I woke from an ill-conceived daytime nap recently to discover a cat sleeping on my elbow, my handmade childhood quilt folded down over me, and a pearly grey light, the kind you get when it's midafternoon and overcast, suffusing the room. I was still wearing my black dress clothes from my morning concert, and my hair was in my face. It's gotten long while I haven't been paying attention; a few months ago I was shocked to realize that, for the first time in years, tangles had re-entered my life. People compliment me on it, and that never fails to confuse me. I moved, the cat--it was Skip, Rita could never sit still in my immediate proximity for so long--turned to look at me reproachfully, and I made a noise somewhere between a sigh and a groan as I rolled onto my back.
I’ve never been a napper. In preschool I got in trouble for refusing to take part in naptime; eventually we reached an agreement with my teacher wherein I was allowed to read quietly while the other children slept (or pretended to sleep, I was never sure), because even at the age of four I was adamantly opposed to naps as a concept. (Unfortunately, when she left the room and the lunchtime aide showed up, away my book had to go because she refused to believe that I had permission to not sleep, which I sort of understand because who wants to argue with a four-year-old? But I still remember my indignation.) As an adult, my opposition came from the fact that sleeping during the day is a nearly surefire way to stay up all night. I walk a delicate balance most of the time between being too tired to stay up and just barely tired enough that I might be able to fall asleep at night, and upsetting the scales in either direction is to be advised against. At the most I'll lay down and practice deep slow breaths for a few minutes to reenergize myself, but sleep is usually right out.
That said, lately I've been napping. Frequently, like nearly every day, and yet somehow I'm still sleeping about as well as ever at night. Apparently the key is that I'm exhausted most of the time, drained of energy to the point where sometimes I don't even want to do anything, where I'm napping almost out of sheer boredom because everything else sounds too hard. (And seriously, if that’s what sleep requires, give me insomnia.) It's true that life has felt hyperactive lately, but on a deeper level, I think part of why I'm exhausted is emotional: I feel sad. Not all the time, because some days I feel good, great, wonderful, and not for any particular reason that I can pinpoint, but enough of the time that even when I feel good I rarely feel sparkly. I feel muted. Lately I've been annoyed because everything I write sounds the same, but I think it's because I'm trying to hold onto some of my wonder and amazement as it’s getting progressively buried behind layers of grey. It scares me because I feel like it’s impairing my ability to figure out the terrain inside of my head in any sort of helpful way, and the longer that goes on the more confused I feel.
The morning of my nap I'd been playing Mozart. I haven't played Mozart in a long, long time--nowadays I mostly play things that are so contemporary that I can't even necessarily read the notes right away--and the music made me feel peaceful. When I play Mozart, I am doing all the right things at all the right times, and I can feel my musician self, often dormant now as I play less and less, listening closely to everything around me, and I enjoy that. Mozart makes me happy, because I feel like I'm absolutely where I should be. I am in synch. In a time when my head is so full of uncertainty and vague dread, the feeling of rightness filled my brain and heart and fingertips and I felt calm. I felt that way again waking up from my nap several hours later, cat hair on my black dress pants and my own hair in my mouth, the warmth of my good cat sleeping on my elbow and the pearly sunlight. It felt like the day had been bookended by that feeling, except what had been surrounded by calmness was sleep.
Maybe I'm being hyperbolic, but lately a lot of things feel pretty shitty; I've been sad before, and this feels frighteningly familiar. But now I know what happy feels like too and I refuse to give up what I'd been hoping was just getting started. The thought makes me feel fierce. I absolutely refuse. Right now it often seems like the way I want to feel is just beyond my reach, shimmering like a will-o-the-wisp on the edge of my vision, but it’s not a figment or a mirage or unreal; it’s just something I haven’t gotten to yet. I will, but first maybe I need to cry a bit and let all of my plants die and rest for a little while before I get there. And so, if I seem a little more absent right now, if I write less or call you less often or seem more reserved, it's because I'm saving up my strength for the next step, for the tumble back into being the happiest shiniest best me I have to offer.