Our friend Ron used to take naps regularly, at least when we were around. I remember once when he and his wife were shopping with Kim and me, and when we parked, he said it was time for his nap, reclined his car seat, and he was out. At the time, I thought that was a bit strange. Now, I don’t think so. And now Ron has gone to The Big Sleep. Let’s hope the pleasures of the nap were but a preview.
For most of my life, I never napped. It never occurred to me to do so. I was too busy working – teaching, grading student papers, taking my boys for walks or bike rides, refereeing soccer, mowing the lawn, vacuuming. You know what I mean. Even reading did not nudge me napward. That was then, this is now.
I don’t nap every day. About once a week I am forced to take what I call a “chair nap,” leaning back in my comfortable chair, closing my eyes, and settling into the light bliss of shallow sleep. (When I was teaching, my students would call this “resting my eyes,” which my lectures enabled them to do even in uncomfortable chairs.) Chair naps, for me, are pretty much non-negotiable. Sometimes it happens after a bit of yardwork, but also, increasingly, after a drive home from Traverse City – not so long a drive as to really tire me out, but somehow, some days, it does.
Occasionally I experience a big decision regarding naps: It’s about 3 p.m., I’m feeling a bit drowsy, so I need to choose between a nap or yet another cup of coffee. Fortunately, however, when working at Starbucks I learned that it takes about 20 minutes for the caffeine from a cup of coffee to deliver the caffeine kick, so I can drink coffee and then take a quick chair nap. Then maybe have another cup when arising from the chair. Life is good.
I pretty much stay away from formal naps – the kind that involve lying down on the couch and sleeping with a blanket. Kim, recently, occasionally goes in for these, largely a result of her pain-related insomnia and her fatigue from overdoing it. In fact, she might nap more often if she were not pressed by all the stuff she feels she needs to get done, from ironing to meal preparation, from gardening to cleaning the burners on the stove, from wiping my fingerprints off of cabinet doors to identifying the white butterfly she just photographed. In Kim’s case this is not guilt, exactly – as it often is for me – but just her “just-get-it-done” nature. I share that quality, but for me it’s more an inclination than a drive as it is for Kim.
There is something like a ritual involved in Kim’s naps. She takes a bedroom pillow to the couch and microwaves her “body buddy” pad to place against her sorest spot at the time, usually upper back, sometimes lower. I turn on the television, maybe to a movie. She unfolds the blanket she keeps on the couch and goes through some nesting wiggles to get comfortable. She starts watching, slipping in and out of sleep – I can’t see her eyes. I watch the movie, sometimes with my laptop open. When she wakes up, I fill her in on what she missed in. She asks what time it is, and pretty much whatever time I say means it’s time for Kim to get up and start fixing dinner.
Has mankind always indulged in naps? Somebody probably knows the answer to that, but not me. I suspect the invention of electric lighting has something to do with naps, and certainly the internet is a contributing factor. Night is not just for sleeping. And not too long ago, most people farmed for a living, and it’s hard to imagine farmers taking an afternoon nap, though I might have found a way, as I’m sure Ron would. And for the farmer’s wife, napping is even less imaginable.
Is napping simply a matter of age? I’ll let you know when I get old. Fortunately, I never nap when I’m writing, probably bec;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;