A Brief Study in Madness

Do you ever get that feeling that your dreams are there simply to remind you of who you are not? I do. Almost every night. For instance, when I dream that I am back in high school and on the verge of falling off of bleachers that turn into cliffs over top a New Zealand seascape, I know that I am A) well-past high school age, B) that I have never really had a huge fear of heights and C) I have only ever traveled to three different countries outside of the U.S., none of which was New Zealand. But then there is that suspicion that I am not unlike an insecure adolescent who fears yet another “jumping-off point” in my life. Anxiety haunts me in my waking hours as well as my slumber. OH, good.

There is this news, though: The Wedding Dress was Won. I  found it, and then some. It took about 10 minutes after posting my blog when I walked into The Oak and discovered my dress in a lacy display of Fuck Yes. I basically live-Facebook-commented with some newly-married friends as I tried on the dress clearly meant for me. One more item checked off The List.

Back to those dreams, though. I posted this on April 7th:

Last night I dreamt that I pulled out all of my teeth while I sat on a dentist’s chair. Then I sobbed and begged for this lady dentist to give me false teeth, so she did and I was dissatisfied. Then the other dentist dude refused to make my teeth real and he turned out to be a pervert. So naturally I performed on stage in the scene from The Bodyguard with no teeth.

What if our literal dreams were actual reality? It would be madness. I’d be a toothless pop star, a would-be murder victim with a deadly fear of heights, a lesbian lover with Lady Gaga and an active alcoholic who cheats on her husband. One of these is not like the other.

Lady Gaga Dreams
Photo courtesy of Arizona Foothills Magazine

In October, I will be married ::inshallah:: In one million years +, I never dreamed that could happen for me. I never dreamed it, because I never acted as if I wanted to be married. I did what it took to work this time–it will be different this time.¬†I desperately wanted a relationship from the time I was 14/15 to my late twenties, never coming close to achieving it. Notice how I used the word “achieve.” It was something else to check off The List. I had no earthly idea what it takes to be in a loving, committed relationship. That is, if you exclude my devotion and heartache relegated only to King Alcohol. In a twisted way, drinking alcohol gave me a free pass to avoid dreaming and having nightmares–I simply passed out.

Dreaming tends to cause me heartache. For the most part, I dream about relapsing (why don’t we use “nightmare” as a verb? Like, “I nightmared about my test last night.”) Every so often, I dream of my dad. One scenario that stands out the most is when I saw him appear at the house where we grew up. He was in front of the garage puttering with some plants. He stood up to say “hi” to me, then he slowly vanished before my eyes. I woke up crying and sweating. It felt comforting to see him, but the reminder ended up costing me more than a little joy. I think I dreamt/nightmared on that one.

For me, dreaming is lying. I far prefer my associations with waking hours (when I can, at the very least, choose my own lies!). Maybe that’s why I stay true to being a night owl. But now I am sober, which means I am breathing and walking among The Living. I need sleep like the rest of us. We all know that sleep-deprivation can cause poor health, bad choices and in extreme cases, hallucinations. When I first got sober, sleep deprivation caused sleep paralysis, something you should definitely read up on (maybe when it’s light out). There is a bugged out documentary on Netflix about the phenomenon. Mine happened when I lived in my gorgeous apartment in LA that I have definitely not stopped thinking about (nether the experience nor the apartment itself, it was beautiful). I was meditating while slowly drifting off to sleep. Above my head hung the best nightlight I’ve ever had. My neighbor, Annie, gifted me with a handmade chandelier, made of woven sticks of wood, lace and twinkling lights.

chandelier LA

Beside it, ironically, was a dream catcher. I remember feeling comfort and peace as I lay in half-sleep. My eyes fluttered, then I felt something like human hands¬†shove¬†me. My entire body jolted forward. I tried to get up to see who was in my room, but I could not move. I lay there panting silently, trying not to make any noise. A few seconds passed, and I realized I was not dreaming, not at all. Something pushed me because I felt its hands between my shoulder blades. I then felt what I can only describe as someone’s lips press against my back. Then it started sucking in air. GROSS. I felt in that moment I might die at an intruder’s hands. For an instant, I stayed stuck. But I summoned up courage and jumped out of my bed. When I turned around, no one was there.

I later investigated this experience with my friend, Monty. He told me it might be incubus. I swore I was awake when this happened, but apparently I was only dreaming. In my life at that point, there wasn’t much difference between wake and sleep. My life was a waking nightmare and my dreams were an exhaustive necessity.

But today I feel the difference. I guess you could say that my dreams, nightmares, waking experience and ambitions don’t blur so easily these days. I don’t fear sleep because I want to wake up in the morning. I don’t fear waking because I want to be alive. I don’t fear who I lie next to because I know he’s the same man (whose name I actually know). Mostly, I don’t fear who I am, albeit she does confuse me sometimes.

In sleeping and in waking, I am me.

A dream scenario.

 

Featured Image courtesy of Anne M. Peterson

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Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo.

I am slightly obsessed with comedian Aziz Ansari. I just picked up his new book Modern Romance from the glorious Petersburg library. In his book, Ansari pulls data from sociologists, anthropologists and Tinder-user focus groups that span the globe–from Qatar to Wichita to France. He mines for information about how cultures date and how the¬†fantasy of choice has taken over. He manages to slip in some information about the hunt for “the perfect job” compared to the quest for “the perfect soul mate.” His findings are interesting because they are evidence-based. I am not at all surprised to see that, according to his data,¬†more choices do not actually lead to¬†more happiness.

Lately I’ve been questioning what my higher purpose is on this planet. Now that I am sober, I have the freedom to explore all sorts of choices because I am available to do so. I promised myself early on in recovery that I would work hard to follow my dreams. What I’ve found almost two years in is that my dreams have changed. As it turns out, I am in the “good enough” mind set that Ansari speaks about in his book. Many daters 40 years ago chose¬†partners based on proximity¬†and subsequently participated in life things with a less-than-perfect spouse. Who says I can’t do the same for a job? Or better yet, a vocation?

I realize I am not as important as I thought I was. I don’t mean to say that I am not a universe in and of myself; I am. What I’m getting at here is that my quest to find my higher purpose only yields results when I keep things simple–and keep my ego out of it. The world will go on if I get a shitty job just to pay the bills. Earth will keep spinning on its axis if I don’t find a job that pays more than minimum wage. My purpose right now is to keep my inner peace and to just show up.

I heard my friend say at a meeting on Friday that sometimes he has to say to himself, “You know what? I woke up sober. That might be the only important thing I do all day. And that has to be enough.” I¬†am elated when I hear shares like this one. It takes the pressure off of me to “make things happen.” I tend to put a shit ton of pressure on myself to find a job that reflects what a badass I am–in both my salary and my title. But that rubric of “needs” no longer serves me. Now that I have taken a very part-time job as a high school online electives facilitator (read, mentor) a new world of possible choices¬†has opened up to me. Yes, I continue to write during the day when I am not at school, but I also get to spend time with young people helping to set them up for a great future. My former sponsor told me before I started writing this blog to “remember why I started.” I do remember. In fact, I think about it every day. I started writing so I could help people. Now I see I want to help young people, too.¬†It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Today, I choose to apply calmness and rationality to my life situation. I live with my mother, who provides me rides to meetings and helps me get to my job. I am eternally grateful to her for being willing to help me out in the most difficult period of my life. I am filing for bankruptcy in December, because years of people-pleasing to get/keep cars for jobs to get/keep said jobs, to live in cool places well beyond my means, to buy drinks when I had no money to do so–all of that nonsense caught up with me. Simply put, today I choose to participate in a hard reset of my life and my dreams. My Modern Guilt about my Modern Romance with choice belongs in the rubbish bin, along with my old ideas about who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing.

If anyone reading this is around my age (29), then I am sure you have had your share of self doubt and impossible quandaries about¬†your future. The best piece of advice anyone ever gave me was that no one knows what they are doing. There is not a single person on this planet who “has it figured out.” Gratitude for the present helps me to see that where I am is “good enough.” A quote I’ve shared before that my friend happened to post this morning reminds me what living my higher purpose looks like:

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”

–Albert Camus

I wrote a paper in French about Albert Camus when I was a freshman in college in 2004-2005. I loved that French class, and I pursued a double major in French and Political Science simply because I loved both subjects too much to choose. People told me I chose not one, but TWO useless majors. I proved them wrong by obtaining political jobs right out of college for nearly six years. I applied French when I spoke fluently with Haitian cab drivers after nights of blackout drinking. I showed them.

Though I no longer have political jobs or drunken conversations with drivers from francophone countries, I am happy I followed my bliss when I was in college. Had I not taken the political route, I would have never ended up in Los Angeles. Hell, I may never have gotten to such a stressed out state to get sober, either. The truth is, I may never know. What I hold close to me is that my choices led me to where I am at this very moment: writing to help people, not just to help myself.

According to my good friend, Ziggy Stardust/Nicole (see previous blog post), I am experiencing my Saturn Return. In astrological speak, this means that I am undergoing a huge life change that shifts my perspective completely. Maybe in a few years all of this change will make more sense. In ten years, I might be having a very similar conversation with family and/or friends about how grateful I am I lived with my mother having no idea what I was going to be when I grew up. Maybe good enough is better than anything I could dream of right now.

Maybe good enough is enough, simply because it has to be.

Photo courtesy of uinterview