This morning, when I awoke, the Billy Joel song Honesty was firmly lodged in my brain — so firmly lodged that it kept playing and playing until I put on the iPod headphones and focused my brain instead on Television’s Marquee Moon.
Why did I wake up to Billy Joel’s plaintive anthem to forthright relationships? I don’t have the slightest idea. It’s not one of my all-time favorite songs. I wasn’t humming it when I went to bed last night. My best guess is that I heard it at some point over the last week or so, and while I slept my brain was simply shuffling through its catalog of recent stimuli, trying to figure out what to remember and what to discard. It was just my good fortune to awaken when it was The Piano Man’s turn on the recently heard playlist.
I know my brain works hard while I sleep. When I wake up, there often is a song, thought, or image at the forefront of my mind. It’s not unusual for my overnight brain to help me with work issues. If I am wrestling with how to structure an argument, I may hit the sack with the issue in mind and wake up with a carefully considered approach, down to the point of specific phrases or fully formed sentences that I can jot down and use. On other occasions, I’ll open my eyes and immediately be confronted by a list of reminders and to-do items. It’s as if the slumber of my conscious self frees my inner brain to grind away undisturbed, like a conscientious employee who is constantly distracted by a talkative boss and becomes truly productive only when the boss blessedly returns to his office.
I like the fact that my brain continues to work while I sleep. I wouldn’t necessarily choose Billy Joel as my wake-up music, but it’s a small price to pay.