When I was a kid I would visit my grandparents at their home in Burnaby, B.C. Their property was three-quarters of an acre and featured exotic treats like apple trees, blackberry bushes, rope swings, and a large garden. The rear of the property bordered a lush, west coast gulley.
These surroundings afforded me the opportunity to explore new places, learn about unfamiliar flora and fauna, and generally run amok in the high octane way that children enjoy. My favourite activity was to stand on the back porch and practice target shooting with the slingshot my grandfather used to scare birds and squirrels away from his fruit.
But amidst this boundless array of novel activities, there existed a ritual that struck me as a cruel punishment: nap-time.
In the middle of the afternoon all household ballyhoo would cease — with the expectation that everyone would lie down for a quick snooze.
I don’t think I actually slept much during these inconvenient intermissions, but rather I waited restlessly for the sound of adults getting up, which meant I could resume my ruckus.
It’s not just that I didn’t like nap-time; I didn’t get it. How could anyone consider sleeping in broad daylight to be a positive use of precious time?
My how things have changed.
Now, I’m a quarter century older and I’m tired all the time. Day after day, week after week, I wake up sleepy, and go to bed exhausted, and exist somewhere along that spectrum the whole day. Even when I ply my nervous system with caffeine I can tell the alertness I feel is just a veneer, covering deep-seated drowsiness.
The upshot of this modus operandi is that there a very few moments in a given day when I would turn down a short sleep if one was offered to me; nap-time has ceased to feel like a prison sentence and has come to resemble an all-too-rare oasis.
And I doubt I’m alone.
Regarding Canada in the 21st century, I have collected a mountain of anecdotal evidence that suggests a lot of our adults are tired a lot of the time.
“How are you today?” I ask someone.
“Pretty good. Kind of tired,” he or she typically replies.
I’d be overstepping my authority if I used such conversations as evidence that our particular culture slowly grinds the life out of its adults. Perhaps tired adults have been a feature of every society at every stage of human history — a fact of life.
Still, the contrast is striking;
As a youngster, when I was presented with the wonder of the world, I would want to go and go and go and go and go.
As a grown up, I’d prefer to go take a nap.