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Thomas Beller is the author of two books of fiction, Seduction Theory, and The Sleep-Over Artist, and a collection of personal essays, How To Be a Man. The Sleep-Over Artist was a NY Times Notable Book, and a LA Times Best Book 2000. A former staff writer at the New Yorker Magazine and the Cambodia Daily, he is currently a contributing editor at Travel and Leisure Magazine. He founded and for twenty years co-edited Open City Magazine, and created the literary website about New York, Mrbellersneighborhood.com. He divides his time between New York and New Orleans, where he teaches writing at Tulane University. Thomas Beller is author of the books two works of fiction, Seduction Theory, The Sleep-Over Artist, and an essay collection called How to Be A Man. He was a founder and editor of Open City Magazine, and of the literary web site devoted to New York City nonfiction, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. He contributes regularly to Travel and Leisure Magazine, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. He is currently working on a biography of J.D. Salinger, a novel, and essays. He teaches at Tulane University in New Orleans.

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The Most Infamous Nod-Offs: A Sleepy Dad’s Top 9

By Thomas Beller |

I have  become reluctant to go bed. I don’t mean I have difficulty falling asleep. I have developed a resistance to turning out the lights and calling it a day.  This isn’t a new thing, but with children the need for sleep is so acute and every minute counts. It’s become conspicuous. I stay up late, sometimes working, more often in a vague state of anticipation, as though my mind is a ship that will set sail just as soon as the fog clears.  It is late, but I hang on. Recently I have started to nod off.

Nodding off is not a nap. It’s more sinister. Sometimes it comes on like anesthesia, a heaviness. Sometimes it’s a velvet hammer, a blow. I see stars, then blackness. After some time has passed, I jerk awake. I am alone in my own home yet there is that vulnerable, almost shameful feeling one has after having fallen asleep on a crowded train with your mouth open.

This happens to people all the time, tiny narcoleptic intervals in life’s flow. I’ve been thinking of its many variations.

A partial list follows (and please let me know what I have left out):

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On Nodding Off

The Bored To Death In Class Nod-off

A classic of high school and junior high school. Sometimes preceded by inappropriate thoughts in either the sex or violence category, though that applies to most thoughts in high school and junior high. If it happens in college, without any chemical or medical reason, not a good sign. Professors who teach seminars, which are like dinner parties with everyone in a circle, do not have to deal with this, for the most part.

But these late at night nod-offs of mine are a category of its own. What to call them?

The Daddy Nod-off?

The Parent Who Is Caught Between Feeling Totally Excited At Having Time To Himself And Being Exhausted Nod-off?

And why now? Why, when everyone else is asleep, does staying awake seem so appealing?

I think I’m afraid of my dreams. I haven’t even had bad ones, recently. But just the fact of dreams is frightening, really. You spend so much energy trying to control what your kids are exposed to–their media, the environment, their school. You have to accept (or even embrace) the randomness of the world, it’s vagaries and cruelties. Bit the idea of getting an unpleasant news flash from your unconscious, the vulnerability that comes with receiving this information from within, may be too much.

Or maybe, as Marcelle Clements suggested, in her comment, we are waiting for a sense of familiarity with ourselves to return. We wait and wait. And while waiting, we nod-off.

Photo Credits: Wikicommons

 

Recent stories on The Examined Life:

The Dictator Within

The Orchid And The Ice Tray: The obstacles to beauty in everyday life

Mardi Gras Journal: “How to Talk To Your Husband When He’s Done Something Really Stupid”

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About Thomas Beller

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Thomas Beller

Thomas Beller is the author of two books of fiction, Seduction Theory, and The Sleep-Over Artist, and a collection of personal essays, How To Be a Man. The Sleep-Over Artist was a NY Times Notable Book, and a LA Times Best Book 2000. A former staff writer at the New Yorker Magazine and the Cambodia Daily, he is currently a contributing editor at Travel and Leisure Magazine. He founded and for twenty years co-edited Open City Magazine, and created the literary website about New York, Mrbellersneighborhood.com. He divides his time between New York and New Orleans, where he teaches writing at Tulane University. Read bio and latest posts → Read Thomas's latest posts →

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5 thoughts on “The Most Infamous Nod-Offs: A Sleepy Dad’s Top 9

  1. Marcelle Clements says:

    What a great piece.
    Yes, and everyone talks about parents fatigued because they are so often awakened by crying babies, but hardly anyone talks about the strange nocturnal hours in which parents keep themselves up just trying to return to themselves, and instead find themselves… nodding off.

  2. Eva S. says:

    What a great piece. Light, unencumbered, like a passing breeze. Makes one wish to read more of this writer, and travel in this unique multifaceted world.

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