On Napping

As a child I despised naps. Naps were the device the adults of my life used to keep me out of their hair. They meant dropping my purple plastic pony, the one with the star on its face, and climbing onto the couch or my bed pretending for an hour that my mind wasn’t whirling with new games to play with the next door neighbor. Mob bosses, though I didn’t know what mob bosses were back then, was a favorite game to play in my field. We would use the hay bale as our camp and the “forest” as enemy territory. Napping was and is pointless to children. It’s a needed thing, but to children, it’s more of a hindrance to our imagination. It’s the equivalent to the idea of “writer’s block” to an essayist. Pointless and unneeded.

Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap. ~― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

I hated naps as a youngster. I fought and caterwauled any time someone tried to force one on me. They are evil devices and I want nothing to do with them. That was back when I had the energy to run all day and slide smoothly through the hours as if they were bases in my softball game. Around college age the idea behind napping shifted. I longed for that hour or so I got to take a break from the day. Jealousy of my younger self reared up and I struggled with the urge to travel back in time and scold myself for not treasuring those hours I stayed curled in a ball on a couch, the floor, or my bed. Jealous? Of little Beth? How trivial. But that jealousy still didn’t help me. I still want that soft cool pillowcase below my cheek. Just five minutes. That’s all I need. Five minutes of shut-eye.

There’s no time for that now, though. Work pulls at my sanity until that five minutes turns into an hour, then two hours, then four, and I finally wake at 10:30; a few hours before I actually fall into slumber. The nap ruined my normal sleep pattern and I lie awake half the night contemplating my next work day. Will I have to stand behind the service desk for eight hours on end? Will I have the dreaded Home Décor; the department that should be under my rule but instead faces the tyranny of one who does not care that the candles do not belong with canvas and the mirrors should be sorted by price and not by whatever space is available? What about Corky? Does she not realize that I do most of her job on a daily basis? I am no supervisor, yet I act as one every time I step into that store.

Then we have school. It creeps into the soul and blackens the heart in May and December. A test over logic, an absent group project member, and a friend that makes her problems everyone else’s problems threaten to chink my armor. Her love for guys and constant need to greet each with a dazzlingly fake smile cuts into the time I need to study. Her low self-confidence makes it impossible to jokingly say that I only put up with her because of someone else. I took her on a vacation with me for crying out loud. Would I have done that if I did not at least like her a little? She makes me wish I was back in grade school getting harpooned on every day by my so called friends. Listening to them jeer about my stained teeth, bad breath, or plainness. Whatever they deemed wrong with me for the day. I was the girl with no makeup and who didn’t actually style her hair in 5th grade. I didn’t care about appearances and was punished for my belief on a daily basis. I would rather face my own insecurities again than be forced to take in those of someone else. Of a friend who, unlike me, did not see the importance of finding who she was. She held onto her past, as I had for years, and now did not have the will power to let it go.

“When you can’t figure out what to do, it’s time for a nap.” ~ Mason Cooley

Well Mason Cooley, I think you’re completely whack. If I can’t figure out how to deal with an unruly customer at work, and that happens more often than not, I can’t just crouch below my register and sleep. No one naps at work unless it’s during a fifteen minute break. It’s impossible to, even if there is a container full of soft blankets in the corner of the linens department. All I would have to do is walk to the back, clear out a space in the bin, then climb in pulling the pile of rolled up blue, green, orange, purple, and red blankets over me. A perfect place to ignore the booming voices of the enraged customer and soothingly angry voice of my manager. But it is intolerable for an employee to take a break during paid hours. God forbid I get a migraine that eats into my eyesight and spreads into my ringing ears. God forbid I cut myself on their poorly designed shelves and the ten minutes it takes me to clean the gash in my leg and put seven Band-Aids across it is too long. Everything is so regimented now. My break can only be at 7:00 while my lunch (even though it should be called dinner) must be taken at 5:30.

What a better place it would be if all of our stores and businesses in America followed a noon time whistle and closed doors for one hour, maybe two, every day. It seems to have worked well for Spain. Just google the Spanish Siesta. The stores close around 2p and don’t open for another few hours. The people have the option to crowd the nearest pub or restaurant or go home and let their dark locks fall into the mattress. These Siestas were invented so that the people came back refreshed in the afternoon and ready to face the rest of the workday. If America closed down shops when the bell tolled 12p the workplace would liven up in the evening. Either everyone would come back with a buzz from the local bar or revitalized from a two hour nap. Those in a buzz could see the multi-colored giraffes on the safari they imagined, while the nappers came back ready to haggle their way through the day.

“I have left orders to be awakened at any time during national emergency, even if I’m in a cabinet meeting.” ~ Ronald Reagan

What in life puts us to sleep? That answer is exponential. The drone of a boring meeting; a cabinet meeting in Reagan’s case, or the questioning of students can put you into the deepest of sleeps. But for me it’s the insistent badgering I got on a daily basis at work and at school. At work the same questions leapt from the mouths of customers: “How much is this? Is this on sale? Can I get a discount? What about this price? I won’t pay that much. Do you have this in blue? Where are the rest of these?” While at school I never got a break from my health: “Are you okay? You look sick. Why are you so quiet? Do you have my script? Are you sure? Are you positive you’re okay? You seem too quiet today.” “Really, are you all right?”

After the seventh “are you okay” in a row my eyes start to dim and fall into that place of adult bliss. That place where I can’t hear the pestering questions anymore. That solitude I shied away from in grade school seems more inviting now. I would never wish the absent friendships and rejection I felt in grade school on myself again, but the peace that it brought cannot be compared to the chatter around me. I did not have the constant whining of friends bombarding me every day. I was left alone with my own mind and my thoughts interested me more than any person ever could. I want my thoughts back. I want to experience that feeling of aloneness again. Give me a moment of silence to reflect on my imaginary friends who did not assault me with questions. I was free to explore the world without worrying about someone else’s troubles. I may never be able to get that solitude and quiet back. It does not fit well with friends, and as much as I loved my solitude I love the sureness that comes along with people more. Some friends may be loud and overbearing, but they fill a hole that my childhood imaginary friends couldn’t fill. They are real and loyal. Having people in your life makes life more bearable, but just one nap a day would give me that peace I felt when I relied only on myself for comfort. One nap would fill the void that solitude has now left on my life. For once you taste quiet; no matter how much you love the noise, you cannot escape the peace that quiet gave.

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