A Room of One's Own
When Madi was an infant, she was a good sleeper. Paul and I worked until 9:30 in the evening, so we put her to bed at midnight, and she would sleep till noon. Then about midafternoon, she would take a three hour nap. I’m not sure you could call it a nap when it lasted that long, but I didn’t quibble over labels. I merely said thank you, thank you, thank you, and got on with things that needed to be done.
When I was in college I took a nap almost every day. Of course I was up until the wee hours of the morning, so it was more necessity than luxury. I set my schedule to nap about halfway through a 24 hour period. I may have been onto something.
I read an article recently from the BBC that explained that sleeping eight hours straight is a fairly recent (relatively speaking) phenomenon. It was very common in early times for people to sleep up to four hours, get up and be active and then go back for what was called a second sleep. Artificial lighting changed everything and allowed us to increase our activities after darkness falls, and consequently our sleep has changed.
It’s those activities that seem to get me into trouble. I’ve been wrestling with it a lot lately. Last week I talked about the sabbath and how helpful it would be if only…. When I went on the silent retreat, I struggled more with slowing down than I did with being quiet.
I got a call this week that I have been trying to avoid for the last three years. I’d been exposed to Covid. One of my students was here and sat with me at a desk side-by-side for an hour. The next day, she tested positive. At this point, five days later, I’m still being cautious. I don’t feel like I have any of her symptoms, but I’m extraordinarily tired. I feel like I’m fighting off something, although it could very well be fatigue from having worked for too long without sufficient rest.
In order to help my immune system fight this, and to protect Paul should I come down with Covid, I removed myself to the guest room which also doubles as my office.
At first I was frustrated with being out of commission, with being stuck in this room. But then I looked around at the sunny yellow walls of what is actually my favorite room in the house. Everything in this room has special meaning to me. It houses stacks and stacks of books all around the room, perfect miniature pinecones, the remainder of an eggshell from a robin’s nest, some deer antlers that I found in the yard, rocks from trips to the river, and a host of paintings and drawings including one of talking giraffes that make me smile every time I see it.
I made a cozy nest in the bed, pulled a book that was funny and an easy read from one of the stacks, placed my kale smoothie and a plate of brownies beside my bed, because life is about balance, and I settled in for a mandatory rest.
I still fervently hope and pray I don’t get sick, but this rest has been one of the nicest and most needed things to happen in a long time. It also allowed me to enjoy and be thankful for a space all my own. I think Virginia Woolf was right when she insisted that women need a room of their own; I feel like everyone might, and I’m also thinking about not telling anyone my covid test just came back negative.