It’s almost time for bed now and I’m reminded of the best nights of sleep I’ve ever had. It was during the summer of 1999 while I was in basic training. Summer in South Carolina is hot and humid for everyone, but I imagine for soldiers in basic training, the elements are even more pronounced. Sand, sweat, and shared washers meant sometimes we’d suffer rashes in the worst possible places. Still, I slept. I slept from the moment my head touched the pillow until the lights flooded the bay and we all ran down to formations below to suffer together.
I’ve recently read about how humans sleep in isolation compared to how they sleep in groups. While they’re in groups, particularly with their families, they tend to have a better night’s sleep. They wake less frequently because they feel safer. They’re less vulnerable. That made me think about basic training. Certainly those men had become like family and I never felt in danger. Have I ever felt like that sleeping alone? Well, yes. When I’ve been exhausted.
Or . . . when I’m on a couch.
When I was a child, I would spend a lot of time with my grandparents and I’d sleep in their living room on the couch. They had cable television with premium channels and I was an adolescent male. I’d rarely finish a movie I started, instead drifting off and waking the next morning to the smell of coffee, bacon, and eggs along with the occasional cigarette. Even now, at least six years since I last found myself sleeping on my grandmother’s couch, I can feel the texture of the pillows, smell the blanket, and know just how to get comfortable among the cushions, pillows, and arms.
Couches, designed to seat multiple people, do a decent job of comforting one. I once had a theory that couches force you into the fetal position. As you’re in the fetal position trying to get comfortable, the couch then spoons you and, honestly, how can you not fall asleep and stay asleep when you’re primed like that?
We spend a lot of time sleeping and, perhaps, even more time losing sleep over things we could likely do without. Pacing physically or internally about things instead of relaxing, secure in our place in the world. I don’t mean to generalize or trivialize real problems, but we’re missing out and maybe our couches can help.
As I start on this project, I’ll be sleeping on a lot of couches (there’s an app for that) but I think I’ll be awake when it’s important. I’ll need to be to notice who is around and what they’re doing, and to figure out why. It’s not about couches, really, but about having a place to relax, people to talk to, and stories to share.
Sure it is, but next time you come across an unsuspecting couch, take a seat, turn off the devices and the television, and then talk, with an honest attempt to listen in the most charitable ways possible, with those humans around you. See what happens.
Oh, and if you’re alone, take a nap — couches are great for that.
I had meant to discuss an association with water and rest in this post, whether feeling at peace viewing the ocean from the shore or finding myself absolutely exhausted after swimming in a hotel pool. There’s time for that later.
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