A Story for Our Time; Sleep.

I know a lot more than I would like to about being tired, I have studied at the college of tired…

We didn’t mean to go to sea and it is night-time and it is very, very dark. We are in the realms of Schrödinger’s cat. If nobody can see me does that mean I am simultaneously alive and dead at the same time? Or as I cannot see anybody else does that mean they have all ceased to exist? It must be existential-crisis-O’clock. Or perhaps it is quarter past existential-crisis. What if I never find land? What if I have to stay out here forever in this strange limbo of not knowing where or why? It is not getting any easier, and I am tired, strangely tired.

I know a lot more than I would like to about being tired, I have studied at the college of tired and passed with flying colours. When my third daughter was born she had terrible reflux, for six months she cried from 11 in the morning until 3 a.m. every day. There was a window of about two hours in the morning when she seemed relatively peaceful, but the rest of the time she was screaming in pain, I did not sleep until she did at around 3 a.m. every morning, when I would sit bolt upright on my bed holding her against my chest as we both slept for a wee moment. sometimes it felt as if I had just shut my eyes for a few minutes before we had to get up again.

Two years later her little sister was born with the same condition only this time it was worse, or better depending on how you looked at it, my last daughter was usually Ok until 3 in the afternoon when she would begin to scream and it would continue until 5 a.m., when I would fall asleep with her upright in bed and my two year old would then wake at 7 a.m., waking me from my rather lavish two hours sleep. Oh those were the days!

I held my babies pretty much all the time while they cried, there was not much point in giving them to anyone else as I could never rest if I could hear my baby crying. One night I discovered that it is actually possible to fall asleep whilst standing up. I was pacing up and down in my front room holding the crying baby and I must have fallen asleep, I awoke when I felt the air rushing past my face as I fell towards the floor. Somehow I did a super-mum-commando style mid-air somersault and landed on my back without squashing the screaming baby, who didn’t seem to notice what had happened, well she was still crying anyway.

Mums have incredible reflexes you know, I was once sitting in my friends kitchen on a high breakfast bar stool type thing with a cup of hot tea in one hand and a nine-ish month old baby in the other, the baby was doing that thing babies often do where they rock about, when all of a sudden she launched herself backwards arcing head first towards the hard stone floor. Somehow against all odds I managed to put my cup of tea down and grab her foot as she flew backwards and stopped her fall just before she hit the floor. I didn’t even spill a drop of my tea! Super-mum!

Anyway I digress, the point I was trying to make with that rather excessive story about tiredness is that I am in no way as challenged with sleep now as I was back then, it took years but both my younger children now sleep pretty much all night, and they wake up in the morning at the rather respectable hour of 8.30.  The current theme is for them to wake up in the morning and say to me ‘so, what are we doing today mum?’ as if by some miracle we could do anything really different than we have done for the last four weeks. When they ask me this question there is silence for a few seconds before we all laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it.

So I am sleeping at night, for at least seven or eight hours sometimes more, if I was a baby I would be described as a good sleeper.

I used to laugh when people asked if my first baby was a ‘good’ baby. Her dad once answered one of these people by saying that she hadn’t held up any post offices or robbed any banks yet. She was a very good baby, she cried and pooed (how on earth do you spell pooed?) and giggled, she threw keys on the floor repeatedly as all real babies do, she even fell asleep in her high chair using her porridge as a pillow. She was a good sleeper, so good in fact that she often slept in until 11 a.m.

There is nothing to stop me from sleeping out here, and one day seems to flow into the next without anything happening. Nothing of any consequence is actually happening to me.  Every morning the sun rises, it climbs high into the blue sky around lunchtime, it moves a bit further into the West in the afternoon and in the evening it disappears over the horizon, I always expect it to make a big hissing noise as it does so, and to see great plumes of steam rising into the atmosphere, sometimes I feel rather disappointed, nay cheated when this doesn’t happen. Still I watch for it, because it’s something to do.

The nights are very dark and full of stars, sometimes I watch the moon rise, I always thought that the moon was a night time feature, but it is often visible in the afternoon, I have noticed this my whole life, but somehow I am still rather surprised to see it at 3 in the afternoon, or in the late morning.


This is the most stressful way of doing nothing at all that I know of. The world is my oyster, well all right the ocean is my oyster, I haven’t found any shiny pearls of wisdom yet. But maybe that is because I lack motivation, but it is something different to motivation that is missing, I have plenty to be getting on with, it is a sort of mental atrophy that has set in, I am frozen in space and time, I just want to sit and stare into space. At tea-time I have to force myself to get up and look in the cupboards and try to decide what to make, I stand up and sit back down five or six times before I start to make something. I stare at the food in the cupboard, willing it to speak up and offer to make itself into some culinary delight.  It is like some sort of bizarre ritual. I mean everybody knows that the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything, is not actually forty-two, nor is the question six times nine. The question of life, the universe and everything is in fact, wait for it, ‘What Is For Dinner?’

I have often read how the ancient Greeks and many other cultures had oracles that they went to visit, Soothsayers would read the bones, or as in Asterix they would read the entrails of some poor unsuspecting creature. Did you know that really they were just trying to find out what to make for dinner? I would love to have an oracle to consult twice a day to tell me what to make for lunch and dinner; life would be complete. The endless search for meaning would be over.

Why can’t all meals be as simple as Breakfast? Breakfast is so easy, porridge or pancakes, I loved the ease of breakfast so much that at one point I started making it three times a day, but a mutiny soon ensued amongst the rest of the crew. We became pale and yellow and porridgey looking. I tried suggesting that if people wanted something other than breakfast, they would have to get involved in the making of said meals, this did alleviate the problem somewhat as I was no longer alone in the kitchen,  and I am still stranded with the question of what to make?

I wonder what Schrödinger’s cat would have for dinner in his box, and if he would even have any dinner? Does a cat that is simultaneously alive and dead need to be fed? Maybe we don’t need dinner either, if we are like the cat? I will consult the oracle, perhaps the cat in the box can be used as a kind of oracle? Of course there is a flaw in my logic, as I have neither cat nor box, and I have no cat food.

I wonder if wild animals ever experience such inertia, and I am back to that blissful idea of not needing to think about stuff. Generally speaking people believe that animals do not really think about stuff. I heard that there are also people who don’t really think about stuff much either, I am not blessed with that sort of mind. Instead I was at the front of the queue for a constant internal monologue which fluctuates between endless wittering about anything and everything, or the continuous and indiscriminate singing of songs. (Indiscriminate because apparently it doesn’t even have to be a song that I like to be loaded into the internal/eternal jukebox).

I don’t really believe that animals don’t think about stuff anyway, I grew up with dogs, and dogs get embarrassed, which means that they definitely think about stuff.

Maybe the tiredness is from all the overthinking, that has got to be energy intensive.

I look up at the stars in the dark sky again and force my mind to stop creating just for long enough to actually see the wonder of the night.




Cat photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash
Moon photo  by Jack Cain on Unsplash


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