Jet Lag and Alcohol

What a teacher it is to cross six time zones. My body was basically saying “I don’t like this stuff!” Indeed.

I left Toronto at 6:00 pm on Sunday. Seven hours later, I was landing in Brussels, Belgium. I’d bought a cool pink flight pillow but I still couldn’t lay myself down to sleep. Trying to sit up straight and meditate didn’t work either. I decided to launch myself into a book about Rwanda. That basically kept me going till breakfast on the plane.

At 8:00 am on Monday morning, there were Lydia and her daughter Lore waiting for me as I passed through customs at the Brussels Airport . An hour later, we were sitting in their dining room in Nukerke. The world was my oyster. I was home.

I knew the drill. Stay up till it was bedtime in the new place. I set a goal of 8:00 pm. A quick calculation left me with an awake time of 32 hours. I was determined to meet that goal. My previous record of staying awake was 34 hours, a struggle that left me pretty much delerious. Would that be my reality this time as well?

As the day progressed, and we were out and about on errands, so did the fade accumulate. The head is heavy and the mind is slow. The vision blurs a bit and it was fascinating to watch the disintegration. Did I do something bad? Not at all. In fact, I was doing what needed to be done to get Bruce back as quickly as possible.

I thought of folks who fly to Australia, crossing 14 time zones or so. How do they do it? I guess they’re willing to take on the discomfort for three days or more.

I went to bed at 9:00 pm (!) on Monday night, scared that somehow I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Ten hours later, I woke up – a little tired and a lot refreshed. There! I did it. What a good boy was I. I was all set for the remaining eighteen days of my vacation.

There are problems you can’t control and then those you can. Tuesday evening we went to Lydia and Jo’s friends’ place for dinner. There was a festive mood among us six, and Kurt was the perfect host, continually refilling my wine glass after my last sip. I concluded that resistance was futile, that I deserved a night of excellent food and drink.

Wrong.

This body of mine hasn’t consumed much alcohol during the past few months. It was into a sweet rhythm and our dinner was a major jolt to the system. I was inundated with marvelous flavours and aromas but going with that flow was seductive.

I woke up Wednesday morning with a thorough hangover … dull in the head, exhaustion and bouts of nausea. Death warmed over. I slept for two hours in the afternoon in preparation for another evening out. As I stumbled around in my mind and body, I said a simple “no” to such excess. It’s not what I want my life to be about. If I’m to serve people, I need open channels to my heart and mind. Clarity, not cloudiness.

Dinner approached in a fog. I smiled at my new hosts and attempted conversation. I drank water. I ate small portions of food. And then, during dessert, my mind came back to say hello. “You know what I want, Bruce. Please give it to me.” Okay, from now on I will.

Today is Thursday and I am “normal” once more. Hallelujah. There is much living and giving to be done.

Jet Lag

I knew it would be a challenge – arriving in Toronto yesterday and feeling half-decent today. The advice that many people had given me was to stay up until a decent bedtime in the new location. Okay, I can do that.

We landed in Toronto around 3:30 pm yesterday new time (9:30 pm old time). I figured I needed to stay awake until 10:00 pm (4:00 am). Picking up my car and driving to Anne and Ihor’s was a piece of cake – an alert twenty-minute journey. This jet lag stuff was overrated.

My friends were all decked out in traditional Ukrainian clothing and were heading off to a Christmas Eve dinner. We said we’d talk later about Senegal and their recent trip to Cuba. I settled onto the couch and created the last blog post of my trip. It was both joyous and sad to tap out the words. I posted the journey’s end around 6:30, certainly tired but very pleased with myself. Todd, a longterm resident of the B&B, came to sit with me in the living room.

And then, slowly but surely, my world began to collapse. My head heavier, my eyes vacant, my confusion growing. At exactly eight o’clock, I swirled inside of “What’s this?” Of course I knew what it was, to the tune of six time zones. I sensed that it wasn’t as simple as saying it was now 2:00 am Belgian time. Some unknown but diabolical force was at work. I looked at the clock again. It was 8:07. “What? Seven minutes! How in the name of all that’s good and pure was I going to last till 10:00?”

Downward flowed the mind. I started babbling. My only strategy was to watch something exciting on TV – maybe a movie with lots of explosions and premature death. I usually hate that stuff but something had to be done to keep my eyes open.

The guide said that I could find Independence Day 2 on the telly. Perfect. Mayhem that I previously panned in the theatre. Basically, I started yelling at the screen, much, I suppose, to Todd’s amusement. But I didn’t really know. He was barely a blip on my radar screen. Anne and Ihor walked in and asked if I wanted to talk. I blurted out something to the tune of being totally incapable of such behaviour.

Some grotesque alien face was advancing on tiny humans. I have no idea what I said but I was sure giving him hell. And the commercials – some car was able to keep a good distance from other vehicles on the freeway without human intervention. I gave Toyota hell too, robbing me of my power to be.

I was incomprehensible. I was drooling. I was lost. Sure hope Todd didn’t make a video. 9:12. Forty-eight more agonizing minutes!

Somehow, by the grace of God, 10:00 pm eventually showed up in red. I grabbed the blanket I had wrapped myself in and stumbled upstairs. Just your basic local zombie.

Magically I fell asleep and stayed that way till 1:00. Then, for maybe two hours, I suffered through spiky wakefulness. Something evil kept poking me towards the abyss. Is this what my next few nights are going to be? Maybe I’ll just stay home from now on. I’ll try Belgium again next lifetime.

After countless fits and starts, I awoke again at 7:30. Now it’s 2:00 pm and I’m prepping for the drive to Belmont. Tired yes, zombie no.

May the force be with me.