I’ve never been a napper. I’ve always been jealous of friends and family who can catch forty winks without breaking a sweat, and frustrated by my inability to rest while the Sun is out. Similar to my wariness of drugs and caution with alcohol, I have resisted the narcotic of sleep except between the socially sanctioned hours of 10 pm and 6 am. With strong Virgo planets and many hard aspects to Neptune, I’d rather remain on task, alert. My early life was so chaotic and uncertain that I suppose I grasped at structure and duty like a drowning woman pulling herself into a life raft. If I don’t fight the undertow of unconsciousness, I fear it will drag me under and drown me.
But relatively late in life, I have embraced The Nap. I suppose my sudden ability to succumb to sleep is thanks to transiting Neptune’s long passage through Pisces, a sign that has elevated napping to a fine art. I still work hard, but some days the world is so exhausting, so enervating, that I just want to escape from it for awhile. There are lots of ways to accomplish this – getting lost in a book, playing or listening to music, watching a movie; all have been favorite escapes of mine at one time or another. But lately my refuge of choice is the power nap, a 20-minute tonic for mind, body and spirit. Why, I find myself wondering, have I spent so many years resisting this restorative daily mini-vacation?
Each year when the Full Moon falls in Pisces, we’re asked to reacquaint ourselves with the value of retreat. Work, itineraries, and striving to become better, faster, and more accomplished, dominate our consciousness while the Sun moves through diligent Virgo. But as many of us know, overwork can lead us down wearying and unproductive paths. Work, order, and routine can be escapes too – from the big picture, the meaning of our lives – unless we periodically pause for reflection.
Besides, asks tolerant Pisces, do we really need to work so hard to be our best? “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow,” urged the Christ. “They neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” A point well taken, although my Virgo Mars feels compelled to point out that a lot of things don’t grow well at all unless some hard-working Virgo gardener tills the soil and keeps the weeds at bay.
The last time I napped on a regular basis was in kindergarten, when the afternoon nap was literally part of the curriculum. I’m sure this routine had its basis in the need to subdue the fatigue and resulting unruliness of growing children. Perhaps these days “naptime” has been replaced by Ritalin Hour. But in retrospect, napping really seems like a wise habit to teach kids, right up there with “time out.” I’m not especially familiar with the work of Robert Fulghum, but I note that he includes “having an afternoon nap” as one of the essential life lessons he learned from kindergarten. Once, I would have sneered at that notion. Now, I sort of think he has a point.
I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for my third book. My workdays are filled with plugging gaps, retooling awkward sentences, and trying my best to correct any lapses in logic or clarity. My tools―language, logic, and typing―are old friends, honed over decades until they fit my hand like a beautiful, well-worn glove. But though they’ve served me well, there are moments they aren’t quite the right tools for the job. Some days, the muse stubbornly refuses to show up for work. Years of writing on deadline have taught me to coax her out by simply showing up, planting myself in my chair, and stubbornly writing through droughts of inspiration. But sometimes, the only strategy that will summon the right image, example, or phrase is to simply step away for awhile.
And so, I’ve added napping to my toolbox. Several times each week I put away my brain and my clever, touch-typing fingers and I break out The Nap. For a brief, luxurious time, I let go of the past that propels me so punishingly in the present. For awhile, my imagination is freed from the constrictions of the identity I’ve created for myself. And when I awaken and my garden of lilies beckons, I somehow know exactly which are the tools that are needed for tending it―and when they simply need to be left alone, neither toiling nor spinning, simply soaking up the warm light of inspiration.
© 2009/2014 April Elliott Kent