Some years ago, a study was done that followed around 5,000 parole hearings. The researchers were curious to discover trends in decisions to grant parole or not. They did, indeed, find a strong correlation and while you might think it was to how regretful the imprisoned people seemed or how productively they used their incarceration or the nature of the crime for which they were convicted, it was none of those things.
The greatest single correlation of whether a person got parole or not was how long it had been since the judge had eaten. The longer it had been, the less likely it was that parole would be granted.
Now, the judges would never have guessed that nor would they, I would imagine, ever agree to the truth of that finding. No doubt, from the bench they quoted great thinkers and ethicists, law precedent and social norms – things that they believed wholeheartedly in the moment. And it’s not to say that whatever lofty ideals they attached their ruling to weren’t perfectly reasonable or logical. It is to say, though, that they might have chosen different perfectly reasonable, logical ideals upon which to rule had they a Kind Bar by their gavel.
We all tend to underplay the biological contribution to our now. Optimism may color our reality a lovely shade of rose, but our sight tends toward a prickly shade of red when hunger – or tiredness – get involved.
Yesterday, Theresa and I got home from a weekend trip to see family. We had found a passable motel that took pets and then spent both nights of the trip being woken abruptly and repeatedly by a piercing howl as her dog alerted to every new noise and person passing on the sidewalk in front of our door. Between the exhaustion from two nights of interrupted sleep and a desire to get Theresa home as quickly as possible due to an unfortunately-timed cold, I chose to buck our habit of taking the longer, quieter drive home in favor of a highway that I assumed would be a little less packed on a Sunday. I was wrong about that. Very, very wrong.
By the time we got home, we were both ragged as our psyches did their magic of transforming our exhaustion into stories, telling us there were problems at hand, things to discuss, emotional or relational reasons we both felt frayed and discombobulated.
And the truth is, sometimes our exhaustion and hormones and hunger are weakening the defenses we put between ourselves and our less comfortable emotional realities. Sometimes, the dirt does wear away during those times, revealing the luster of gold. But it’s probably not the gold rush our emotional selves interpret it to be, and it sure isn’t the time for mining; first, we need to build strength – and gain perspective – with a healthful meal and solid night of rest.
I’d like to say that I’m so grounded on this stuff that I didn’t get hijacked by the stories the exhaustion was telling me but I’d like to be honest with you even more. So, I tried to stay centered and then I said something more harshly than either of us preferred, and then I excused myself for a walk that I cut very short in order to return and apologize. I laid down to read for a little bit, took a hot shower, heated some dinner for us which we ate while watching a heart-melting episode of Queer Eye, and waited quietly for the restoration I knew would come from a solid night of sleep.