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« Exile and homecoming | Main | Two worlds collide on the 58 tram »

Take a nap

How encouraging to read on these pages last week (Caitlin Fitzsimmons, 27/4/17) that such august personages as Winston Churchill, Ingmar Bergman, Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin were habitual nappers. (One is forced to wonder if high-achieving females also napped; maybe they were too busy.) Darwin, apparently, punctuated 90-minute work intervals with naps and long walks in the countryside. Working longer, it appears, doesn’t necessarily mean working better.

Reading this I feel vindicated, as I am a fanatical walker and napper. It probably started growing up in the tropics, where people are more likely to nap after lunch (many shops and facilities in India still close for two or three hours in the heat of the afternoon), and continued when I was up at night feeding babies and a daytime nap, when achieved, became a matter of survival.

These days my kids are long gone, and I work from 9 to 5 in an office in the city, but only four days a week, and from Friday to Sunday, unless something very unusual is happening, I nap after lunch. Sometimes I conk out completely, waking dopey and disoriented after an hour of deep sleep. Other times I read for a bit and then drift off without actually sleeping – mind in low gear, body utterly relaxed. Some days I simply lie staring at the ceiling rose above our bed, a profoundly restful non-activity.

Granted, I will never be a Churchill, Bergman, Dickens or Darwin. But I have a gut feeling that their practice can be gainfully adopted for ordinary old run of the mill human beings like me. I know from decades of experience that taking a walk at lunch time on a work day, and sometimes sitting utterly still in a city church for a while, makes for a more productive afternoon at my desk. I know I have more writing ideas and deeper reserves of patience and humour when I rest adequately, which, for me includes regular siestas.

Also, I find the practice of napping is a failsafe guard against hubris. I love that Churchill was ‘apparently rigid about taking a daily afternoon nap followed by a bath, even during the darkest days of the war’. If the world could do without Churchill in the 40s, it can certainly do without me. I am not remotely indispensable, I am not particularly important. When I retreat to my bed after lunch, I am reminded of my small place in the universe. And I am reinvigorated to do my small part.

Published in The Melbourne Age 25 May

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Reader Comments (2)

I loved this Clare, saw it in the Age and followed your example - what bliss!

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Perrin

I once took an after lunch
nap behind the stacks in the DLT Library and woke to find the Librarian leaning over me trying to decide whether I had died or not. There are risks in nap taking!

June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRod

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