I don’t love the beach, but can appreciate it 1-2x a year as long as I can easily leave
— Although I don’t enjoy traffic jams while driving, I do get impressed how well most people behave while feeling frustrated and operating a heavy piece of machinery.
— I think it’s irresponsible to spend money exploring other planets while the students in my cousin’s classroom can’t afford books or lunch.
— I really enjoy living alone.  That space is important for me.
— “Instead” is one of my favorite words
— I do not understand the rhetoric behind trying to quantify my feelings into categories like “boyfriend” or “partner.”  My priority as I get older is to create and sustain an abundance of loving and meaningful connections with other humans in whatever way makes sense for us. There may or may not be language to describe that and I’m good with that.
—  I also have never quite understood the need for the gay community to quantify my desire into zoological categories like "bears" or "otters" or "pups."  I just dig dudes.
— I have always loved and respected American daytime soap operas.  At their core they are allegories illustrating how human beings can survive and thrive the worst-case-scenario year after year, decade after decade.
— I can't imagine ever deriving entertainment from watching a sport.
— I have incredible patience waiting for things to happen in my career, but horrible patience waiting in line at the supermarket.
— I think almost all food tastes better with peanut butter on it.
— There was a time when I loved driving so much that I almost became a truck driver.  If I had not gotten into grad school in 1995, that was my Plan B.
— I’ve never had the “foodie” instinct to try a million new dishes.  I could probably be content eating pizza from here on out.
 —At the same time, I've never had the "monogamy" instinct.  In this respect trying new dishes seems perfectly relevant.
— I have very little tolerance for complaining or whining online or in work environments.  This is one of the reasons I never sought to be a supervisor or administrator.  I’m all about creating solutions, not enabling attention for a problem.

At one time or another, these are things I would have hid or minimized.  But at fifty years old, I’m all about the letting the freak flag fly.  The truer I am to myself, the more I enjoy my life.  The more honest I am, the more I attract quality individuals in my life.  It’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to stay up all night, it’s okay to be neurotic or eccentric or whatever it is they want label you (which they’re going to do anyway).   
In every one of these Lessons I have pushed myself to be more open, more vulnerable, more exposed than I have been publicly before.  There were many times I pushed the "Publish" button thinking, "Are you really going to say that?" But with every trepidation comes liberation, and a deeper sense of excitement for what's coming next.  I hope everyone thinks about ways they can remove constraints from the past and let their true self shine.  
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist helping individuals and couples enjoy life with peace, purpose, and pleasure. His books "Absolutely Should-less" and "Rational Relating" help people experience connection with joy, serenity, and meaning. His work has been featured on CNN Health, The New York Times, MSNBC, USA Today and more. He can be reached at Damon@DamonLJacobs.com or 347-227-7707


No comments:

Post a Comment