Friday, April 29, 2011

Sleep should be EZ...

I had an unusual sleep experience last Tuesday night. Or was it Wednesday morning? Matters not. I was staying in a hotel, alone, away from home on a short business trip. I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep when away from home alone, but that had not been the case the evening before, although it was a bit late, 11 PM-ish, before I turned out the lights. Once the lights were out, I drifted off quite quickly, as I often do. The hotel provided a pretty good bed--not too firm, not too soft, it neither sagged nor poked me. After an indeterminate time, I awakened from a deep sleep with no sense of how long I had been asleep. As there were no noticeable sounds and no light leaking in past the curtains, I figured it to not yet be morning. I felt no need to get up, so I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and continued to lie in the bed. I was lying on my back, arms to my side and legs slightly apart. Under my head was a single soft but firm pillow. Over my torso a sheet and very light blanket. And here is the strange part: I continued to lie there without motion, only breathing, but very much awake. For a long time. And I didn't care that if was awake or asleep. Now, normally during sleep time, if I don't go back to sleep after awakening I get impatient. I count backward from 1000, I try deep breathing, I try to consciously clear my mind, desperate to get back into sleep, I wind up twitching and itching, tossing and turning, moving the pillow(s) here then there, pulling up then tossing off the covers. But this time none of that. I was totally relaxed, almost unaware that my body existed and not the least disturbed that I was lying there awake. Was this a zen-like trance? I wouldn't know, but it surely was pleasant. I didn't sleep; I didn't dream. Yet this seemed better. I could feel myself getting rested--almost transcendental as if I could SEE myself getting rested. My limbs didn't protest, neither my nose nor my ears itched, I was only barely aware of my breathing. The only other time I've experienced anything even close to this feeling was once, years ago, when I paid for a 20-minute session inside a floatation tank. These devices are designed to provide stress relief through short-term sensory deprivation. Just bigger than a coffin, they are half-filled with 98.6 degree salt water. One climbs in, naked, and floats. The machine has imperceptible currents, equal in the water from from all four sides, so that you remain floating without touching the chamber walls. Soft ambient lighting and music fade away until it is dark inside, and quiet. In this way you lose track of nearly everything but your breathing, and, after a while, your heart beat. At the end of the session, the light slowly fades up and music becomes noticeable, very faint at first, until you are "back" in your conscious state. I can't speak to the long-term health or emotional benefits of a session in one of these tanks, but I can say that I felt pretty good after the session. My sleep experience this past week was even better, as there was no vestige of claustrophobic feelings in my bed. I did eventually go back to sleep, as my alarm awakened me at 5:30 AM. I have no idea how long I stayed in my zen-like state. I think I may have been able to stay there forever if not acted upon by some outside force. It was truly blissful. When I got up I felt as rested as I can recall feeling. Don't know how I got there, there were no drugs involved, but I'd volunteer to go back any time if I knew how! For once, something nice really was EZ!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Even a simple drive may not be EZ.

Today I drove from Washington, DC to Dayton, Ohio. I had to "ferry" a company-owned vehicle from a closed-out jobsite in DC to a current jobsite at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Not a bad drive, about 550 miles, took a bit less than 11 hours what with stops and all. I got to drive through some truly beautiful scenery. The little truck ran good and no real incidents to complain of. There was one 18-wheeler off the road which held up traffic for about 20 minutes, but no one was hurt. The truck was off the road because of the snow. That's right, four inches of fresh unplowed snow on the road in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia on the 2nd of April, 2011. The road only climbs to 3,295 feet above sea level there, which represents the Eastern Continental Divide in the Appalachian Mountains, between Strasberg, VA and Elkins, WV, still, the snow came down with a vengeance. The roads there climb, drop, and wind, and are mostly narrow two-lane roads, so there was a stretch of about 50 miles that I probably only averaged about 20 MPH driving on very slippery snow. One of the most interesting sites: Wardenville, WV. I approached the town from the Virginia side on a wide, smooth, two-lane road. Once through the town, the road, for a short distance, is a wonderful four-lane divided expressway. But in the town itself? Main Street, an integral part of the highway, is unpaved, rough, muddy, and narrow. Single story frame buildings with covered front porches are scattered along a board-walk-like sidewalk, and many people were out and about, visiting, or just watching the (very little) traffic. I felt like I'd stepped back into the 19th century. Main Street was only about four blocks long, then through the time warp and back to today.