At the margins of sleep time

(Mentions of male genitalia and masturbation, in street language, so I’m supposed to warn off kids and the sexually modest — though my belief is that these topics (especially masturbation) should be open to adolescents, who have a big stake in the topics. But I’m issuing the warning that laws require.)

This is about the routines of my life, how they have changed as I recover, slowly, from gallbladder surgery (I came home from Stanford University Medical Center about eight weeks ago); adjust to changes in my treatment regimen (which make for fewer whizz breaks during the night, now roughly every two hours, and permit a longer period, on the order of 45 minutes, between the urgent calls to whizz during the day); accommodate the return of my high sex drive (a welcome concomitant of recovery from sickness — but it comes with a certain amount of urgency); adjust to a warming and toning up of my body, plus a huge boost in balance and an infusion of energy and optimism that just magically happened about three weeks ago; and get used to being utterly alone and on my own for essentially everything (my excellent helper León Hernández — who was with me essentially every day for weeks, learned the routines of my life, provided me with excellent company, and became a friend — spent his last day with me a couple of weeks ago; now he has a new full-time patient, in Pacifica, far from here).

Everything is always in flux. Of course almost all of my long-standing awful afflictions — “the normal awful”, as I say — are always there, though my DoE (dyspnea, aka shortness of breath, on exertion)  seems to have abated considerably, pretty much vanished in normal weather, but it’s brutal outdoors in really hot weather.

The newest shift is a shortening of my sleep time. The routine for a long time had me going to sleep between 5 and 7 pm and fully awakening from sleep between 2 and 4 am, typically getting in 9 or 10 hours of sleep. That’s what my body wanted, and I saw no point in fighting it, learned to accommodate to this odd schedule, even to find pleasure in it. (Sleep doctors just hate this schedule, insisting that I have to change it, at whatever cost, forcing myself somehow to stay awake until 10 or 11 pm — but without using caffeine or any stimulant. They are also crazed at my insistence on having a low light on in my bedroom, so that when I stand up to whizz so many times throughout the night I can see what I’m doing; the bedroom must be absolutely pitch black dark, they say, not even starlight. I say to hell with them, and I will no longer have truck with sleep doctors and their rigid belief in a single right way of sleep.)

But in the past week, I’m irrevocably up at midnight (yesterday) or 1 am (today), and get only 7 or 8 hours of sleep. I seem to be ok with that. Meanwhile, the margins of my sleep time — going into sleep, and coming out of it, have become complicated in new ways.

So, in the belief that it might be useful for other people to hear, with as much unflinching intimate openness as I can manage, how one life is lived, I’m going to tell you about those margins of sleep time. Yes, this will not be your life (though there might be a familiar moment or two in my tale), but then it’s salutary to experience other lives, especially lives vastly different from your own, if only because that can foster empathy, and some generosity of spirit, or just for its surprise or entertainment value.

(It’s also true that I have been collecting other people’s stories of their lives throughout my own — sometimes as research into identities and social interactions, sometimes in the informal counseling that I have done with colleagues and students, sometimes as raw material, collected in social talk with others, that I work into my fiction. I feel deeply that these experiences have transformed me. But they certainly have shown me that facile assumptions about what other people’s lives are like are likely to be seriously inaccurate and possibly harmful.)

Sliding in: the initial margin. Getting ready for sleep time involves lots of setting things up for getting up the next day: putting the levothyroxin tablet in the bathroom, to take first thing in the morning; putting out fresh clothing for the next day; filling the electric tea kettle with water, so it can just be switched on in the morning; putting out tea bags next to the kettle; locking doors and turning off lights; setting up the Apple Music to play in my bedroom during the night; setting up two urinals by my bed; getting the next day’s medications set up, especially those for taking at breakfast (at 3 am or so); and much more. (Before my recent warming up, a velour bathrobe and fleecy slippers had to be set up for the morning as well. Otherwise, I was teeth-chatteringly, body-shakingly  cold.)

Then there’s my sex drive. Before it came roaring back, I went to sleep fairly rapidly by starting one of my satisfying sex fantasies, which rapidly morphed into some dream story that typically had not much to do with sex. Now, however, the sex fantasies don’t induce sleep, but instead inspire urgent bright-edged arousal — capable of keeping me awake for a very long time, even through the exhaustion of a long work day.

The solution is obvious. Don’t vacillate. Masturbate! Here I point to my frequent past postings on this blog in which I celebrate masturbation (there’s a Page on this blog about my postings on masturbation); recommend the many advantages of orgasm, whether achieved solo or with a partner; and especially talk up masturbation for kids (as well as for the elderly and for single people in general).

If I’m both very tired and beset by arousal, I can hang uncomfortably on the edge of release for a long time. So unless I’m running late, I’m now inclined to seek out, before I get into bed, gay porn that will speak to me, so I can make an occasion of jacking off. It sometimes takes a little while to find the right clip for the moment, but once I get into it, a powerful (and often noisy) orgasm soon shakes my body. (I simplify things by just coming in my briefs.) And then I need to get to my bed and fall flat on my face onto it, because I’m about to drop into unconsciousness as if stunned by an Acme anvil plummeting from the sky:

(#1) Acme Anvil With Coyote (art work from Warner Bros.)

This produces a deeply refreshing sleep (even though every two hours or so I stand up briefly to whizz in one of those urinals). Three cheers for self-pleasuring, as the decorous put it.

The final margin. My 8/9 posting “crotch pong” has a section on my mornng clean-up routines in some detail. Not covered there is the music that happens to greet me when I first wake up — the accident of what’s on my Apple Music’s “classical music” playlist (of about 14,000 tracks) at that moment, which I tend to take as an augury about the day to come. This one day that I have been given.

About a week ago I woke to Mendelssohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in the usual orchestral version. I adore this music irrationally, and (as I’ve written earlier on this blog) both the orchestral score and MND itself are infused with deeply pleasurable memories going back to my childhood, so the Mendelssohn sang out with pure joy, oh rapture unforeseen.

Yes, it was a very good day.

Then two days later, I woke to something even more delightful: Mendelssohn’s MND music in the composer’s original piano duet version, performed fabulously on a Pleyel double grand piano by Duo Egri & Pertis (Monika Egri and Attila Pertis). A great deal of credit to go around here: to Pleyel, for the creation of an instrument that produces the sound of an entire orchestra with a single two-keyboard grand piano; to Egri and Pertis for a remarkable interpretation of the score; and to the sound engineer(s) who oversaw the recording and captured both the power and the subtlety of the instrument.

(#2) The recording

(#3) The double grand piano, with Egri and Petris at the keyboards

(#4) About the duo (from their website)

Yes, that was a very good day too.

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