Moscow Does Not Believe in Sleep

Контент 16+ (лексика, описание сцен сексуального характера)
One of the great things I have learned during my long life in Moscow is how to deal  'sleep deprivation.'  That just means not spending enough time in what the poet T.S. Eliot called "Death's twilight kingdom."  Eyes shut and sealed, problems blocked, dreams zigzagging like beautiful prehistoric birds in the bright lavender skies of Never Never Land.. Sleep, deep deep sleep. I think the lack of it is common here, and I have seen that people in Moscow deal with this dilemma in different ways.

Frankly, I think it says a lot about a person how he/she handles chronic fatigue brought on by the necessity, real or imagined, of working long hours at the expense of adequate rest. I say 'real or imagined' because for some people it is an economic necessity, while for others it merely reflects their 'driven' character: ambition, 'workaholic' tendencies, worship of money, or perhaps even a neurotic fear of NOT working — of being alone with their soul. Maybe I partially fit all of these categories, what about you?
If you read my stuff, you know that I am an English teacher, and you probably think it is a soft life. That's what my wife thinks !!  A lot of blah blah blah, and then they give me money.
But if you want to work hard, if you want to write blogs, if you want to edit texts, do voice-over for videos, prepare people for international interviews, get students ready for TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, etc., etc., and still have a bit of a life on the side — you can end up working some amazing hours. Especially if you do it seven days a week, as I do. And I get tired. Real tired. Seriously tired. Worse, I am almost 70 years old.
Many days I leave my apartment at 6.30 and don't return until 22.00 or later.How do I do it?  For me, what works is being adequately prepared so that I don't have to stress out about things left undone the night before. I try to make the decisions I need to make for the following day BEFORE I go to bed. I go to sleep at around 00.30 (give or take) and wake up at something like 5.00 to go to the toilet. Immediately I start thinking about work, so that by the time I get back to bed I never really fall back to sleep. I lay there thinking, thinking. It sounds terrible, but I solve many problems that way. I guess this failure to go back to sleep is a 'detox' problem. I drink a lot of coffee, tea, water, and juice, and at night after work (please don't tell my wife in Bulgaria), I drink beer. I set limits (no more than three bottles of strong ale), and that's it. But probably all of this caffeine and alcohol starts wearing off at about 5 a.m.
So I get up and drink two cups of coffee. Breakfast? Usually not, certainly not at this time of year when I am super busy. I feed the birds that gather on my balcony, but have no appetite myself. Nor time to scramble eggs or stir porridge. And then I simply do the day one lesson at a time, one destination at a time. I travel all over Moscow in all kinds of weather. Here, in this city, I have seen it all. Maybe I grab some lunch at Makdaks or a 'business lunch' somewhere. In the evenings, I eat well before I go to bed, a substantial meal (fried chicken and potato chips) after the blog-writing, lesson-planning, emails, and beer.
I have great energy in the mornings, though sometimes'hitting the wall' savagely in the afternoons (in one-on-one lessons with a less than stimulating student I sometimes have to keep shifting in my seat, because if I am stationary too long in one position, I might just fall out of the chair) — but I push through it, and rebound in the evening. The same cycle day after day. All the while, I see young people gorging out on energy drinks (which I think are dangerous).and I see travellers on the metro trains who fall asleep so deeply that they just about lose control of their bodies. They slump and sink and sway. It is both funny and irritating, especially if you are sitting beside one of them and they want to collapse on your shoulder. If that's the case, they sort of begin to resemble large human flies or mosquitoes that you have to keep batting away.
Am I harming myself, even killing myself? I don't think so. I still work out with weights and do a hard-core cardio boxing routine. I don't make or accept excuses, especially from ME. If other people want to get sick, ok, but I don't tolerate it in myself. I believe that, unless you really are seriously ill and don't know it, your mind gives out before your bodily energy is truly drained. There is always another gear you can shift to.  "Fatigue makes cowards of us all," said a great American football coach named Vince Lombardi long ago. It's true. When I was young I was told that I needed 8 hours sleep per night.. I believed that, and for years, if I didn't get the 8 hours, I felt weak and tired. I brainwashed myself. Now I understand that every body, every mind, every soul, speaks its own language. Once you learn your own language, you follow its commands and build on the inspiration of its unique poetry.
So now, rather than talking myself into a state of self-pity, I just get on with it. Sure, sometimes I think I am in a dreamworld. Sometimes, I get on the right train but going the wrong way. There is a kind of almost sensual dreamy softness that enters your vision when you are really tired. Something almost hallucinatory awakens. I think that the religious visions of the old saints often came about in the midst of extreme starvation and/or exhaustion. It feels beautiful. Ever had sex when you were soooo tired that your nerve-endings were exceptionally, exquisitely alive? Cool, wasn't it ?
My students keep me alive. With them I snap back, reach back for energy, and enjoy the classes. In part it is like being on stage in a theatre. The students don't pay me to get tired. So I don't.
I will never forget my first visit to Europe, back in 1970. I arrived from New York in the European morning, jet-lagged but exhilarated. I wandered around Luxembourg city (cheapest flight) for a day and then got on the train to Venezia, my real destination. Again all night on a noisy foreign train, no sleep. By the time I got there at 6.00, I was ready to see visions. Never was I so tired, with my weary arms dragging heavy suitcases.. and, as I drank in the fishy, salty air of the ancient Pearl of the Adriatic,  I — callow kid from hillbilly country in West Virginia.....STRODE INTO THE RENAISSANCE. An orgasm of the soul. Of the SOUL. Ever had one?
I wandered around the streets amid the canals. There were many, many stray cats. I later found out that they were tolerated by the locals because they kept the rat population under control. (No more bubonic plague, thank you.)  I road a vaporetto (water boat) to the address I had been given by someone back in America. I saw a young couple on the vaporetto. She had short black hair and a swarthy Mediterranean face.  For some reason she raised her arms and I saw that she had a cropped square of jet-black hair in both armpits. Maybe it sounds gross, but it was unbearably erotic that morning. I still think about that woman. I still want her, 47 years later.
Long ago. Salvador Dali could have painted my mind that day..
Since then there have been many sleepless nights for many reasons. Now I have it under control. I dreamed of coming to Russia. Now the city of Moscow unfolds in my mind, many days, like...a dream. The trick is this: don't let yourself weaken. Just keep going, keep punching. From this you probably think I was in the military. No way. A corporate guy? You are joking. Too crazy, angry, rebellious. I couldn't keep a job like that.
I stay awake because, for all its sham and shit, I love this world, this surreal life where the angels and devils make armageddon in my mind every day, and the sunset wings always hover on the edge of tomorrow, and the pretty girls are, like the sky above me, endless in their wild fecundity. It's that simple.

===Eric Richard Le Roy===

One thought on “Moscow Does Not Believe in Sleep

  1. Your introspective reflection on the interplay between chronic fatigue and work habits delves deep into the complexities of human behavior and motivation. Indeed, how individuals navigate the delicate balance between work and rest speaks volumes about their values, aspirations, and innermost fears.

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