Until my recent retirement I never enjoyed an afternoon nap unless it were the less glamorous recomposition following a particularly draining evening. The afternoon nap wasn’t part of my vernacular as much as I secretly thought of it as a supreme satisfaction. I may have fashioned it an encroachment upon commerce or at the very least an unmerited indulgence. During my working career the little time I had to myself was on the weekends. I traditionally had so much packed into those 48 hours that having a nap was tantamount to frittering away one’s capital. So I distanced myself from the slackening and buoyed myself with coffee, pills, booze and more coffee.
I have since quit the booze. My love affair with the vodka martini waned when I realized I was reliving the same movie every night and my relationship with Jane Austen was going nowhere. Luckily for me I suppose the profit margin on the expenditure was dwindling. Nonetheless the lack of this particular recreation did not diminish my consumption of coffee which I began drinking in boosted quantities by regularly making my own coffee with triple amounts of instant coffee (a sure-fire stimulant I had discovered in my undergraduate days).
The jitters caused by excessive caffeine were not lost on me. After a certain level of caffeinated manipulation it is a case of diminishing returns and perhaps even an upset stomach. So that project of self-stimulation exhausted itself as well. That left pills. My awakening to the general condition of my anatomy led me to believe that even pain killers (or arthritis pills in particular) weren’t entirely reliable to deaden one’s natural reflexes.
As a result I began confronting my instinctive responses to the day. Unmistakably an emerging response was that I was tired, worn out to be more precise. Nothing was impeding the repeated and overwhelming wave of fatigue. To my surprise I began to succumb to the urge to lie down. I sought to lessen the lanquid purpose by resorting to my green leather couch as though it were somehow only a temporary repose and nothing serious. As if that mattered! Nonetheless I avoided the bed itself, a destination I otherwise considered overwhelming evidence of malaise.
To my surprise my afternoon naps on the couch were not only longer than I could have imagined (regularly stretching into two hours) but more gratifying than my nocturnal slumber. When I awoke I was undeniably refreshed. Everything felt better including my joints. My mental attitude was positive and engaged. For some reason the afternoon nap revitalized me and I hadn’t been plagued as I was so often at night by contemplation of what else I should be doing.
At first I thought these restorative naps were occasional and random only, nothing approaching a habit. But regularly I was overtaken by a feeling of being wasted, a feeling I understood intuitively to come from years of having ignored the needs of my worn out body. I understood I could no longer pretend I didn’t need to sleep. I accepted that I had a lot of catching up to do. And I hesitatingly relinquished my obsession to produce to permit me the indulgence of rejuvenation through sleep. One might think that such daytime healing would inhibit the natural disposition to sleep at night. In fact by relieving my body of its perpetual burden I also relieved my mind of its angst and was no longer predisposed to retard the routine bedtime until I virtually collapsed from exhaustion, a synthetic soporific which of course only caused problems the next day.
Releasing my grip on mandatory occupation is a challenge. It is not routine to disengage. It isn’t easy to acknowledge that it can wait. But creeping into the cracks of the veneer is the need to sleep, to recover from years of constant worry about endless affairs.