44. On Sleep

Montaigne’s very brief essay about sleep is really about anxiety—as in, isn’t it amazing that in the face of truly monumental events in history, people have been able to get a good night’s sleep before them? And in true stoic fashion, Montaigne posits that perhaps the ultimate test of an outstanding leader is whether he or she could rest well before a life-changing event.

I know the answer for me is an emphatic no—I can lose a few nights sleep just wondering how a work meeting might go. My obsessiveness seems more at fault than straight up anxiety. My mind wants to play out everything that happens before it happens.

As I have written before, this is sometimes beneficial for me. When I have a big speech to write, I let my mind stew on it for as long as it takes to figure the speech out—then by the time I sit down to write it, it’s like I’m just typing. I have completed all the hard work.

In fact, that work meeting that tied me in knots over the weekend led to a similar result. I worked out so many ways to take charge aggressively of the encounter that when it finally played out, I could calmly steer the action in my direction without being so aggressive. (Side note: The I Ching is indispensable for anyone who believes aggressively taking charge is ever the answer.)

Does this mean that losing sleep described is then a good thing? I wouldn’t go so far as that. I have to take many cat naps these days to make up because I rarely sleep through the night. Fortunately, I have work that permits such behavior when no one is looking.

Montaigne, who saw the greatest glory among those on battlefields, would no doubt find me personally deficient in this personality quirk. But for me, I see it as just another life adaptation that I’ve learned to use to my advantage later in life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *