I thought I would “grab a nap.” I pushed my brown, soft recliner back and turned off my phone. Took off my glasses, closed my eyes, and . . . . . You guessed it—awake. I had been sleepy, but then when I positioned myself to sleep, I couldn’t.
So, I got up and read a brief essay, “Sleeping it Off” by Adam Phillips in his book, On Balance. He reflects on how sleeping is the only thing we desire that we can’t describe when we get it. It is a desire that no one else can satisfy for us, but it is something that others can keep us from getting. (Especially when they are living in our heads and are causing anxiety because we can’t resolve our issues with them).
So, I began to see that sleep was something that I could not grab, take hold of, possess, but sleep is something that comes over me. I can’t go get it. I have to submit myself to not trying, not working at it, for it to come to me.
Mr. Phillips then suggests that our relationship to sleep and our desiring it may say something about how we find satisfactions for many of our desires. “If we took sleep as our preferred picture of an object of desire, began to see desiring as more like desiring sleep, we would be doing things very differently. We would, for example, see satisfaction as something we had to relinquish ourselves for, and we would relish anticipation and longing. And we would never think that reporting back was possible or the point.” (84)
And so, instead of a nap, I am here with a new way of thinking about desire and satisfaction. I can now see that anticipation and longing are what life is made of, seldom satisfaction. And I can relax into my hopes as I look forward to what will be. And it is liberating to know that I don’t have to try to explain it to myself. Relinquishing control might just help me relax enough that I can give into the gifts of life that overtake me.