He could hear bells chiming, sonorous, deep, foggily distant, floating somewhere near his head. It was a pleasant enough sound, somewhat like the joyous bell tower peeling of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence that he’d heard that cold March Easter Sunday morning, some months before, but more distant…. confusing because the pattern was short, only a few moments, and exactly repetitive. What was the bell ringer thinking?
After a moment, the chiming drifted away, as if a wind had shifted, carrying their peeling in a different direction, and then returned, as if the wind changed again. Beautiful.
For a time, he lost them completely. How long was that? A few seconds? An hour? He couldn’t be sure. Then they returned more clearly, louder, insistent, as if their bell tower were drifting toward him, looking for him.
He listened intently, trying to place them, then opened his eyes and sat up, the room completely dark. Where were the bells?
To his right, he concluded.
In the pitch-black, he reached hesitantly toward them…where were they, exactly?…until his hand touched his iPhone.
“Ah,” he concluded, “switching off the sound. “My 2:30 am alarm.” Disappointing! The bells had sounded so very beautiful.
He’d flown west to California to work for a week, the week before his planned family vacation on Cape Cod with his wife and two adult children. It had been several years since the four of them had been together for a week. Occasionally, he felt almost giddy, excited to see them.
Consequently, he’d decided to operate on East Coast time during the California week so that, despite the sleep loss during the overnight flight from Long Beach to Boston on Friday night, he’d be fully ready to embrace them on Saturday without jetlagged slogginess.
The downside to this, of course, was that he had go to sleep early by California standards. “Me and the three year olds,” he said later, “climbing into bed at 7:30 pm while there was still plenty of daylight and plenty of time to play before dark.”
To accomplish this reliably, he called on years of conditioning, his well-worn bed-time routine. A 30 minute walk, a light snack, a half-cup of water, shower, teeth, a few minutes of music while lying on his back in bed, then roll over on his right side, left leg drawn up, and drift gently down into the darkness and sleep. The only change he made during this California week was to draw the heavy hotel room drapes before he went for the walk so the room would be dark upon his return.
“Slept like a log,” he said. “Despite the voice in my head complaining that it was only 7:30, you’re missing the sunset, not getting to the beach, not having dinner with everyone else, and blah, blah, blah, I drifted off each night, very easily. The routines – the walk, the darkness, the shower, and so on – cued the rest of me to do what I needed to do, never mind my thoughts or feelings.”
Years before, he recalled, he’d interviewed a top performing sales person, notable for his consistency as well as his top-level results. “I asked him, ‘Don’t you ever have off days or weeks when you’d rather be doing something else than this?’”
“We were having a quick lunch in a North Beach coffee place on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco. He looked up at me, silent for a moment, and said, ‘I have good days, I have bad days, and I sell whether I feel good or not, whether I’m tired or not, whether I really want to sell that day….or not. I sit down at 7:30,make my plan for the day, pick up my phone, and start making calls… Exactly the same, every day.”
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