Why can’t I nap? Taking a nap is probably a very healthy thing to do. There is actually a study out there stating that people who nap may have a lower incidence of coronary disease. Sounds like a lovely way to avoid a health problem, but it’s not something that happens for me very often.
We know babies and children need to nap to renew themselves during the day, otherwise they are pretty cranky. The S.O. takes naps during his down time to recharge his body after hard physical work. My former almost-inlaws used to take daily naps together (followed by “high tea”) and seemed to be living a very long and healthy life. I often wondered if there was something to it, the siesta or riposo, where everything is shut down and a rest is taken during the hottest hours of the day.
Excepting those naps taken during times of illness, I have napped so rarely that I actually can remember specific ones and have my own “hall of fame” of naps. I often wonder if this inability to take any downtime on weekends to rest is in part due to memories of my father on Sunday afternoons, where he would be listening to classical music and falling asleep on the living room couch. We were then expected to keep quiet and tiptoe around him during the weekend, lest we disrupt the nap and end up with a very moody father, which nobody particularly was interested in having happen. (OK, seems we can blame just about anything on our childhood if we want)…
The handful of Blissful Nap Memories that stand out for me: Drowsing on a summer afternoon to the distant drone of a lawnmower and the scent of newly cut grass. Drifting off to the whine of cicadas and a warm breeze. Falling asleep on the sand to the lull of the waves. Curled up on the bed with a baby who just finished nursing, the buzz of their breath like a bee, the sweet clean smell, the slight dampness of their skin as we both dropped into slumber. Napping on the couch on a bright winter afternoon – this particular couch situated beneath a large picture window facing southwest, the room heated by the afternoon sun. I dubbed that couch “The Sun Couch”. The Sun Couch must be twenty years old by now and has been moved to a multitude of homes since.
Another Blissful Nap Memory occurred on Nantucket Island on a hot summer afternoon, in the upstairs bedroom of a house we were lucky enough to stay in for a number of years when the kids were younger. Everybody had gone to the beach and I opted to stay behind by myself and read. There was a large fan in one of the windows, which produced a low hum and blew a hot, steady, gentle wind across me as I lay minimally dressed on a very large bed. Occasionally an alternate breeze would puff through one of the adjacent open windows, carrying the scent of the ocean. I read until I was drowsy, falling into a delicious nap that I still recall with pleasure years later.
And then there were the daily naps that I took during radiation treatment, when I would come home from work and pass out on the Sun Couch every afternoon, sleeping a dreamless, bone-tired sleep. Sometimes I would be awakened by a kiss…..
Over the last number of years at work, I have found myself starting to crash post lunch, especially around 2pm. Part of this could be attributed to the tremendous concentration devoted to trying to hear when I couldn’t hear – constantly trying to decipher and translate that now foreign language called “speech” - watching faces and movement for cues to apply to whatever sounds I thought I heard – something that is mentally and emotionally exhausting for hard-of-hearing people. By the afternoon I would find myself craving rest, sometimes barely able to keep my eyes open, forcing myself to push through and focus as if pushing through water, or mud. No doubt part of this was compounded by age, but not all of it.
However, when the weekend would roll around, I would feel guilty about lying down to take a nap, as if doing so was wasting valuable daylight time that could be put to much better use. Now that I have had the opportunity to do so, I haven’t been able to. Until today.
Today it was too hot and humid to work in the garden. I did not feel productive, contrary to my personal vow to Do Something Productive Every Day. I went into my very small front room, which is sort of a female version of the Man Cave (a “Women Nest”, if you will). This Nest contains the original Sun Couch from years ago. On this couch are pillows from Istanbul, Nepal and India and a rich, colorful quilt made for me by a relative, specifically meant for cozying under. The floor is parquet, over which lies a small, very worn oriental rug that belonged to my father. One wall contains a floor to ceiling bookshelf built by the S.O., which is filled with favorite books and framed photographs of loved ones; ceramic bowls made by my children in summer camp, containing beach glass and shells we collected together on a California shore; gifts and little treasures picked up on world travels. The other walls are covered with paintings and handwork done by good friends and family, and a Talevera tiled mirror I found in Santa Fe during another lifetime.
My mother’s rocking chair is in that room, the one she rocked children and grandchildren in. There is a small hexagonal Moroccan table at one end and a small marble table from India, inlaid with semi-precious stones at the other. In front of three west-facing windows is another end table a friend and I dragged back from Vermont in the bed of a pickup truck on our way home from another friend’s wedding decades ago. On top of that table is my sister’s stained glass lamp, a sculpture done by my mother, and an orchid plant from my daughter. On the floor is my drum and a basket containing some toys belonging to my grandkids. The room is vibrant, warm and cozy, filled with meaning and memories of those I love.
The early afternoon sun was casting a glow within the room as I lay down on the Sun Couch with the latest issue of a literary magazine. Not two pages into it, I glanced up towards the bookshelf at a framed photograph of my beautiful sister Charlotte, and was almost immediately overtaken by the urge to nap. Two hours later I awoke from beneath the quilt with a small dog lying on top of me and the aura of a rather weird dream dissolving.
So I had taken a nap, my first official nap since being unemployed. Or, let me correct that…since being “on Sabbatical”.
And now, well…now it is late and I am awake. I suppose there is some knack to this, learning the Art of Napping.