When Dreams Shift into Nightmares

I remember thinking, “There’s no way out of this one.” And then I woke up.

My dreams never make a lot of sense.

When I go to explain them to someone, I often can’t describe them linearly, and the details become muddled. However, when I am in my dream, they seem clear to me, and last night was a series of nightmares that left me feeling very emotionally uncomfortable.

Both were apocalyptic in nature, but at the end of the first one, a single, white horse was stampeding towards me. I stood at the end of a very high cliff with a breath-taking view, knowing I needed to get out of the way, so I hung over the side of the cliff.

It went successfully, but then for some reason, after pulling myself up, I had that urge to just jump. I knew I would be killing myself if I did (and I was not aware it was a dream at the time; it felt very real), but I chose to jump.

I remember closing my eyes and soaring downward very fast, my back facing the ground. I felt scared, but I came to complete peace with what I had chosen and knew what might come at the end would not necessarily be painless, because how can you know unless you’ve done it? I talked to God, I remembered people I loved, and I pressed my eyes shut very tightly, so I wouldn’t know when I would hit the bottom.

I never hit the bottom.

That dream scared the shit out of me. Covered in sweat, I lay in bed for a few minutes completely freaked out that I made that decision, dream or not, and then had to coax myself back to sleep with meditation.

A little later, seemingly half-awake, I felt Bryan next to me and said, “hey.” He woke up and acknowledged me, and I asked him, “How did you get here? I was hoping you would be here,” because he was not at my place last night. I think I needed the comfort from the previous dream.

I remember being completely amazed at this magic trick he performed (appearing in my apartment at 4am), and I made him come with me to the mirror, so I could turn on the light and prove he was there. He was.

Of course, I was dreaming, but it was one of those dreams where the lines between reality and fantasy are extremely blurred. I was looking at my own hands. I was sitting up in my own bed. I remember thinking about how this time it wasn’t a dream.

I walked out into the living room and other people started to enter my apartment. Friends needing refuge. There was some catastrophe that took place in London, and it was beginning to take effect globally. I scrambled to get cots and blankets for people, and Bryan was helping me.

At one point, I tried to use the telephone to contact work (because of the emergency) but the lines were dead…

And yet again, I awoke, and realized no apocalypse was taking place outside my window. No immediate need for fight or flight. No boyfriend there comforting me after my bad dream.

A night of dreams such as those feels less like rest and more like a long trek, and I am worse for wear this morning. The lingering emotions will wind down as daylight continues, and I will forget the nightmarish ghouls that snuck into my bedroom and made me think the unimaginable.

Antidote

A few days ago, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post about my ex’s brother and his girlfriend “in a relationship”. They have been dating since the summer but finally made it “Facebook official”.

My ex’s mother responded to the post: “The best thing to ever happen to this family!” Although I agree that his girlfriend is simply amazing and a genuine sweetheart, it stung. Why?

Well, because for years, I was the best thing that ever happened to that family.

I was the glowing spectacle in the eyes of his mother, brought in from the world into her undeserving son’s arms, hopefully to remain indefinitely. Obviously, he and I broke up. More than once, in fact, because at the time, he simply didn’t know what he wanted, couldn’t own up to his emotions, or wasn’t ready.

While I can accept that and know it was he who cast me out, why did it sting so much to read that comment?

It’s the phrasing; in particular, the word “family”. Why would she be the best thing for the family? Wouldn’t she merely be the best thing for my ex’s brother? Similarly, why was I the best thing that ever happened to the family and not just to my ex?

The thing is, I may have been the best thing that happened to my ex in years, but I also received so much warmth and approval from his family that it really felt like I was the new bulb replaced on the string of lights that made things once again bright.

I never had his affections and emotions in an open sort of way. He hid himself from me and rarely made me feel very loved or special, so having his family’s acceptance was part of what kept me going. I needed it to have the patience required to wait for him to shape up.

That’s why the comment scraped the inside of my heart: I was just as much in a relationship with the family as I was with my ex, and in some ways, more connected to them than I was to him, at times. Breaking up with him was breaking up with three other people all at once.

Now I have the devotion of a man who isn’t afraid to tell me how he feels. He tells me I’m beautiful, sweet, cute, and amazing every day. He even says I’m the “most beautiful” he’s ever seen. Although I like his parents, I don’t need them in the way that I relied so heavily upon the relationship I had with my ex’s family, because with Bryan, I am given more than enough adulation and support. I don’t feel like I’m wading in a pool of my own emotions for someone else, while they are on the shore holding the life raft, like I did with my ex. I was always waiting for him to jump into the depths with me or at least scoop me out to the beach to be with him.

In that way, I very much required the acceptance of his family, because without that, I was swimming alone in my love for him. Buffered by their love, I could be strong enough to hold on a bit longer.

That’s why it stung.

It’s completely personal and nothing to do with my ex’s brother’s girlfriend. She is beyond a blessing to be around. It’s nothing more than coming to terms with my own insecurity I felt in my past relationship.

Realizing that I am now submersed in the warm cocoon of a submarine barrack with a man who openly and unabashedly loves me gives me security. His acceptance is the one I need, and it has finally been found.

Unsettled

Is it weird that my heart breaks when my ex talks about his relationship woes?

The drive from Willimantic to Southbridge was nice. We needed to catch up, since it had been a few months since we had seen each other, and we text far less now that he has a girlfriend with whom he lives.

When I parked on the steep hill and stepped out of the car to find him on his front stoop, I wasn’t sure if she was there… if I should go introduce myself. Turns out, she had left the house before I arrived, so he got in my driver’s side and drove us to my mom’s, since I had just been driving for an hour. I joked with him that it’s fine, because I was too lazy to ever take him off my insurance.

On the way, we talked mostly about him—how things have been going with the girl; how involved he is with his church. We passed the cemetery I once peed in, because I couldn’t wait any longer, and I pointed and said, “I peed in that cemetery.” J replied, “Yup. And we were listening to Death Cab for Cutie. Fond memory of the early days.”

At my mother’s, he was his usual reticent self. While my sister chattered on about work and gardening, J pulled out his phone and silently played a game. Occasionally, he would say a word or two, but mostly he’d pause to look up at the tv and then back at his phone.

This might be regarded as rude, but it’s not. It’s just J. As soon as someone engages him in conversation, he’ll talk. He’s just always been the more introverted, quiet observer-type.

Out on the deck with my sister, I commented, “I was thinking about how quiet J was being and then I remembered J is always that quiet.” She goes, “Yeah. That’s J.”

It did not feel odd in the slightest to have him there with us while we celebrated my mom’s birthday. My sister provided a delicious dinner and we sat around and talked for a while. My belly was full, my eyes were stinging from cigarette smoke, and I was starting to get a headache, so very shortly after my sister departed, we decided to, also.

On the drive home, there was more serious talk about our relationships and god. It’s so fascinating to me how, now, we agree on so many things, that I give him advice and insight, and he listens and understands. We’ve traversed miles of communication barriers and selfishness in the four-plus years we’ve been apart.

We both wondered if we’d only ever be each other’s one shot at “it”. I told him that sometimes I thought so. Maybe that was our chance for love and we couldn’t do it. Maybe we are both destined not to find our “ones”. Those chances were buried just like the graves next to which I relieved my full bladder on one of our happy, free-spirited rides when love was young and rife with hope.

There’s only one other person since J who has remotely made me feel the way J has in terms of depth of connection and romance. In terms of overflowing emotion and true compassion and appreciation for their existence. He knows who he is.

But lately, I’ve just been wading endlessly in an ocean with a hazy horizon point. I can’t tell where I’m going, where I’m supposed to go, and what I’ll find when I get there.

Since I already have found what I’m looking for, twice, I don’t really know what else I’m supposed to uncover.

It’s been a long four years of feeling unsettled. Even when I was in my on-and-off-again relationship with my other ex after J, I never felt assured. I had no idea if he loved me or not, and he continually kept me dangled on some potential hope we might live together only to sabotage things and pull it away from me.

For years, I’ve learned only to trust myself. To love myself. And to know that even if I never find the “one”, I have enough self-love that I’ll be fine.

That doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t break whenever I think about the one who got away from me, or the ones who won’t give me a fair chance. That doesn’t mean that although I would not get back together with J, my heart doesn’t wrench and sizzle with anger that he’s dealing with immaturity or a person who doesn’t share the same aspirations and passions.

I want to cloak and protect him, maybe because we couldn’t protect ourselves from each other.

Maybe because I’ve been guarding and protecting myself for so long, it’s the only thing I know how to do.

My Irish Boy (8.12.13)

Of course, I miss your laugh, your eyes, your voice

The hugs, the intimacy, the games, and the music

Of course, I hurt inside when I know you’re out with someone else

And of course, I wish I were there perpetually

Instead of here all by myself

 

Those things sting enough, but what hits me hardest

Is the unexpected– the innocuous moment

Or so it seems

When a can of corned beef hash

On the top shelf stares down at me

Summer’s Gone

Drops of luminescence beat the ground

After a cold night

In a Spring sun

 

I awoke with frost on my heart

Warm, tired tears

In a sunless, embracing bed

 

We always seemed shocked and angered

by the snow’s fall

After a pleasant day

 

I’m done being fooled by the chill,

by the icy words

that follow a once enchanting summer

Sweet 16

I remember being sixteen years old, tightly stuffed into a friend’s basement in Worcester, MA, feeling higher and happier than a child chasing a trail of pearlescent bubbles.

It was New Year’s Eve, 1999.

I was there with my sister, mutual friends, and the boy with whom I was completely infatuated from the first moment I saw him that summer. I wore black vinyl pants and remember my crush saying to me on the ride to Worcester, “I can see myself in your pants. No, really. It’s not a pickup line. I can see myself in your pants.”

He braided me an aluminum foil bracelet as we stood by ourselves in the kitchen, tucked away in a corner, where we rubbed noses and giggled about how Eskimos and gnomes kiss.

I remember hanging out in one of my friend’s van outside listening to DMX and Dr Dre. I vaguely recall our friends’ band playing that evening in the tiny basement. I also remember eating peanuts while chewing gum, and realizing as my gum dissolved and slid down my throat, that that’s why people use peanut butter to get gum out of girls’ hair. Epiphany. I was hopped up on illegal substances and the world was my oyster.

As the ball was on its descent into the year Y-2-K, we all joked about how the internet would shut down, chaos would ensue, and the beginning of the end would follow thereafter.

None of that happened, of course, but when the countdown reached zero, I grabbed the boy and kissed him so sweetly. It was my first New Year’s kiss and I was on ecstasy.

Very early on the morning of New Year’s Day, I went back to the boy’s house and he laboriously peeled the black vinyl pants off my sweaty body. I lay in the boy’s bed, while he tried to do sexy things to me and I was coming down. I was tired, and it just wasn’t working. Frustrated and selfish, he broke up with me; I was mostly naked in his bed and trapped at his home without a ride.

Later that morning, forgetting what he had done only hours earlier, he in naive slumber, curled his arm tightly around my waist and pulled me in to snuggle. I just lay there and cried silently.

Happy New Year.

That boy became the man with whom I reunited seven years later and almost married.

Now, sixteen years after that emotional bumper car ride, I am sitting here in my favorite, thread-bare bathrobe in my cozy apartment. I am thinking about how many dull years have passed. How many of them I spent being a normal, young adult with a relatively stable existence. How many of them I spent with that same boy, and how many I have spent without him since we split. How so many of those years since we broke up were anything but stable or dull. How grateful I am to be where I am sitting today.

One thing that has always been consistent in all of my teen and adult years is my struggle with love. Oh, I find love, I just can’t keep love. The last three New Year’s Eves have been spent with friends, doling out hugs and cheek pecks at the ball drop.

Four years ago, I experienced something akin to my sixteenth year. I told the new guy I was dating since J and I broke up that I loved him for the first time. On New Year’s Day. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t trying to be romantic by choosing a special day; it had just been six months together and fifteen years total since I had known him, and it came out of my mouth as we lay in my bed after drinking several mimosas and fondling each other. He reacted poorly. Understatement. His reaction was the worst reaction anyone could possibly have to being told they are loved by their girlfriend.

First, he laughed nervously. Really hard. Then, he pulled me in for a hug and swayed us back and forth for an extremely uncomfortable amount of time. It felt like three decades. We both silently shared a cigarette on my porch, and then, abruptly, he told me he had to go.

My New Year’s track record is excellent.

This year I feel good, though. I’ve been taking a lot of time to focus on organizing my life and my home. I have been writing a lot. I don’t really go out or drink very often at all and am in bed by 10 or 11 each night. I cherish my girl cat and lavish in all this extra time I have to be near her because I am not out getting messed up. I am yet again reconnecting with me, my favorite person to hang out with.

I cannot predict how the year will progress nor do I really want to. There are a couple of projects in the works that will keep me focused on my hobby and love for writing and editing, and I am finally loving my body and taking care of her needs.

Coming from the girl who always has put others before her, I am no longer content to be that person who lies there, quietly stifling her tears, while men abandon her right as a human to have her own fears, feelings, and thoughts.

And while I may be romancing someone currently who makes me swoon, blush, or feel dizzy, he is not the center of my world–he is just a very lovely and enticing piece of it. I like my life and I damn well should. It is mine after all. No one else’s. I live it for me and those who come into it, like my friends, family, or this romance, are all just enhancements and embellishments to the steadily polished bowl I’ve been working on for nearly thirty-three years.

I used to repeat the mantra, “I am happy; I am healthy; I am wealthy; I am wise.”

I think as I move into this new year of 2016, I am going to focus on the simple sweetness.

There’s a calm radiating throughout my being, because I’ve been chasing the metaphorical dragon for years and am finally ready to be me. To be the girl renewed from years of bad relationships and abuse; to be the girl strengthened against giving herself to men just to feel wanted; to be the woman who is comfortable in her new shape but still yearns to feel healthy in body, mind, and spirit. But mostly, to be Amanda, the person I know most intimately.

Amanda loves to read. She loves cleaning. Her home is an homage to the things she cherishes most: her cats, her friends, and music. She is nostalgic and loves to read her old journals (and then immediately shred them upon completion). She is sappy and enjoys eating popcorn by herself while watching comedy romances. She puts herself to sleep each night by petting her cat and listening to science documentaries. She writes in a gratitude journal. She requires time to herself every day to feel whole. She loves writing and making music more than she loves most things, and she gives her heart freely and generously to the people who mean the most to her. She does this not because she has to, not out of guilt, fear, or obligation, but because when Amanda feels like Amanda, she is a resonating channel of love.

From what I know of Amanda, she is sweet. She is kind, caring, and sweet. She’s snarky, sarcastic, whiny, and selfish, too, but no one likes a perfectly polished bowl, now, do they?

May I only hope that 2016 simply holds that presence of free love, if nothing else. It might just be the sweetest sixteen I’ve had yet.

A Different Kind of Christmas

I don’t mean to sound like a grinch or a curmudgeon, but I generally kinda hate this time of year.

I didn’t always. When I was little, Christmas was my favorite holiday. Of course. Then, across my teenage years to early twenties, it became somewhat lackluster. I didn’t HATE it; I just found the “magic” of it to be unimpressive.

When J and I were together, there was a resurgence of the splendor. I made home-made cards for everyone each year, I decorated our home, we put up a tree. I loved wrapping gifts.

Then, my sister got engaged right before Christmas. She had been with her man a way shorter time than J and I had. J and I had been together for years. I was disappointed, naturally. A year later, right before Christmas, J proposed. That was a great Christmas; unfortunately, the jealousy spiked after we were engaged (seems counter-intuitive, I know) and he sabotaged our relationship in the following months.

Since then, I have celebrated three Christmases and this year will be the fourth. The first Christmas was great; I was dating someone new and went to his house to be with his family on Christmas Day. It was the next two years to follow that have made me entirely skeptical of the Christmas season.

For the past two years, absolutely horrific things have happened right around Christmas. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the events, because they are very private in nature, but both were severely traumatizing and heart-wrenching.

This year, I experienced yet another traumatizing event right after a good friend passed away. I reconnected with a man who made me forget everyone who’s ever hurt me, and then I sadly ended things with him at the end of summer. Of course, we are not very good at staying away from one another, so that’s a whole other thing. Then, my cat unexpectedly passed away, a friend’s mother passed away, and other friends have been experiencing a lot of upheaval in their own lives.

This Christmas? Despite all of that, it seems way better than the last two. It’s amazing what a little perspective will do. My roommate and I put up the tree on December 1st. I have decorations out. I have no money to purchase any gifts for anyone this year, because I am in quite a bit of debt from my cat’s vet bills, but I am not fearful of the day of Christmas, itself.

I don’t know if I’ll be waking up alone Christmas Day. I don’t know if I’ll be spending it alone this year. Strangely, I haven’t really thought about it too much. And New Years? I haven’t even made plans yet.

I’m still struggling and having a hard time with things. It’s been a very emotional year, but I don’t feel the overwhelming devastation of years past. What I feel is a want and a need to reconnect with myself in an even deeper way than I have been for the past year. To become healthy again. To write, write, write. And anything else that happens in between, well, we’ll see.

Sometimes, not really having expectations is a healthy mindset. Going with the flow of things has never stabbed me in the back.

This year, perhaps, I just have to “be”.