My Other Life

I’ve suffered from relentless violent nightmares since I was a child. No amount of therapy or journaling has reduced the torment. Sometimes I’m afraid to go to sleep, uncertain of what scene awaits me. I dream of storms, tornadoes, oceans, stairs, elevators, heights, hills, airplanes, and people attempting to kill me in many agonizing methods. I feel pain when dreaming, to the point I wake up exhausted and sore. It’s a life I have no control over. I feel helpless and victimized by my own subconscious. Very seldom am I ever able to awaken myself out of a nightmare once I recognize it’s not reality. PTSD for a REM cycle every damn night. I’m like that 80’s song by Heart:

These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside
Every moment I’m awake the further I’m away

Why can’t I be normal and dream of a shirtless Jared Leto in the mountains somewhere?? Why must I be forced to endure hours and hours of freaky violent shit? I’d love nothing more than to reach inside my head and remove whatever brain tissue that controls dreaming (as long as I can still daydream about Jared Leto).

Today I’ve been absolutely useless because the tension from last night’s horror story has left my muscles cramped and seizing up my neck and in my shoulders. For the love of God, someone bring me an Adavan and a sippy cup of vodka. Why can’t I turn off the nightmares? Am I so driven by fear when I’m awake that it follows me like a demon into the core of my psyche, only to reveal itself as soon as my eyes close…when I’m weak and powerless? Even as I type these words, I wonder what I’ll encounter tonight. Please be Jared Leto, please be Jared Leto, please be Jared Leto.

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The Next Life

246932_10151689972415991_878948270_nMy paternal grandfather has had heart failure for over ten years. He’s a strong man. For most of my life, he was emotionally reserved, almost keeping us at a distance. We all know he loves his wife and children and grandchildren, he just wasn’t very vocal about it until about five or six years ago. I still remember the first time he told me he loved me after a long phone call…I was in my mid-twenties. I was overjoyed by those three little words.

And now here he is, nearly 84 years old, and he’s dying…slowly, painfully at home. It’s one of those moments when I wish people had the right to die with dignity, that we could choose the right time to pass into the next life when our earthly bodies fail us. My grandmother is constantly at his side…unable to leave him. He doesn’t eat, he doesn’t get out of bed. He won’t let most of the family see him. I’m trying to decide if I want to or if I can see him…to say that goodbye that’s already gripping my heart. I know it’s time. I know what’s left of this life is coming to a close for him and I find myself wishing I’d spent more afternoons sitting under the large trees in his backyard having conversations.

And now every time my mom calls, I wonder if it’s to tell me he’s dead. It’s a horrible feeling. Almost as horrible as the phone calls you get where someone tells you someone else you love has died. There’s no way to be truly prepared for it. There’s not way to escape that chasm that forms in your chest. Even now, my heart hurts just thinking about it. My dad has nightmares about it and cries when he tries to tell me…because he knows the time is near. I feel like we’re holding our breath…waiting.

I’ve stopped praying for God to heal my Papa. Now I simply pray for God to ease Papa’s pain, grant him dignity…and please be merciful as he passes from this life into the next.

Fraud, Extortion, and Other Good Habits

I was recently asked to do calligraphy work on wedding invitations for a family friend. Have I ever done calligraphy? Nope. Can I learn? With the help of the internet, I can learn how to row a boat while speaking Japanese. Here’s hoping Mr. Google doesn’t let me down. Am I perpetuating a fraud? Maybe, but I’m desperate for income and sometimes it means stretching the limits on my “professional artistic ability.” It also involves spending way more time on projects that I’m barely getting paid for. I feel guilty for extorting money…which is probably why I’m poor. Everyone but the trusty 1% is pretty much starving or working shitty jobs to avoid starving or cleaning up after a natural disaster or preparing for the next disaster. And the strain on our incomes and the demands of our bill collectors makes us do things we’d never really imagine. I’m not quite to the desperation of John Q, but I get where he’s coming from. Eventually we encounter than we can handle (despite the adage that God never gives us more than we can bear) and we snap. We yell, we cheat, we steal, we lie, we grossly exaggerate, etc. …all in the name of survival. 

For now, my morals outweigh my urge to hurt or insult my fellow humans but I wonder if a day will come when I care much less… My resolve will disappear and I’ll be left as a shadow.

That said, I’m a believer in hope and often cling to it when I’m hungry and tired of eating ramen and hot dogs. So far, hope hasn’t let me down, but it’s come pretty damn close. I worry that eventually the hope will run out. And then what? Fraud and extortion could be the least of my worries.

That Helpless, Angry Feeling

Three weeks ago, my sister-in-law’s 24 year old brother died. There are still many questions about his death and the level of unresolved tension grows higher with each passing moment. He had been sick since birth, by all means should not have survived en-utero or childhood or adolescence…you get the idea. There were many times when family members held their breaths wondering if he would survive.

And then one day, his step-dad came home and found him unconscious in his bed. There was an empty bottle of pills, blood in the bathroom, and blood coming from his mouth. No one knows what his last moments were like. Hopefully he was at peace, resting in his bed, and unafraid.

Now the journey begins for those left behind. My poor sister-in-law and her family are deep in the throws of grief. They want to push through it so that it’s over as soon as possible. The pain, the despair, the lack of sleep, the vanishing appetite. The never-ending void in the center of the chest that aches constantly. Is there a prayer or routine that makes it easier? Is there a book or a mantra or anything to make the hurt disappear?

As for the rest of us, we’re victims of helplessness. We want desperately to help ease the pain, heal the wound. We say trite expressions, offer prayers, cook meals, hold hands, and sit in silence just hoping something, anything provides a moment of relief. It just pisses me off…all of it. I’m angry that I can’t do anything substantial to remove this burden. The hardest part of being human is grieving for the ones we love. We never ‘get over it’…we just simply learn to live differently.

I have grieved but nothing like this. Grief is as unique as sunrises and sunsets. Every person embraces it differently and it’s impossible to create a unified heal-all method for this shitty, unfair process. We have to face the fact that ultimately, there’s nothing we can do to abate the pain other than showing love. Love in any form and every form for as long as it takes. In time, they’ll learn to walk and breathe again and our helpless, angry feeling will begin to subside.