My father always had dinner and fell asleep in his recliner after he came home from his construction job. A few hours later he would wake up, watch TV and go to bed at ten. Sometimes he would just take NyQuil and go straight to bed after his nap. Every morning he would get up at 5:30AM to start his day. He did that for 50 years. When I worked with him in construction for a few years before going to college, I followed the same pattern. Construction work was hard work. After starting my technical career 20+ years ago, I’ve never took naps after coming home and having dinner. Cleaning out IT storage closets wasn’t hard work. With my 48th birthday this week, I found myself becoming more like my father.
My technology job that pays the bills isn’t a physically demanding job. I get up at 4:30AM to get ready for work, take the express bus into Palo Alto, and start work at 7:00AM to catch up with the East Coast. Most of the time I’m pulling down spreadsheets with the latest Nessus scans, consoling hurt workstations and fixing broken users. Whenever I have downtime between tasks, while running scripts, or attending virtual meetings, I play with the trolls on Slashdot. After work I take the express bus home, have dinner and work on my side business — writing, publishing and promoting — until I go to bed at nine. I’ve done that for three years straight.
Something changed a few months ago. I started coming home, having dinner and taking a 90 minute nap in bed. I’ve never acquired the ability to sleep semi-upright in a recliner. The last time I fell asleep in my recliner was when I had my wisdom teeth pulled and my cheeks swelled up like a puffer fish in 2008. My father often slept in my recliner when he was working in town or visiting for the holidays. When he passed away from throat cancer five years ago, he died at home while sleeping in his recliner in front of the TV.
Maybe it’s the summer heat. My office is so cold that I have to wear a sweater for the entire day. When I step outside to wait 15 minutes for the express bus, I’m wilting like a flower in the heat. The AC on the express bus runs at full tilt, making it colder than my office. Once I get off the express bus, I’m walking home — and warming up — in the heat. These sudden temperature swings aren’t good for me. Taking naps is a good way to recover from that.
Or maybe it’s losing a pound per week. When I first got my digital bathroom scale, I weighed 370 pounds. I now weigh 357 pounds after 13 weeks. I’ve always felt the need to take a nap after working out at the gym on the weekends. The last time I felt this good physically was in my twenties when I rode my bicycle 100+ miles per week and my riding weight was 325 pounds. While my typical weekday isn’t as physically demanding as my weekend workouts, perhaps my body during the week requires nap time to build muscle and burn fat.
Or maybe I’m just getting old. I’m no longer the young person who can bound up the stairs with four loads of laundry in two baskets. I’m content to do only two loads at a time, making the extra trips to get everything done. My beard has gone snowy white; my brown hair is graying out. Something that didn’t happen to my father until he turned 55 and started demanding his senior citizen discounts at restaurants. Taking naps is just an indicator that I need to slow down and not be in a hurry.
Becoming like my father always scared me as a young person, mostly because I didn’t want to grow old and face my own my mortality. Now I’m accepting it as a necessity of life, a road map of what to expect in my middle age. One nap at a time.