This morning has been wonderful so far, and it's only 6:20 am. I woke up at about 4:30, which wasn't premeditated. I was awakened as if electroshocked, by thumping thunder.
I spent the following hour half-awake in bed, projecting quite mundane but heartwarming things. At some indefinite point, I just realized I was aware enough to leave my bed and start my day.
I was glad to wake up this early. In fact, this is the first time in a long time that I haven't awaken sad and anxious. Sad and anxious with little to no reason, that is. What makes me the most uneasy about this quiet unhappiness (which, to be frank, tends to stretch out beyond the morning) is how little justification it has. I wake up in a warm, comfortable bed, embraced by someone I adore (and if I am to trust a suspiciously attractive blonde, who loves me back). Everything is fine. But I wake up and a sense of impending doom wakes up with me.
In a twist of contemporary, pitchable angst, I assume that it has to do with either my satisfying but demanding professional life, my internet browsing habits, or a mix of both.
If it's about my professional life, waking up at ungodly hours has fixed that. This senseless thing I'm doing right now (sitting at the dining table, writing non-commercial, practically unreadable material), would have been impossible if I didn't have this calm, if I didn't have what feels like too much available time.
If I decide to start my workday at 9:00 am, I'll be enjoying the well-macerated consciousness one has after several hours of wakefulness. On the other hand, I'll be "entering" work after hours of enjoying myself. If this becomes a habit, it may mitigate the heavy resentment of "never having enough time to do the things I enjoy" and "spending most of my working hours at work".
Another potential cause for my generalized anguish may be my proneness to drowning in what questionable, doubly obscure German philosopher Martin Heidegger may have called "inauthenticity", and visionary scholar Marshall McLuhan may have called "having a pulse".
My constant multitasking, tweet reading, mindless browsing, doomscrolling, and the like may not only lead me to waste time and procrastinate. It also imparts upon me a sense of never truly being anywhere. The fact that I'm writing this in one sitting (in the purely metaphorical sense, for I've just moved to the couch), is incredible to me. The fact that I'm fully committing myself to "non-work" stuff is amazing to me. And, as I could have assumed, it's soothing that sense of dread, bridging "objective" general well-being and joy.
The Fantasy of Constant Availability
Recently, I came across yet another of those aphoristic recitations that sounds like a reimagining of Jenny Holzer's truisms by an HR manager. If I try to find it, I'll fail to. And it may not even sound like I remember it.
Basically, it was a list of different types of rest. I'll paraphrase, if not invent. I think the list went as follows:
- Physical stillness
- Mental relaxation (or something of the like)
- Permission not to participate
- Permission to not be helpful
I can't test the authenticity of the first 4 types. But the 5th stuck with me. Remote workers usually have schedules. That's right. But that may not always happen. Those of us who freelance/run businesses (what an enormous gap there is between the two!) usually fail at setting healthy boundaries. And even those who are properly registered, conventional employees often fail to set time-related boundaries. A few days ago, I had a marketing manager at a client company messaging me at 9 pm on a Wednesday. Her regular working hours are 9 am to 5 pm.
At 4:30, nobody expects me to be helpful because nobody expects me to be awake. Or at least, nobody expects me to be productive.
Late Capitalism & the Ends of Sleep
24/7 is a 2014 book by Jonah Crary, published by Verso Books. Basically, it's about how
"Because of the permeability, even indistinction, between the times of work and of leisure, the skills and gestures that once would have been restricted to the workplace are now a universal part of the 24/7 texture of one's electronic life."
Crary argues that late capitalism has reshaped our daily lives and disfigured the limits between idleness and labor. The frenetic, around-the-clock exercise of late capitalism has one last barrier to break through. In spite of what the coked-up boys at your consultancy of choice may argue, capitalist production can't go on in our sleep.
"Sleep is the only remaining barrier, the only enduring "natural condition" that capitalism cannot eliminate."
There's something interesting to conclude here, I'm sure.
Featured image: Calvin Klein Home ad from the 90s.