The Pajama Radius

At the monthly storytelling event that I attend I was introduced to a unit of measure that I didn’t know existed up to this point. It’s called the Pajama Radius. Basically, it’s how far you’re willing to go in your pajamas.

I immediately rushed home and Googled it. Much to my amusement, it is, indeed, a thing. It’s gotten quite a bit of discussion on line, particularly in blogs, so I’ll just be adding to the overall murmur, but I had to write about it because for some reason it just makes me happy that someone has come up with this concept.

I’m guessing that the average pajama radius extends out to one’s mailbox, or at least to the sidewalk to pick up the morning paper. (Remember those?) Heaven knows my neighbors have seen my jammies.

There isn’t much to see. In the winter I usually wear sweat pants and a sweatshirt. People who see me probably think I’m about to go out for a jog. (Ha! How little they know me.)

But I will posit the theory that if your Pajama Radius begins to increase and you find yourself going to the convenience store down the street, the grocery store a few blocks away, or dropping the kids off at school in your footie pajamas with the trap door in the back, then you might want to seriously contemplate your level of depression or your level of laziness.

But there’s something else to contemplate here. Why does anyone care? Why are pajamas supposed to be hidden from view? If I’m wearing a flannel ensemble with pink bunnies all over it, I’m still covered. My taste might be questionable, but my dignity should remain intact, more or less. And yet, it seems to be a point of shame or scandal.

I suppose it’s because pajamas in public are a symbol that you’ve given up. You’ve stopped caring. By not bothering to put on your “outside clothes”, you’re admitting to a lack of energy that society has decided is below the norm.

Am I the only one who sees how silly and arbitrary this is? Maybe that’s because I don’t sleep in anything that could even remotely be considered lingerie, and haven’t felt the need for a bathrobe in decades. I better watch out. I may be perched at the top of a slippery slope.

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Have you ever had one of those days? You get some really bad news. Your usually dependable go-to friend in times of crisis doesn’t want to hear it. There’s an unexpected and shockingly high bill in your mailbox. A health issue you’ve been trying to take care of takes a painful turn for the worst. Your job security seems less secure. You’ve got a pimple on the tip of your nose, and your car is making a funny noise. In short, the universe seems to have peed in your Post Toasties.

It’s hard not to get discouraged in times like these. It kind of makes you want to don flannel from head to toe and pull the sheets up over your head, with nothing but chocolate truffles for company. (Actually, I pretty much always want chocolate truffles for company.)

Today I parsed the word discouraged for the first time. According to, “dis” is a Latin prefix meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” or having a privative, negative, or reversing force.

So discouraged means an utter lack of courage. That works for me. Sometimes you just can’t work up the energy to be brave, and you therefore feel as if you’ve lost before you even go into battle. It’s a self-defeating spiral.

When I feel this way, I try to reach for whatever life ring I can get my hands on just to keep from sinking. So I’ll offer you this one for free. It’s the song Hang On Little Tomato by Pink Martini. It works even better if you mix it with chocolate truffles.

Darkness Revealed

When I drive to work at night it’s a completely different experience than when I work a day shift. Even the nuclear power plant, normally a blight upon the landscape, looks beautiful. It is all lit up and floating in a sea of blackness like a nighttime cruise heading for the Bahamas.

The traffic flow is different as well. There’s less of it, and although it seems like a more lawless group of drivers, and definitely a more alcohol-soaked one, it feels safer. This is a dangerous illusion that requires one to be on the alert.

Criminals rule the night, or at least that is what Hollywood would have us believe. So there’s also this underlying sense of excitement and danger. Most people who are out at night are there either because they have no choice or they like the thrill and the atmosphere or they don’t have the sense to be vigilant. Or they are predators who are up to no good. And since these people can’t be told apart, you have to assume the worst.

What I like about the dark hours is the sense of isolation. Even though there are still the same number of humans on the planet, somehow at night you can often feel as if you have it all to yourself. What a luxury. I look up at the sky and revel in the quiet and imagine that all those stars are a part of me. We are star stuff, after all. I seem to breathe easier at night. I feel embraced by it. I’m where I’m supposed to be.

It takes a certain amount of faith to feel safe at night. You are, after all, being deprived of one of your senses. Anything could be in the darkness. Anything at all. You can’t really be sure. There’s so much out there that you can’t see. Everything is hidden from you, and there’s quite a lot of it.

Indeed, that feeling of abundance can overtake our senses. At night we become more. More romantic, more fearful, more uninhibited, more exuberant, or more lonely and depressed. People hate to be alone on a Friday night. You never hear them complain about being alone on a Friday afternoon.

The nighttime feels like an grand entity that the daytime can never even hope to become. It takes a special effort to overcome that prehistoric desire to hide, to hibernate, to wait out the darkness. But if you make the effort, you often reap rare and sensual rewards.