Out on parole?
Whilst living ashore, 7 hours of sleep is quite sufficient for me. After a particularly busy day, or maybe after a day outdoors with lots of fresh-air, 8 hours is preferable, sometimes even a bit more given exceptional circumstances. It has been quite concerning however to note that this cruising lifestyle has changed sleep patterns to extremes. It seems quite normal now to be able to sleep 10 hours and even more on occasion. Exhaustion at the end of a day is overwhelming sometimes, and sleep overtakes me within a minute or two of my head hitting the pillow! The cruisers joke is, that a “cruiser’s mid-night” is 9:00pm. I began thinking about the phenomena of changing sleep patterns and came up with, what I think, are some interesting observations ………. so here goes:
We recently watched the movie “Shawshank Redemption .“ I had seen it once before, and thoroughly enjoyed it the second time. It is based on an apparently true account of life in prison and the effects of long term incarceration on humans. Acting the part of an institutionalized inmate of several decades, in the movie, Morgan Friedman shares thoughts on why it is difficult, if not impossible, to be released into the “outside-world” and be happy after 30 or 40 years in prison. He waxes eloquent about eventually becoming “comfortable” with the predictability of a regimented prison-life. After some years, most inmates find a groove of comfort in their existence. The point is driven home when the prison librarian is finally released after serving time of 40 years. Living in a halfway-house, he gets a job as a supermarket cashier-helper and bagger and struggles with the difficulties of making huge daily decisions, a new concept for him. Am I able to go to the washroom without asking for permission? Am I able to use my discretion to double-bag heavy items? Do I have permission to make small talk with customers? What are the consequences of taking such huge risks? Will I be judged? Sadly, he commits suicide after just several weeks out of prison. After being institutionalized for most all of his adult life, the freedom to make choices is emotionally debilitating. He is unable to cope with the daily struggle of facing unpredictable events. So many years of simply following rules and having his daily life regulated by superiors was comforting. His prison life was simple and predictable. The consequences of taking a risk were well defined. Now at the close of each day the newly released prisoner is exhausted and worn out. He drops into bed and falls into a dead sleep.
So, here Tony is, now sleeping up to 10 hours a day and trying to figure out what is causing this ridiculous and stupid pattern. Then it hit me! I have been institutionalized for almost 50 years! Life was somewhat predictable. Daily routines were prescribed by outside convention. The morning alarm wakes one and it is necessary to follow a set routine to get out the front door and to the office by the mandated time. Coffee break arrives. Work away at the computer until lunch-time and take another break. Back to the safety and comfort of the desk producing yet more reams of paper, reports, analysis and the things with which one has become comfortable.
Now everything is different! I am out of my prison, no longer am I institutionalized! Every day is a new experience, a new surprise around every corner. Nothing can be taken for granted. The weather is unpredictable. Equipment is capricious. If it malfunctions, there is no technician to call, it has to be torn apart and somehow fixed. Route planning on the sailboat is a crap-shoot, weather seems to have its own mind. Routine? What is routine? One never quite knows what the next minute will bring, let alone the next hour. Even when going ashore, life is tricky. How well will the anchor hold? Where can we tie-up the dinghy? Where is the supermarket? Where is West-Marine? Will the Canadian Credit card work? Will I get change from bus-fare?
Everything becomes a stretch. New experiences assault us every day. Sometimes it becomes a bit over-whelming, particularly to those of us who have lived an “institutionalized” life for so many decades. No wonder we are exhausted at sundown! No wonder we can sleep for 10 hours! Of course, the fresh air may have something to do with it as well, who knows?