Forty winks; just a big ol’ pipe dream.

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.

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And it tends to be the rubbing that keeps me from the dreaming. Let me explain. And get your mind out of the gutter for Pete’s sake.

At the end of a long day, there is nothing I look forward to more than closing up shop, crawling beneath the covers and turning out the light to welcome sleep—and it’s oftentimes one of the most entertaining parts of any twenty-four hours. But it’s not just the snoozing part that’s so engaging, but rather the movie reel that starts up upon giving in to unconsciousness.

Except … a few things tend to get in the way of that absorbing experience.

1. The cat.

2. The cat.

3. And oh yes, the cat.

There’s all this fuss that happens down at the bottom of the bed where my finicky, fault-finding furball insists upon setting up her midnight shop. Her nightly ablutions are hardly a muted affair. And all that business keeps me from falling into an otherworldly locus of illusion.

I love that place.

It is rich and restorative, mythic and impractical, and a source I rely upon like water and air and Oprah.

Sleep—in particular the part of sleep that allows one to dream—is an achievement I do not take lightly, and practice with the devotion of an Olympian.

Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s not a revealing statement that suggests my aim in life is to compete for the gold in the category of best Napping Nelly in the supine division. Not entirely. But the 7.5 hours I apply to cultivating this skill nightly is an activity I devote my whole brain and body to. And you might too if you dreamed like I do.

My dreams are not just snippets of faces, conversations or the occasional experience of flying and falling. They are chapters of many ongoing stories with the same characters and an actual plot line.

The disturbing thing is that I’m the author of said characters and plot lines, and occasionally I find some wonky, huddling conclave my brain develops where everyone I write about spews their opinions, making wisecracks about what a proper load of codswollop I’ve made with their tales. I’m sure there are sections of my brain that if autopsied would have forensic scientists wondering how that handful of goop that looks like week-old cake batter managed to find its way in.

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I’m pretty sure this is the part that I’m working with in the wee hours of the night.

It’s fluid. And I kinda like it like that.

I specifically work hard at following a storyline of interest as soon as I close my eyes, running a groove into it that’s both familiar and happy to take over on autopilot. If all goes according to my mental master plan, I continue on unconsciously. Of course, if the cat has a stretch of fur that is particularly polluted, all that licking gets in the way of the narrative and ensuing arc of the story.

And then I find all the folks in my dream are coughing up hairballs. And I wake up cranky.

We spend nearly a third of our lives unconscious (although I’m sure we all know people who wander through theirs never fully fast on the draw even while operating their daily heavy machinery) and I understand the importance of that period of restoration. Yes, there’s a lot of biological activity taking place: muscles recovering, internal organs repairing, our brain unraveling the many befuddling Gordian knots we pushed to the side during the day, and we allow the internal keeper of cognizance—our brain’s personal secretary—to begin the process of sorting through and filing all the memories we just made that day.

It’s exhausting work. And must be done. Even at the expense of the cat’s nightly purification rituals.

It’s crucial I reach the REM stage of my evening’s training program because without it occurring, I drift about the next day barely able to recall where my desk is located, let alone its function and purpose.

Did you know that although a cow can sleep standing up, they can only dream when lying down?

Me too!

Did you know that whales and dolphins only allow one-half of their brains to fall asleep at a time because the other half is needed to keep them swimming and breathing?


This might prove ideal, as at least with this scenario, I’d be able to still utilize the opportunity to dream. I’m assuming the cat does not recognize the importance or necessity of allowing me to dream. But perhaps I could set up a short power point presentation that could illustrate key figures in history whose dreams were vital to the world as we know it.

I will show her a picture of:

Mohammad (That Night Journey dream was a biggie.)

Shakespeare (I’m pretty sure if he got stuck with any plot, he just made his characters dream something prophetic. How convenient.)

Dorothy Gale (This is purely self-explanatory, as I cannot imagine a world without Glinda.)

Abraham (Had his cat kept him from dreaming, a good chunk of the Bible might have been taking place in modern day Turkey.)

Mary Shelly (Thank you for Frankenstein.)

Robert Lewis Stevenson (Well done on Jekyll and Hyde.)

President Lincoln (Had he paid more attention to his dreams, he’d still be alive today. And I think we both know what I meant to say.)

Paul McCartney (Had this fellow not had a little REM, no one would be humming along tomorrow the melody of Yesterday.)

Martin Luther King (Yeah, that’s a lot of guilt to throw at a cat.)

So, ultimately, if there’s any hope of me making this list someday, I can foresee only one way out of my dilemma. I’m going to have to teach the cat to be a pig.

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Sheesh … what a nightmare.


Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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29 thoughts on “Forty winks; just a big ol’ pipe dream.

  1. You make me laugh, and I needed a good laugh this afternoon! I used to dream. I miss my dreams, and I think they might miss me too. You’d think after 60 years I’d have this sleep thing down, but I seem to be getting worse at it. Love your stuff, Shelley!

    • Well, if I made you laugh Ardys, then my mission is complete, but hearing that simply fills my heart with joy. And for that I am truly grateful. Those are the hopeful extra perk of this work–and I’m positive you know exactly what I mean because you receive a zillion of the same types of comments from your heartfelt writing too.
      Here’s to reclaiming our dreams!

  2. Great post. Replace ‘cat’ with ‘dog’ and you have me. Especially at ‘that time’ of the year when broodiness sets in and all the ‘babies’ are brought to bed as well.
    I’d love to get a full night’s sleep, but it seems to be a night of three and a half parts. Part 1 Bed (and book), part 2 sleep until stared awake to let the dog out and penny of another kind, part 3 sleep until 6, then the final half being that twilight doze for about an hour. Dreams come in there somewhere.

    • It is a universal affliction, isn’t it? If someone could invent a pill, a cup of tea, a face cream that simply needs to be swallowed or spread and entitled it Lay your mind at rest, I think we’d all snatch it up by the bucketfulls.
      It’s hard to find fault with the pleading, patient eyes of our pets. I would forgive mine of nearly everything. 😉

  3. “I will sleep no more but arise, You oceans that have been calm within me! how I feel you, fathomless, stirring, preparing unprecedented waves and storms.”

    ― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


    It seems as you’ve lost many comfortable hours of wondering through dreamland over the past few months. “Humph!”, as my four year old would say. I enjoy your characterization of your cat, yet oddly believe you’ve nailed it to a dart board for blame in-for-what other situations occur; out of not connivence, yet more as a lamb to sacrifice.

    Your writing is and has always been more enjoyable than most readings I have taken on in the past two years. (My newest challenge is {Anna Karenina – a Tolstoy gig}, and I think both my father, the local librarian, my psychiatrists and priest have told me to stop asking for explanations of what he is writing. (I even believe Anna was confused as to who she was, but that’s another discussion).

    Shut off the spigot from your surroundings with purpose now and then… see what new colors your mind can dream up, with peace, and… respite.

    Much love,

    Stoshu P 🙂

    • I’m going to guess that the only appropriate response to this comment is to quote the one guy we both know who has practiced and perfected the art of napping, “If you can’t sleep through a little noise, then you weren’t tired enough to begin with.”
      I take your point. I shall apologize to the cat.
      Thank for reading as always, bud.

    • Should I even dare to guess why this one particular cat is allowed into the sacred space? Does it bring you a cup of tea in the morning? Boy … that would be a cat worth keeping (as I’m sure all of yours are 😛 )?

      • This cat minds her manners. She does not:
        sharpen her claws on my Grandma’s quilt.
        lay purring on my chest until I wake up to her face directly in my view, and then claw me when I am surprised to see her.
        Decide to play “chase whatever’s moving underneath the blanket” at three in the morning.
        use my body as a springboard to reach some imaginary dust mote she is chasing, also at three in the morning.
        she does:
        collect her kisses and lovins’ at bedtime, and then go sleep in her own bed until morning. Now thats a good kitty.

          • I wouldn’t dare… But Dorothy (the chosen one) is spayed and will never have kittens. Plus, I kept her brother too, (Tater) and he’s a total jerk. So, you never can tell. Genetics are funny things.

              • Ouch! What’s wrong with animal husbandry? Oh… yea, wrong definition but you should blame the skhool fer that mistake.


                P.s. Love the cat mug shot, very clever.

                • You’re right. So our people expanded the definition of the word “family” and showed some deep affection for others under the umbrella of our care-taking. Our family tree might be a little shaky, but many have pointed a finger at the royal family in the UK and revealed how their ancestral tree resembles a wreath.

                  Btw, bud, I think you’d really enjoy the link at the bottom to Simon’s Cat – if you’ve not seen it. Hilarious stuff.

  4. Ah yes, the illusive ‘good night’s sleep.’ My 15 pound cat crosses the night stand from her perfectly comfortable and adored sleeping spot to sit on my chest and purr for a spell. The weight on my chest and the blissful purring are endearing and at the same time sleep-interrupting. It’s a nightly occurrence. We have four cats and two teenagers under this roof so sleepless nights are too commonly the norm.

    I feel your pain.
    I love your writing.
    Not necessarily in that order.

    • Fifteen pounds on your chest?? Holy cow, Alys, how do you do it? Sometimes I have to calm myself down because I start to get a little claustrophobic simply from having too heavy a sheet pulled up to my chin. I suppose we can be grateful we don’t crack open an eye to find one of our teenagers sitting on our chests waiting patiently for us to wake.
      And thank you for the incredibly kind compliment. Words like that at least put a smile on my face as I’m attempting to drift off for the night. 😉

      • You made me laugh. I remember the days of toddlers at the bedside. My boys wouldn’t dream of it now. In fact, we’re usually up before they are, which seems to be the teenage norm.

        Lindy-Lu is a lot of weight, so I can only permit it for a few moments before becoming short of breath. Because she is such a large cat, she doesn’t fit in my lap. I must be prone to accommodate her Maine-Coon like girth.

  5. I wish I could get to REM sleep. Once in a great while I do but the moment is fleeting. I long for those days when I was a kid and sleep for over eight hours straight.

    Question: How many writer are cat people? (I’m one too.)

    • Are you saying your cat did not have you fill out a form before interviewing you to make sure that you were firstly, a writer, and secondly, had some other reliable source of income to ensure a steady supply of food? My evaluation was thorough, as I’m guessing I was a bit of a dicey candidate.
      And wouldn’t it be great if we could all do a Benjamin Button and go backward? That would be a dream come true. 😉

  6. “Look at me!
    Look at me!
    Look at me NOW!
    It is fun to have fun
    But you have to know how.”
    ― Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat (Deluxe Edition)

    This IS your cat Shelley… I know it, I’ve witnessed it, your cat has connected with me. It’s the animal conspiracy theory, I swear.

    Where’s Rob? Probably hanging out with the cats, I suspect. Just like the folk over the pond, eh?

    Stoshu P. 🙂

  7. I normally don’t remember my dreams, but I must say I’ve been having some crazy ones lately! I figure it’s my brain working through a bunch of subconscious junk. I’ve never been able to carry my thoughts before sleep into dreamland. (Actually, since the noise in my head never lets up, I read right up until the time I fall asleep.) As for the importance of sleep, I have come to appreciate how vital it is now that I’m older. When I was about five, my childhood babysitter told me, upon finding me once again wide awake and sitting up during naptime, “One day you’re going to love naps.” I thought she was insane, but by golly, she was right, about that and many other things.

    • Oh, the nap. How I’d give my left lung for a nap these days. One day – and I swear it will be soon – I will formulate my days to wake early, work hard, take a nap, wake up and read, then spend the rest of my time running through the sprinkler and catching fire flies. I think I’ve got if figured out so that I can be an adult in the morning hours and a five-year old for the rest of the day. A fine blend in my eyes. Yes? 🙂

  8. I’m glad I’m not the only one! I have full narrative dreams, which I can remember in full detail for up to two hours, and then only in bits and pieces afterwards. Some of my best plots and characters have come out of lucid dreaming and regular ol’ dreams. 😀 Excellent post! As ever, in envy of your writing!

    • That lucid dreaming business is a subject I’m most fascinated by. There’s so much to learn about this state of unconsciousness and all the research that’s taking place. I’ve read about a lot of science that seems to me like whomever wrote up the report is desperate to publish in science fiction, but I’m going to guess the data wasn’t colored too much. Time will tell what bubbles to the surface.

      And thanks for the lovely compliment, Alex. You put together some fantastic letter combinations yourself, my friend! Cheers 😛

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