Remember when you were a kid and you’d look up at all the things that adults did and you’d go – WHY? Well, I don’t wonder anymore.
// Passing out after work
My stepfather worked in construction so he was on his feet most of the day. When he came home he’d open up a can of Coors Light and smoke a cigarette in his armchair. It wasn’t unusual for him to then fall asleep. His head tilted back with his mouth open, his hand still clutching the silver can and a burning cigarette. He burned a hole in the fabric of the couch before. One time I carefully removed the cigarette from between his fingers and put it out. Another time I watched the cigarette burn until it hit the filter.
This weekend during a break between classes, my colleagues and I looked at one another with bloodshot eyes. We teach six hours on Saturday and Sunday so by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, we’re pretty exhausted. We confessed that sometimes we fall asleep by 8.30. My BF likes to talk about that time when he came home from school, face-planted into his bed, and passed out with his teacher clothes and shoes still on.
// Drinking, smoking, and zoning out in front of the TV
I started smoking Virginia Slims in college in an effort to be cool. Turns out smoking cigarettes are highly addictive but I managed to quit after a friend pointed out I had a problem. Although once I started teaching first graders in Portland Oregon, it became a habit again. I’d race home, sit on my back deck, and light that sucker up. The day would replay around me and I’d wonder at the pure exhaustion that was teaching.
Another colleague confessed that it was a glass of wine or a bottle that topped off her evening. I remember when my brother told me, “I now understand why our stepfather drank after work.” There’s something about using substances to take the edge off. Wine or beer seems perfectly natural and wonderful to me now, and I’ve never been a big drinker.
I’ve also never been a TV addict but these days I don’t mind watching YouTube after a full day of teaching. I round off my evening by reading in bed, too. I’m very mindful of how much TV or drink I have. I don’t want to waste my time but I also know that I deserve a break and watching standup comedy so I can laugh my head off is not a waste of my time.
As a child it felt like TV was a fun indulgence but as an adult, TV feels more like a way to take a break from the day, the worries, and the stress.
During my freshman year of high school, I would go to my friend Keitha’s house on a regular basis. Her mom would almost always be napping on the couch. My mom is also a big napper. It was ritualistic for to read her Thai newspaper and magazines, and then for her to retire to her bedroom or couch to rest.
I never understood people’s need to sleep in the middle of the day unless they were not feeling well. I tried napping and didn’t like it. I would be groggy for what felt like hours after waking up. I felt useless afterward. I didn’t get it so I didn’t do it.
But an interesting thing happens when you get older; you have a harder time sleeping at night. (This obviously isn’t the case for everyone.) I remember when I was on Whidbey Island doing my teaching practicum and my mentor was taking me along to do some errands. He brought me to a natural foods store where he purchased some sort of herbal remedy for sleeping.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“Do you have problems sleeping?”
“No, not really.”
“You will,” he held up the white bottles, “this helps.”
When I was in Siem Reap, I remember discussing with some colleagues my problem with not getting enough sleep at night.
“Oh, Peter, and I was just talking about this. I’ll give you this meditation exercise that’s supposed to help.” My friend said.
And then when I talked to Peter he said, “I have some pills you might be interested in taking.”
“Uh, I don’t know. I don’t want to get addicted to anything.”
“I understand. Just take them every once in a while. They’re very mild and gentle.”
It took me a long time to finally try one but when I did, I was in heaven. It worked! I used them when I really needed to get in some sleep and was careful not to abuse them. But then we moved to Thailand and I could no longer get them. So my boss suggested a natural product called 5-HTP. It worked for the first time but never after that.
Funnily, when I was explaining the sleep issue to another friend, he said, “Why don’t you just drink beer?”
What about you? What do you understand now that you are an adult?