You’re expecting a metaphor, aren’t you?
The truth is I took an honest-to-goodness nap today. And it’s so important, I’ve actually decided to write about it.
It wasn’t a particularly exceptional nap in any regard other than the fact that I actually took one. A lot of times, I think about resting. Occasionally, I even make declarations about napping. But. I seldom follow through.
More often than not, when I try to sleep, I make mental lists. I think of all the things I could be doing. The lessons I could plan, the freelancing I could complete, the things I could declutter, the offhand remark I made when I had coffee with a friend a few weeks ago that suddenly merits replaying 87 times. My brain is anything but quiet.
The other day, a friend explained that his partner is a “head on the pillow and out” sleeper. But he said that he really takes some time to turn his mind off. “It takes me a good 10 minutes.”
I was floored. Unless I’ve taken Benadryl or been knocked unconscious, there is no way I sleep like that. Bedtime, naptime, it simply isn’t happening. I am not a good sleeper. Period. No amount of exercise, melatonin, or meditation matters.
I suck at sleep. But I also seem to have mostly decided that I’m not deserving of rest. And that’s a problem.
The Hustle Culture
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
We’ve heard it, said it, and thought it. Now, thanks to social media, the notion of grinding 24/7 pulses across the Internet. We wear our busy-ness like a badge of honor, inventing new ways to look and feel more productive. It’s a permanent state of being.
The fact that we’ve decided that hustling is the ultimate panacea is wildly problematic. Yet, we don’t just grit our teeth to get by. Instead of powering through, we promote it. We no longer encourage and expect busy-ness of only ourselves; we expect everyone to hustle harder.
Don’t make enough money? Hustle.
Don’t like your job? Start a business.
Want to take a vacation? Pick up a side gig.
Can’t cover your medical bills? Hope you can still walk dogs for Rover.
I can’t think of that last time that someone discussed a problem without someone else suggesting more work as the ultimate remedy. Hard work has its merits. In fact, going to work is something to be proud, whether you love, like, or hate your job. But the idea that work is the ultimate–or even only–hallmark of success is frightening and dangerous. Yet, we all seem to have made peace with it if Instagram is any indication.
I Was Raised Busy
A body in motion tends to stay in motion. That Newton was a smart cookie. It’s not just a law of physics, it’s also the story of my life.
While I’d love to blame the idea of busy-ness on society as a whole, I’ve been busy since birth. I was raised this way. For as long as I can remember, my parents worked. In fact, my mom has retired with a full pension not just once, but twice. And she now helps raise my son and works part-time.
My dad owned and ran a shop for over three decades, and he’s still always tinkering. When he’s not also helping raise my son.
It’s isn’t just that my parents both worked, but they truly enjoyed their work. And I feel very much the same. I was raised to see it not just as a source of pride, but also an opportunity to socialize with peers and contribute to society. Instead of pressuring me into anything, my parents pushed me to do something I loved.
But that opportunity didn’t come from just anywhere. Part of why my parents were willing and able to let me pursue my passion is because they worked so hard to lay a solid footing for our family. They loved their work, and the sheer quantity that did was never lost on me.
My dad was responsible for me in the mornings because my mom left for work at 3 am. He’d pull rollers out of my hair (#80sbaby) and do his best to perfect my ponytail. Then, we’d climb in his car or his tow truck and head off to daycare. (Where, more than once, my teacher tried to give him a quick lesson in hair dressing. Thank goodness side ponytails were trendy because that’s where my bow landed most days.)
My mom wasn’t the only working all sorts of odd and awful hours. Before he started his business, my dad had all sorts of jobs. Graveyard shifts, split shifts, he worked constantly. Much of their busy living happened prior to my birth, and my parents still reminisce about their ability function on a single hour of sleep–a “One Hour Martinizer”–as a means to balance work and life.
(Clearly, they have no idea just how old that saying makes them. My mom shares a birth year with good ol’ Martin.)
The world is busy. My family is busy. My own life is busy.
And for me, many times, this busy living is very much a choice.
To be clear, busy is a fine choice, as long as it is, in fact, a choice. More often than not, though, I find myself getting swept up in a sea of expectations. When you live in a world where so many people see hustling as the means to a better life, it’s hard to slow down.
And that makes it all the more essential to pause.
My normal week consists of teaching full time, and freelancing for a half dozen or so clients while my son naps on weekends or sleeps at nights. Very regularly, I clock an extra 10, 20, or sometimes even 30 hours of work.
When people stop and ask me, “How do you do it all?”, I used to smile and shrug. When pushed, I had a litany of polite, non-committal responses.
But recently, I’ve started to tell the truth. Part of how I’m able to do what I do is I only sleep for five or maybe six hours a night most nights of the week. It isn’t the answer people want, but it’s a truth people need to hear.
It’s also why it’s so important for me to tell the world–and myself–that I took a nap. I slept for two full hours on a Sunday afternoon. There might have been a toddler’s foot in my side and an arm in my face for much of it, but I rested. And it made for a great day.
Busy isn’t the only way to live. Not always, at least not for me. Sometimes, building the kind of day that I want means sacrificing some rest. Other times, it means reclaiming it.
So Tell Me…How do you let yourself rest? And what can I do to turn myself into a person who falls asleep in 10 minutes?!
And also, if you’re not familiar with Tim Kreider’s “Lazy: A Manifesto”, consider this my Monday-morning gift to you. I listen to it at least once a quarter and have for years. Still, I aspire to be a fraction of the lazy that he is.