There Are Dreams and Then There Are Dreams

I pass by this plaque every time I visit the post office in Kent, Washington.

Plaque

I have very mixed emotions about it.

Of course I’m happy that coworkers cared enough about Douglas J Hansen to memorialize him after his death. I do like the quote, “Don’t ever give up on your dreams.” But the older I get, the more I realize that there are dreams, and then there are dreams.

Doug Hansen was 46 years old when he died. No one should die at 46. My life was only just beginning at that age, and I’ve had so many amazing experiences since then. Life is priceless.

He died after having climbed to the top of Mt. Everest. That’s a formidable achievement, especially when you consider the fact that it was his second attempt. He died on the way back down the mountain.

Normally I’d say good for him. He had a dream. He went for it. And he reached his goal before he died.

But the story is a little more complicated than that. According to Wikipedia, a storm was headed toward the mountain, and everyone knew it. They just didn’t realize how severe it would be. As it increased in intensity, one of the most experienced Sherpas on the mountain that day encountered Hansen and ordered him to descend. Hansen shook his head and continued upward.

He took too long. By the time he reached the summit and started his descent, in a raging storm with depleted oxygen reserves, it was too late. He paid for it with his life. A total of 8 people died on that mountain that day. Ignore experts at your peril.

I understand why Hansen would be reluctant to give up. After all, it was his dream, and he’d already failed once. Also, climbing Mt. Everest isn’t cheap. On average, it costs $70,000 to $100,000. It must be frustrating to shell out that kind of money twice only to fail twice. Obviously, he was very determined.

But was it worth his life, or that of the guide who stayed with him? I’m thinking no. I say, live to dream another day.

Do I think we should all huddle on our couches, afraid to take risks, devoid of aspiration? No. But you should do a thorough cost/benefit analysis before putting your life on the line. I think it’s foolhardy to give up everything, absolutely everything, especially when you have no idea what your future holds.

Life is full of possibilities. But instead of exploring those possibilities, Doug Hansen’s body has never been found. It’s frozen stiff somewhere on Mt. Everest, and there’s nothing but a tombstone for him in the same graveyard in Renton, Washington where Jimi Hendrix is buried, and a memorial plaque outside a post office in Kent. That seems like a poor trade off to me.

What do you think?

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CPAP Dreams

I have this love/hate relationship with my CPAP machine. I’ve been sleeping with a mask on every night for about 3 months now. It’s no fun at all. It’s uncomfortable, and confining, and it makes me marinate in my own drool. I feel trapped, and I strongly suspect it’s subtly changing the shape of my face. (Hey, it could happen. Anything’s possible. Google it.)

On the other hand, I’m no longer waking up 10 times a night. I sleep right on through, usually. And I’m much more rested. So it’s a burden I’m willing to take on.

Here’s the one concern I can’t seem to shake: I’m not communicating with my subconscious. We are no longer on speaking terms. I don’t remember my dreams anymore, because I’m not waking up immediately after REM sleep.

This is a good thing, health-wise. But I wonder about that communication process and the loss thereof. I mean, what are dreams for, if not to send us messages from the deepest parts of our brains?

Okay, I’ll admit that 9 times out of 10 I can’t make sense of my dreams at all. But sometimes they clue me in on the fact that I’m a lot more concerned about something than I realize. That allows me to take that thing more seriously and resolve it if I can.

But now all that seems to rattle around in my sleeping brain is the background hum of my CPAP machine. At first it was kind of a relief, because I have enough to think about without added dream drama. But now I wonder what I’m missing.

Because of that (and because, let’s face it, I hate the mask), I sometimes peel the alien intruder off my face and allow myself a few hours of slobber-free, unencumbered sleep. It’s such a luxury. It feels so good.

I have noticed, though, that this causes my dreams to be incredibly intense. No longer just abstract and surreal, it’s like my sleeping self is gripping me by the shoulders and giving me a good hard shake. “Hello! Are you listening? This stuff is important!” My dreams are no longer sweet. They’re more like shouts.

Will this impact my mental health? I mean, communication matters, right? Should I be worried? Stay tuned…

dream

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Gently Down the Stream

Row, row, Row your boat…

Ugh. I have a cold. And it’s a weird one. No stuffy nose. No fever. A sore throat for about 20 minutes. Then, chest congestion and coughing, coughing, coughing for weeks. And the worst part: vertigo.

The ground seems to be rolling like a storm-tossed sea. And whenever I turn to look at something, the rest of the planet seems to lag about a second and a half behind me. It’s messing with my head. I can’t think straight. I can’t focus. I can’t blog. And I’m tired. I’m so very tired.

And yet, here I am, at work. In a stupor. And my ever-lengthening personal to-do list is a source of anxiety. I feel like I’m not keeping up with my end of the marriage. All I want to do is sleep.

And, is it a full moon? It must be. Because everything is weird. I feel like no one, including my computer, is understanding anything I say. I’m struggling to make myself clear. And people are acting strange. No. It’s not a full moon. In fact, we’re approaching a new moon. Oh, who cares? Nothing seems real.

It’s raining. A jeep stalls on my drawbridge, backing up traffic. I call a tow truck.

Did I call the tow truck? I remember calling someone… I think I called a tow truck. Oh. Here comes the tow truck. Somebody must have called a tow truck. But is it the tow truck I called? Should I call off my tow truck? Screw it. They’ll figure it out.

It’s time to go home. I shouldn’t be driving. But I want to go home. My socks are wet. How did my socks get wet? Now my feet feel all clammy. Cough.

Yay. I made it home. The dogs are happy to see me. I feel like I’m in the eye of a puppy hurricane. I’m not sure, but I think one or two of them even levitated for a minute there. I let them out to do their business. I’m glad someone is taking care of business.

My husband is off finding us a replacement car for the one that got totaled a few weeks ago by an unrepentant idiot. I should be helping. I can’t even seem to help myself.

I let the dogs back in, and I head for bed, peeling my wet socks off my feet along the way. No human being can hug you as good as your mattress can. Finally, I can go to sleep.

Except, no. I can’t. I have to pee. Groan.

I get up. I head for the bathroom. I trip over one of the dogs and land flat on my face in the hallway. It’s the only thing I’ve done all day that doesn’t seem to be in slow motion.

My back. I wrenched my back. God, but it hurts.

Fuck my life.

I get up. Slowly. Carefully.

The dog refuses to apologize.

I go into the bathroom. I pee. I decide to take a leftover pain pill from a previous klutzy escapade as a preemptive strike for the back pain that’s headed my way. It’s hard core. It’s heavy duty. Don’t try this at home.

I crawl back into bed and sleep overtakes me.

Gently down the stream…

My dreams are the stuff of a Dali painting. But I don’t care. I’m asleep.

Until about midnight, when I hear my husband letting the dogs out. I’m sure he’s been home for many hours. I get up.

My back feels okay. My feet are dry. I’m warm. I’m home. I’m not as dizzy as I was. I still have the cough, but hey… progress. I’ll take it.

I putter cautiously into the kitchen, where my husband stands at the door, waiting for the dogs. I snuggle into his arms.

“Is this a dream?” I say, sleepily.

Because everything is so good. I love my life now. I love my husband. I love my dogs. I love my house. I love my job. Everything is just so freaking good.

“No,” he whispers. “You’re awake.”

“Thank you for being real.” I say. And I go back to bed.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream…

Now, if I could just get past this cold.

row your boat

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Dream Crushing

I used to know someone who seemed to delight in crushing others’ dreams. When I was young, she approached my mother, all concerned, because I talked about wanting to be a teacher, when the week before I wanted to be something else. My mother responded, “She’s a kid. She’s supposed to try different ideas on for size. Let her be.” (That was probably one of my mother’s finest moments. Thanks, Ma.)

This person went on to have children of her own, and it broke my heart the way she used to deprive them of all hope. When one of her kids said she wanted to be a singer, she was told that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than become famous.

While that may be true, the message she was sending was, “Why even try? You won’t be good enough.” Because of that, that girl grew up and singing isn’t a part of her life. She might have been famous. Or she might have sung in the church choir and made lifelong friends that way. Or she might have become a music teacher. So many paths were cut off from her life thanks to her mudslide of a mother.

When another one of her kids showed aptitude in one area above all others, she tried her best to discourage him, because it wouldn’t be an easy career. But he lived and breathed it. He did manage to get halfway into it, but never went the distance. I often wonder where he’d be if he had gotten just the tiniest bit of encouragement from the woman he admired most.

It’s so much easier to crush someone than to lift that person up. When you crush, gravity is on your side. But I hope you’ll resist the urge.

Watching people fly, even if it’s away from you,  even if the destination remains just out of reach for them, is much more satisfying than having to scrape them off the sole of your shoe.

lift

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Who Gave Me This Gift?

Here lately, I’ve been having quite a few frustration dreams. You know the kind. I’m lost and no matter how hard I try, I can’t find my way out. Or I keep cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, but the place is still a mess. Or I’m running in slow motion. Or I’m trying to say something really important, but no one is listening.

Just the other day, I was thinking about these dreams as I fell asleep. I was trying to figure out the source of my frustration. I was feeling… well… frustrated that I couldn’t reach any conclusions. And those thoughts, as I drifted off, triggered an even stranger dream.

In this one, I had been given the gift of a tank top. I do like tank tops, but it’s the dead of winter, so I was a little befuddled by this. I decided to try on the tank top anyway. It fit well, but I felt some strange lumps in the shoulder straps. I reached up and pulled out a wrench. And then a screw driver. And then a hammer. And then a saw… and so on. It was like the hardware equivalent of a clown car.

And then a voice said, “You have all the tools you need.”

That woke me up out of a sound sleep. Because… who was that?

The current thinking in terms of dream interpretation is that every actor in your dream is a manifestation of yourself. But that wasn’t me. I know it in the very marrow of my bones. My Id is not that confident. My Superego couldn’t be bothered. It wasn’t any part of me. Who, then?

A friend of mine theorizes that it was God. Her spiritual beliefs and mine aren’t very similar. I don’t anthropomorphize my higher power. And even if I did, in the Trump era, it’s safe to assume he or she has much bigger fish to fry.

Could it have been my mother, speaking to me from beyond the grave? Or my late boyfriend? My father? My sister?

I don’t know. I just know it wasn’t me. It was a good message, though. If it had been a sinister message I’d be worried. But it was a positive message. “You have all the tools you need.” The minute it was said, I believed it. So I’ll just focus on that.

Sometimes you just need to take the gifts that are given to you, and say thank you.

Voice of God

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Plan “Be”

I can’t remember where I read about this concept, but it appeals to me greatly. Just be. Live in the now. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Pure bliss.

It’s not as easy as it looks, though. For example, I’m in the midst of planning my vacations for the year. Obviously, that’s future stuff. And I came across my diary from high school, and have been reading it. Past stuff.

Much of this blog is about past experience or future dreams. And I’m a little stressed because I’ve been sick as a dog for the past few days, so I don’t have as many future blog entries waiting in the queue as I usually do.

Past, Future…see how many times I’ve bounced from one to the other in just the PAST few paragraphs? Why is it so hard to stay in the present? Do we not value it as much?

In truth, the present is the only thing that is real. The way we remember the past changes over time, and we view it through our own biased lens. As for the future, it may not come about. You could be hit by a bus tomorrow.

Heaven knows that the way I had my life plotted out in my high school diary certainly never came to be. Sometimes I look in the mirror and say to myself, “How the hell did you get here?” Sometimes that’s an angry question. Other times it’s infused with gratitude and awe.

But there I go again, reflecting on the past. I’ll have to work on that. Sometime in the future…

past future

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Hiding Your Light under a Bushel

I used to be in a relationship with someone who wrote a diary every single solitary day for decades. That’s pretty darned impressive. He wants to donate it to the Smithsonian someday.

The thing is (yeah, yeah, there’s always a thing), no one will want to read it except the most steadfast historians. His diary is as dry as toast. It was an arid recounting of the facts. “Today I had eggs for breakfast.”

I used to say, “Why don’t you tell them how you felt about the eggs? Or how they tasted, or smelled, or looked?” People in the future will care about the way we perceived things, not just what we did. But no. Just the facts for him.

The readers of this diary will never know his opinion about anything, or what he thought about, or what his dreams were for the future. (As far as I could tell, he had none, which is one of the many reasons we went our separate ways.)

Even though I didn’t agree with his writing style, I knew how much writing meant to him. I think that’s why I shied away from writing when I was with him. In some twisted part of my brain, I sort of felt as though if I wrote too much, I’d somehow overshadow him. So I hid my light under a bushel. I refused to take flight. Or something.

I thought I was being kind, sacrificing for someone I cared about so as not to crush him like a bug. Sometimes the dam would burst and I’d be compelled to write an article for a local paper, and I’d always get tapped to write company newsletters and things of that nature, but I didn’t start this daily blog until a year or two after we called it quits.

I made the wrong decision. By not allowing myself to shine, I was damaging a part of my soul, and I was depriving him of the opportunity to adapt and change and grow. And let’s not overlook the fact that he missed out on knowing a really special part of who I am.

But he was complicit in my self-warping behavior. He must have seen the signs. He refused to acknowledge them or nurture them in any way, but surely on some level he saw them.

If you feel the need (or are passive-aggressively encouraged) to hold yourself back for someone, please know that that’s very unhealthy. It harms both you and the person who is acting as the wind above your wings.

Always try to fly as high as you can. Otherwise you’ll never get where you deserve to go.

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