Stretched out on the mid-afternoon living room floor, I roll over from my back to my left side, happy that I had brought the oversized pillow for this glorious 25-minute reprieve from yard work. Both cats have been circling my prone body for the last 10 minutes, making me feel like an exhibit. The time spent on my back and both sides, concentrating on my breathing, light jazz percolating in the background, may be as therapeutic as yoga. I have often felt that nothing relaxes like a cat. I have two furry models to emulate.
I roll onto my back again. Here comes the Patch Cat, all 18 pounds of hair-covered cat flesh, stepping onto my abdomen and chest, careful not to pounce on the hernia, administering his brand of “catupuncture.” He slowly nudges his big head up my chest, anticipating the face rubs he knows will add to our mutual delight. Industrial strength purring indicates that I know how to please him.
The trickiest part of a floor nap is the getting up at the end. A modified one-arm push-up gets me to my knees. From there it’s a snap. I de-hairify the oversized pillow with jumbo lint roller and return the pillow to its resting place on the love seat in the upstairs den. Now I feel sufficiently refreshed so that I can return to my plant potting job.
The mid-afternoon floor nap is only one in my repertoire of relaxation. A respite on my motorized recliner in the sitting room is another favorite. This one usually begins with a cup of tea and a piece of biscotti. The whining hum of the foot rest extending is the cue for the Patch Cat to come running again. A flying leap into my lap and we are in position. If I wasn’t drowsy when I sat down, he will show me the way. He stretches out lengthwise in the crevice between my outstretched legs and nestles in as only a cat or an eel could do. On some occasions I may have been reading a coffee table book, though I don’t generally think it is a good idea to associate reading with napping.
The warmth and softness of the Patch Cat infuses into my being and I can enter the domain of complete absence of thought and possibly a short nod off. Like the floor nap, the nap in the electric chair usually serves as a break from some home chore, pursuit such as reading, or from the labors of writing. These naps are generally in a time frame of from 15 to 25 minutes.
Some days may require a more powerful relaxation intervention. I’m speaking of the full-blown take-off-my-clothes-and-get-under-the-covers nap. This normally occurs in the later afternoon -– 3:00 or 4:00 – and can run from 30 to 90 minutes.
The full-blown nap makes sense on a day where I am sandwiched between two social events. For example, on a recent Saturday I attended a memorial service for the sister of a friend of my friends. I accompanied my friends to the memorial service that began in the early afternoon and ended by about 2:30. As a card-carrying introvert nothing is more exhausting to me than attending an event where I have to meet and converse with multitudes of new people. I was home by 3:30, so I had time for a 90-minute under-the-covers nap before getting ready for the high school musical I was attending that evening. This is a formal, fully intended nap. I set the clock radio to come on at a targeted time in order to avoid oversleeping.
My feline companion for the under-the-covers nap is Cokie Cat, the Patch Cat’s sister. The master bedroom is her lair. She will not allow the Patch Cat anywhere near the bed, except to be underneath with her during vacuuming or weather-related disasters. The full blown bed nap doesn’t occur every week, so Cokie is delighted when the time comes. She will curl up into my side or sprawl her pliable cat flesh over my ankles and feet, similar to the way she tucks me in for a night’s sleep. I may not fall into deep sleep for every bed nap, especially if it’s for the minimum 30 minutes, but I still reap all the benefits of relaxation under the protective covers and the vigilance of my feline friend.
One more version of napping in my repertoire is the late night TV nap on the sofa. The purpose of this nap is to wind down from the day and engage in a kind of pre-sleep that can be resumed when I pick myself up from the sofa and retire to the bedroom for the night. I might be suffering through a late inning Pirate game where the bullpen can’t seem to hold onto a lead or I may begin to fade midway through a Charlie Rose interview or even during David Letterman somewhere between the Top Ten and the musical group that normally ends the show.
I am happy to have discovered the joys and benefits of napping. I view napping as part of a healthy lifestyle, as vital to me as eating my greens and whole grains or exercising mind and body. I am fortunate to have the best role models available. It may be true that “nothing relaxes like a cat,” but I am getting pretty good at it myself.
© Dave Knoepfle