When confronted with an upcoming difficult or important task I tend to experience a sudden need to sleep. It occurs to me instinctively that a quick nap will better prepare me for the challenge ahead. I wonder if this is how my ancestors reacted when they were about to head out for a long hunt or battle. Perhaps they fell asleep wherever they happened to be, knowing that they would need to remain alert and not knowing when they would be able to sleep again.
This proclivity seems to assert itself whenever challenges lay ahead. I don't have to hunt to feed my tribe or battle to protect them but I have been confronted by exams, public speaking engagements, or first dates before which I have a sudden need to sleep even when I've had plenty of rest and the taking of time for such repose would be highly inconvenient or damming. I'm much more likely to be late for an important rendezvous than a minor one so I have a long history of disappointing and seemingly disrespecting people who know me.
In grade eight I wrote several comedy sketches for the holiday school assembly before the break. The skits weren't particularly original as they were likely heavily influenced by SNL, Second City or the British comedy shows that I watched religiously on TV. The final day was to be just half a day of music and comedy. We stayed after school the day before to rehearse. Everyone was excited and sure that the morning performance was going to be a hit.
The next morning I found myself waking up not before eight as I usually did but at eleven. I had never been that late for school, unintentionally. My mother, not knowing about the day's performance, said she had great difficulty waking me and thought I must be ill so left me to sleep in.
I finally got to school just as the show was wrapping up. I was made to wait outside the gym and my teacher came out to see me. I was unable to explain what happened other than to say that I slept in and was very sorry. She scolded me by saying how I had disappointed her and my classmates. She naturally interpreted it as a sign of disrespect and uncaring. I was crushed. A classmate had taken my place in the skits and one consolation was that they were apparently a big success and a source for much laughter.
It felt like I had missed my big break. Of course I imagined there would have been standing ovations and calls for "author, author" but even if it was received with slightly less enthusiasm I'm quite certain it would have encouraged me to continue with such things and perhaps I would not have lived with the longstanding regret of not pursuing a creative life.
More recently this proclivity to sleep in the face of challenges has presented itself in different ways. In times of emotional distress, such as one might feel in the course of long difficult discussions during what turns out to be a breakup, my eyes begin to droop and I feel a need to shut down. It is naturally interpreted as a sign of disrespect and a lack of caring for the import of the situation. Ironically, it is likely just the opposite. Because I realize the importance of the situation I instinctively need rest so that I can continue more effectively in the challenge.
These are perhaps just the convenient rationalizations of a sociopath but some people are known to experience a narcoleptic response to heightened emotional states. It might be a dysfunction of my psyche warranting censure but it certainly feels more like an irresistible physical response bred in the bone of my ancestors.