birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

A Puzzles Pardon

It has been a difficult five years, where sleep is concerned. For the six years prior to 2012, I had been driving a long way to get to and from work, and I worked some really long days. As a result I had a pretty odd sleep schedule—at least, compared to the rest of my previous 50+ years.
I had always been a night owl—always. My mother says, even when I was a baby. And, suddenly late in 2006 I needed to become an early bird—a lark!
I did manage it. I had to wake at 415am to be at work by 630. For six years, I got up at 415. Then, in 2012 I retired and I no longer had to be the early lark.
But the damage [and, I do mean “damage”] was done. An early lark I had become. So, I’ve kept getting up at 415—frustrated and tired for the last five years, and annoyingly unable to reset the biological clock.
What have I done in the wee hours before dawn—puzzles, six puzzles daily from the Los Angeles Times. Before anything else, with a cup of coffee, the puzzles get done.
There is something orienting about exercising one’s mind first thing. What have I been orienting to? I may come back to that. And, the habit has its complications.
Actually, I’ve been doing the crossword puzzle since my freshman year of college, when my mother and I began to “compete” for the San Francisco Chronicle puzzle. But I digress.
I do the puzzles—all six of them: the jumble, the crossword, two sudoku, and two ken-ken. Not in that order. The order matters—it depends on the day.
Well, one morning, a week or so ago, I had a very bad day. Three of the six were a mess. I started over—copying the sudoku into a template I had made a few years ago for the rare occasion I didn’t make it before the newspaper was shredded by erasures of ink marks.
So, this day, a week or so ago, was a very bad puzzle day—like Alexander’s very bad day. As I copied to restart—it occurred to me. NO, it happened to me—an IDEA, a new idea!

I DO NOT NEED to redo a puzzle.
My day does not stand or fall on a correctly completed puzzle!
Nothing will change if I just throw it away unsolved.

It took a few minutes for that to sink in.

Imagine—I don’t need to do this puzzle to perfection.
This puzzle has no NEED of completion!

I am still doing the puzzles. Fifty-year habits don’t disappear overnight.
And, I am sleeping til 6 now. All of a sudden, out of nowhere sleep has elongated itself.
I don’t know why. And, how can it not have to do with the coincidence of discovering a puzzles pardon. Pardon me, puzzles, you are perfectly patterned whether I finish you or not. But sleep, maybe not so much.


A Freelancer's Morning Routine