Sunday, August 23, 2009


Tom's Take Out Mark Velasquez Photography
"Beat-Up, Eight Second Exposure Lit by Cell Phone, 2007"

I long for sleep. Every morning, on my fifteen minute walk to work through the dirty side streets and vacant lots I desperately look forward to later that evening when I can crawl into bed. Just the idea of a warm, inviting bed and a crisp, cool pillow has a calming effect on my constantly tense neck and upper back. This satisfaction ironically never happens when nightfall actually does come, at least not lately.

The last few weeks my sleep schedule has been more erratic and confusing than ever before. I've never had the reputation for being the most fit and sound sleeper in the world, but lately I've begun to even worry myself. Going to bed at 9:30pm will cause me to wake up at 2am with an inability to go back to sleep. Other nights, forcing my tired and restless self to stay up late, my 1am bedtime will only leave me tossing and turning hazily until the sun comes up. I've tried several different physiological experiments like drinking a fair amount of alcohol, working long hours with few breaks, and intense exercise. All of these were done in the hopes of wearing myself out to the point of exhaustion in the vain attempt to get eight quality hours of sleep. No dice.

I'm not one for making long term goals or plans, mainly because in an ever changing world they never work out the way you intend. But a year or even six months ago I could have made a rough sketch of a minor goal I was trying to attain or a basic frame work of what the next few weeks or months would hold for me. Not so any more. I honestly can not foresee what I will be doing next week or where I might be.

It seems since I've returned from my month long trip I've been in a daze. It would be nice to think I'm a smart enough guy to give a little rudimentary psychoanalysis to the situation and be able to personally figure out what this is all about. Am I actively or passively trying to figure out some complicated problem in my life? I don't think so. Am I worried about my abilities in some uncertain task or future development? No, not really. Is there someone I can't get out of my mind? Of course, but that hasn't changed for the last year or more. Given the answers to those questions, I am left searching elsewhere.

It's been said that most problems faced by modern man are internal. As a species we are used to working hard and dealing with intense adversity, eking out an existence watching for predators while trying to survive in harsh environments. With thousands of years of aggression and determination hardwired into our chemistry, who could blame us for finding it hard to adapt to a relatively calm and peaceful world of collared shirts, expressways and Netflix?

Personally, I've always functioned better in a challenging, frenzied environment where I questioned if I was going to be able to continue on. In that situation I know full well that I have every confidence in my ability to handle even the craziest of times and situations, and that in turn kept my body moving and my mind occupied. Often in the drudgery of my every day life, I now go out of my way to put things off until the last minute simply because the tasks I would have to perform would be too mundane otherwise. All of this directly stems from my month away. Sleep deprivation, mixed with hourly, daily, and weekly goals that were not only expected but proudly achieved, pushed me to an extreme, almost laughable level of exhaustion and accomplishment. It was an almost maddening state of constant flux and I loved it. Sure at times I wanted to quit, but whose brain wouldn't want to hit the pause button from time to time when faced with a life of perpetual motion?

When I got back, friends who wanted me to visit them a few hours away were afraid to ask, saying that I must be sick of driving. On the contrary, after driving over thirteen thousand miles in a month I was conditioned to the life of a trucker. The first several days back I found it hard to stay still, fearing I had someone waiting for me eight hours away whose time I might be wasting by sitting alone in my home. I miss meeting new people, seeing new environments, not knowing what was around the next bend. I miss the unknown.

My greatest fear is one that seems to be coming true, that there are no more challenges left here for me at home, or at least none that I find worth taking on. Even creatively I am dry. Aside from documenting my family or a few paid gigs for loyal clients, I've essentially stopped taking photos. The few shoots I've lined up with my reliable models I've cancelled days in advance because I just don't have the heart for repeating myself, even in the attempt to keep my skills sharp.

All of this is good, I suppose. In the life of an artist, it's been said that one needs a period to create and a period to live life and recharge one's batteries. It's an ebb and flow, a yin and yang, a delicate dance in which one can easily lose the beat. So how do all of these realizations help my sleep pattern? Hell if I know, but I'm doing my best to figure it out. At least I'm catching up on a lot of crappy late night television I've missed.


  1. once you get used to travel and meeting new people, it is so hard to go back to the 'old' life of doing the same thing every day (well, at least in my case).

    I really miss traveling. Nowadays, it feels like I spend 20 hours sitting in front of the pc, trapped by work. I wish I could have 6 months, take a backpack and see where the wind takes me. I love traveling.

    Anyway, have you tried running to walls to hit your head as hard as possible? If done right, you'd "fall asleep" in a second :D

  2. As a professional insomniac (years of experience) I can only give you one advice.
    Just don't worry about it.
    Thinking about not sleeping makes you sleeping even less. Yeah, I know, sounds lame.
    That happened to me. Now I sleep my usual 3-4 hours but at least they're 3-4 hours of real sleep.
    Try to tackle the cause, not the consequence. My psychologist has never been worried about my insomnia, as it is the consequence of my capacity for piling up enormous amounts of shit in my head.

    Apart from the physical methods, (regular exercise with the objective of getting to the bed totally tired) try meditation or different kinds of relaxation techniques (I use rain and sea sounds)