I worked a midnight shift last night. A lone one in the middle of the week which is not unusual in my job, a psw assisting people with disabilities. My schedule is one I picked from available shifts about six weeks ago. It varies from week to week and includes 10 hour day or midnight shifts, 4 hour morning shifts or 5 hours evening shifts. Generally, I love the variance and feel I would wither with a more regimented timetable although both have their pros and cons.
This morning, at 7am, I finished my last routine and walked back into the office ready to give a shift report to my coworker and drive home to climb into bed for a couple of hours sleep. No one there. Only 3 messages and a text on the cell phone. On call. My replacement had phoned in sick and they were trying to find someone else. No luck so far. Could I stay another hour at least? Of course. What else to do? No young family to get off to school, no husband waiting on the car to get to work. So I started on the morning routines hoping someone would show up to relieve me soon.
In the middle of giving someone a shower, a coworker knocked on the bathroom door.
"Sue? I'm here. It's okay. You go home now. I'll take over. Run! Be free!"
I could have kissed her! And I practically did run! Fortunately only an hour extra. I drove home in bright sunlight and, as usual, found it hard to relax straight into sleep so it was after 9:30 before I fell asleep for a few hours. Getting up on what i call a turn-around day can be tricky. When I do fall asleep, it can be deep, my body craves what it's missed but I don't want to sleep too long or too late otherwise I'll become nocturnal and will find it hard to swing back to a regular daytime schedule. Today I pressed snooze 4 times before I dragged myself out of bed at 1:30 feeling disoriented. Again, I'm fortunate: nothing planned outside the home today so I can wrap what I want to do around how I'm feeling from hour to hour.
As I got up and opened my blinds, I noticed that my shamrock plant was fully open, already anticipating the day, already responding. At night time it folds its leaves and during the day opens them like umbrellas. I wonder what would happen to it if I was on a more regular schedule of midnights. But it's impossible to keep the house completely dark. Likely it would respond to whatever daylight it could find. When my shifts are all over the place, the shamrock's quiet folding and unfolding rhythm, no drama, no fuss, is wonderfully reassuring.
My ventures into working midnights happened the September my 6 year-old son started school full time. The spring and summer of that year, I was working part time at Zellers in the clothing department. My shifts were generally evenings and weekends. My marriage had been rocky--my husband was struggling with severe depression--but we were trying. In the spring, unsure of many things, I visited a psychic.
"You'll hear of a job offer," she told me, "something you'd never have considered otherwise, but when you hear of it you'll know instantly that it's right for you. And you'll get it."
I forgot about her words for months, fairly content with my job, until we had a special all staff meeting at work one day. Management had decided to offer regular midnight shifts, Sunday to Thursday, stocking shelves. Who was interested? I worked out the logistics of the job in my mind. It could work out well for me. The extra money and regular shifts would help us and i could sleep while my son was in school. I got goosebumps. Then remembered the physic's words. I got the job.
I loved the crew I worked with. We filled the store with music and worked hard but mostly independently which appealed to me. Months later, my husband and I split up. For the first year I had full custody of my son while his dad was hospitalized in an attempt to stabilize the depression meds. So our weekdays became a familiar routine: I got off work at 6am, got home, helped my son get ready for school, saw him on the school bus, slept for several hours, got up just before he arrived home, made dinner, spent time with him, put him to bed, greeted the lovely shy neighbourhood girl who slept over, then I went to work.
What I remember mostly about that time is forcing myself awake just before the school bus came, my first thoughts on waking being when I could next sleep. But when I look back, I realise what a blessing the shifts were, how beautifully they dovetailed into my life at that time.
To this day, midnights hold a special place in my heart. In my present job, the shift itself isn't too physically demanding and it offers the opportunity of 10 straight hours work. What I cherish most about midnights though is the reminder that there are 24 hours in a day, each with its own charm. And that life happens at all hours, even when most of the town is asleep. A quiet folding and unfolding rhythm all of its own.
Welcome! I'm Sue Blott: a writer of all things, a poet at heart, mom, wife, daughter, step-mom, grandma, tea drinker, tai chi-er, mystic, artist, dreamer...and now a blogger! This is my world.