Riffs on: Naps

Most days I need a nap.

I will never feel guilty about this. Neither should you. Please, go ahead, lay down and just knock out for a bit.

My personal philosophy is to never create a situation that would keep someone from getting the rest they need. I was the quiet roommate that made a point to keep the noisy friends out of the apartment. I live within headphones and tiptoe around the house in the mornings. I will never wake someone from slumber unless 1) they asked me to with exact specificity of the time and manner they want to be woken or 2) the building is on fire.

There is a widely held belief that a noble, patriotic human will work eight out of every 24 hours. “8 to work, 8 to sleep, 8 to do with as you please,” goes the old union chants. In those days they were fighting to reduce a workday to 8 hours. The boss may have money, but you got the life, man.

Once humans got in the habit of enslaving one another it became almost a game to see who could extort the most effort out of another person for the least amount of reward. Less carrot, or less stick, whatever the case there was always someone who would feel outrage when they saw someone not working. Lazy? Privileged? Why do I not get to rest?

Protestant Work Ethic, am I right? Work hard and live frugally and you will be saved by the lord! You could go so far as to say that being upright and working from dawn till dusk is what built this country in those early, pre-colonial years. But looking through The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (just the presence of the word capitalism means something wicked is coming) posits that everyone has a vocation, and serving their vocation is their duty to god.

Also, Franklin writing: “Money can beget money, and its offspring (interest) can beget more.” How “making money out of money” can be a godly devotion is beyond me.

The naps came to me in the pandemic years. These years are a defined era for everyone. Your folks remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, most of us remember when the Towers fell, and I think it would do a lot of good for us to remember the feeling of those pandemic years. I determined there were only so many hours in a day one could stare at a screen, and no one seemed to care if I spent the afternoon in a hammock.

circa Spring 2020 – before I moved to the other porch

As I write this, I know I’m lucky. I know I’m fortunate.

The hammock hangs from eye-screws I installed in the support beams of the back porch. The entirety of the porch is screened-in to keep the bugs at bay, and the ceiling fan pushes through just enough breeze to keep the humidity from taking me out. The setup is on the shady side of the house, I’m rarely disturbed by whatever lost solicitor or delivery person who manages to make it down our driveway.

There should be a hammock in or around every house. The kind of sleep you get while in a hammock is unlike anything you could possibly get in a traditional bed. The hammock carries the implication of ultimate laziness – one that I embrace to this day. Whenever I sit down long enough to write it, I’ll be calling it The Hammock Manifesto.

I blame AdTech for ruining my perception of work and naps. When the internet never turns off, when people are browsing websites 24 hours in a day, there is never not an opportunity to capitalize on something. The cashflow is always weird and can stop suddenly. All it takes is one bit of glitchy code or a clueless website administrator that separates whether you get a massive bonus or if you’re looking for a new job at the quarter.

So you’re “on” at every moment, checking in on dashboards to make sure numbers were still numbering. Time is money and it always keeps flying by.

Phones aren’t great for naps. Trust me, I know the appeal of kicking back and scrolling the feeds while on the couch or in bed. For a nap to work, no phones. Eyes. Closed. Or, as I’ve heard it put, “couch, or phone, not both.”

A recent metadata analysis estimated (need to refind this link) that humans work about 2.1 hours a day. Total average, across the entire population, including outliers. It’s a messy number to work with, but you have to wonder if maybe we were only supposed to work work for two hours a day? The actual two hours for the hunt or building a shelter or whatever.

By my estimate my dog sleeps 22 hours a day. She’s doing fine. She is a statistic.

I’m partial to caffeine naps. When I can’t stand the idea of sitting upright while writing on the computer anymore, especially in the summer, I drink about 6 ounces of cold brew coffee as fast as I can and then knock out for 20 or 30 minutes. This usually happens around 2 in the afternoon. By the time 2:30 hits the caffeine is metabolized and buzzing and I get a pretty good focus for the rest of the day.

If I were smarter, I would block out this time on my calendar. I have definitely napped through calls and meetings that expected my participation.

Other nappers suggest going for a full-on sleep experience. As in: darken the room, get down to your pajamas and wrap yourself in the covers for a REM cycle or two. When you wake up an hour later, shower and put on a new change of clothes as though you are just waking up for the day. Just like that, you’ve doubled the number of days in your year! There is an entire chapter about napping in Dwight Garner’s The Upstairs Delicatessen

There is a lot to be said about mid-day naps and creativity. I would put it here, but I feel such a topic demands a post of its own.

I admire the Nap Bishop. Tricia Hersey has made her position well-known: there’s no need to be working this hard. In her book, Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto (I do love a good manifesto) goes deep into how the grind of capitalism is destroying the human spirit and the spirit of humanity.

“Productivity should not look like exhaustion. The concept of laziness is a tool of the oppressor. A large part of your unraveling from capitalism will include becoming less attached to the idea of productivity and more committed to the idea of rest as a portal to just be.”

The last thing I read from Hersey was about her upcoming Summer Sabbatical. No work, no contact, no email, and not bothering to give her attention to anything that isn’t worth her time – something that she determines.

“Release the shame you feel when resting. It does not belong to you.”

Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto