every second of the night, I live another life

C9QqL74All I know was I was with people I work with and we had to jump off a bridge onto a moving train. It was all very dramatic in an early 1990’s way. Like Sandra Bullock could have sped by in an out of control bus at any moment. Anyway, I jumped and completely missed the platform I was supposed to land on. For a split second (which when we talk about really dramatic near plummets to our deaths, are the only kind of seconds allowed. Take your normal second elsewhere, pal.) I thought well I’m screwed. Guess I should have been nicer to people but now I’m fucked because my brain is going to splatter all over the pavement. Meanwhile, my coworkers had landed successfully and ran off to the next dramatic challenge, I’m assuming. But instead of my brain splattering, I floated. I just kind of hovered like one of those dumb looking seagulls that flies in place during an ocean breeze. I was out of breath and terrified and then I woke up. I rolled back over and fell asleep and started dreaming again quickly. I was immediately greeted by a creature who was part bear and part armadillo. And not greeted like he was gonna give me a hug. But in the way the he was standing in the path I was walking down and looked like he didn’t want to move nor did he want to be fucked with.  I woke up again with my heart pounding and decided that maybe my subconscious was telling mine it was time to get up.

I’ve had pretty intense dreams my entire life. Granted, this sounds like one of those conversations your  dramatic friend in college would have right before she launched into a confession that she might be psychic or at the very least an empath. But it’s true. This imagination runs on overdrive when I close my eyes.  I used to have awful nightmares as a child, primarily dealing with getting attacked by wild animals thus why I knew better than to tangle with bearmadillo. No more than 10 years old, I would wake up screaming and drenched in sweat. Once after a really terrible nightmare, my two brothers stood above my bed with worried faces. While I don’t remember the dream, I remember it was freaky enough to startle me and everyone in my house. I was even given a dream journal at a young age hoping that would help. I can’t say for sure that it did but it certainly helped me start exploring dreams as a gateway to something else and a window into possibilities, regardless of how ridiculous they were.

Through some of the things I read, I learned tricks and ways to wake from nightmares or to shift the narrative if shit got too real, too fast. I learned if I floated above myself, like I recently did as I was falling, I was actually having an out-of-body experience. I learned if I scribbled three words down when I first woke up, I had a better chance of remembering the entire dream later.  It was very much in line with the psychology of the 1980’s and even pop culture. The hot garbage 1984 classic Dreamscape with Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid explored the idea of being able to project yourself into the dreams of others. With the aid of shifty scientists and terrible government officials, as was the case in all of these films. I must have watched that stupid movie 178 times on HBO but the idea really appealed to me: leave my own thoughts and go somewhere else. The last scary “attacked by an animal dream” as a child I really remember was a large bird trying to rip my arm off as I floated alone on a raft in the middle of a calm lake. No wonder my mind wanted to be somewhere else. One of my dream books from that era said that my dreams of being attacked by animals meant that something was eating me on a subconscious level. As a gay kid not out of the closet or even in the remotest sense sexually awakened, this analysis was a little too on the nose.

With a recent death in my family and about 6 days of the worst sleep ever, let’s just say my current dreams have been off the chain. Non-linear, dramatic snippets of life crammed together with nonsensical narratives of political, sexual and psychological nature. The Heart song quoted in the title of this essay isn’t just to remind you that I’m old and that the 1980’s is my only point of reference. It also sums up what I like about dreams: to live another life, to be someone else. That’s what I liked about drugs too. Dreams, however, are even harder to control and more unpredictable than substances. Especially dreams about substances. My last cocaine dream was about three weeks ago. I snorted cocaine at a party and then spent the remainder of the dream trying to come up with an elaborate lie so that no one in my  life would ever find out I relapsed. Even asleep, I’m a scheming bitch. When I wake from using and drinking dreams, I always travel from being panicked that it actually happened, to disappointed in myself to ultimately relieved that it was just a dream. It’s quite a journey to take when you just open your eyes, honey.

This morning when I woke up, after a dream I don’t really remember, I forced myself to stay in bed as long as I could. I am the lucky owner of a bladder and two cats all of whom want me to get up around 5am. I try my damnedest on my days off to fight the urge to sit in the pre-sunrise stillness of my living room. I try to roll over and go back to sleep, back to dreaming. But this morning it was a no go. There was coffee to be had and internet to be read, cats to pet and so on. I told my therapist I’d been having fucked up dreams and sleeping horribly and he said, “Let’s monitor those and check in next week.” Seems like a solid plan. Treat my subconscious like a recently repaired air conditioning unit.

While there’s no bridges to jump off or wild creatures to battle in my waking life, there’s this brain I get to walk around with. It’s the brain of an addict. It’s the brain of a person with depression. It’s the brain with a whole goody bag of mental health challenges. But mainly, it’s a brain that likes to dream. And dream a lot! Lately, I have a slew of dreams suddenly taking shape and morphing into a real world things, all by themselves. When I think about the people I’ve lost recently and think about their dreams that got interrupted and cut short, I know it’s a brain I’m lucky to have.

 

 

 

here’s to the ones who dream

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“The Dream” by Henri Matisse

Creativity takes courage or at least that’s what Henri Matisse said. But does it though? I mean really? Are we sure? Because courage? That’s a heavy ass word. Just typing it I shake my head and go, “Uh uh. No way.” The thing is if creativity does take courage then that means I’ll actually have to make the stuff I dream about! Also? I’ll actually have to let people look at it. So then it will take even more courage to deal with people hating it or worse than that- totally ignoring it’s existence. Oh fuck no.

Thankfully, it all has to start with a dream. Preferably not the dream I had the other night where I was high on drugs and trapped at a Christian themed amusement park run by sadists but a dream nonetheless. When I’m in dream territory, there’s no holds barred. It’s all “maybe I should” or “hey wouldn’t it be cool if” or “I’ve always kind of wanted to” type of ideas. They don’t need to stick. They don’t need to find budgets or time or audiences. They can just be dreams but I should be nice to them and take care of them like tiny, fuzzy baby birds. And the more of them I have at any given time, the better. I feel like my little old brain that’s perhaps been bitch slapped by chemicals one too many times needs a high concentration of dreams and crazy ideas. This is maybe why I consume films, television shows, books, magazines, music, visual art etcetera like I’m trapped in a never-ending game of Ms. Pac-Man(the superior Pac-Man and I will hear no other opinion on the matter!). I need a stream of ideas and inspirations running all day long so my brain and the dreams it produces doesn’t dry out. Creativity, or at least mine, has always been collaborative in the sense that it needs to be fed constantly and from dozens of sources.

Right now my brain is particularly well-fed thanks in part to the high density of terrific movies out right now. Saturday night, for example, I watched Hell or High Water, a modern western which is not my genre by a longshot. The film is so jam-packed with thought-provoking ideas and crackling dialogue that it didn’t even matter. We also watched Bright Lights on HBO, the new documentary about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds which given my love for Fisher was immediately heartbreaking and inspiring. Earlier in the week, we watched Manchester by the Sea. It simultaneously tore my heart out and made me laugh while reminding me how powerful great acting can be. Add to the pile recent viewings of Moonlight, Arrival, Sing Street and a few oldies thrown in more good measure and my head is overflowing with film dreams and inspirations.

Yet no current movie tackles the idea of dreams and the power to pursue them like La La Land. The film, which has become my litmus test for haters and negative people, is pure cinematic magic. It conjures up the beauty of classics like Singing in the Rain while somehow managing to feel totally fresh and original. It’s the sort of film that kids will watch in 5 years and fall in love with acting and the movies because of it. But to me it’s deeper than that. The central message of the movie is that pursuing your dreams is hard and heartbreaking but worth it. Emma Stone’s character sings an audition which feels more like a monologue (songologue anyone? I clearly can’t stay away from that pun) that utterly took the air out of the room in the packed theatre we watching it in on Christmas Day. In it, she tells the story of her aunt whom she loved and looked up to because she was a free spirit who followed her dreams. The story–spoiler alert– doesn’t wind up that great for her dear old aunt but she at least lived courageously. Which brings us back to what our buddy Henri said at the top of the post.

So terrific. I have a dream– cue the ABBA song. Now what? Well, some are just hanging out in the bus station of my mind, smoking cigarettes and drinking lattes for a short period of time. They’re funny. They’re charming. But they’re not built to last. They’ll leave but some of them might come back in the shape of something else later. It’s the dreams that won’t leave me alone that I have to take care of. These dreams are like pesky houseplants or whiny puppies. They need to be coddled, nurtured and looked after. But mainly they take large, daily amounts of courage. It takes some pretty big balls to pursue these nagging little dreams because it’s scary and there’s a really good chance that I’ll make something and nobody will read it or give a shit about it. But if the dream is persistent enough, it doesn’t really matter. This courage that felt impossible to muster up suddenly shows up simply out of necessity. It’s not a struggle. It’s not a should I or shouldn’t I moment. It’s a “I have to.” I need to remember that when this whole courage thing feels too hard or too heavy, that all the good changes in my life have happened because of courage. Fucking duh. I mean “the courage to change the things I can” is kinda the whole reason I’m no longer a tequila swilling, coke snorting vacuum from hell.  So I freak out and feel uncertain but find the courage anyway and take care of those little dreams and give them a fighting chance.  That’s where I am right now. I’m pursuing dreams and trying not to think too hard about how terrifying it all is or what a badass I’m going to have to become to make said dreams happen.

It’s also an incredible relief when I let myself off the hook for not always having courage. Courage, much like that tricky little devil honesty, isn’t something that comes second nature to me. It takes me a minute to get there and with some dreams, I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. But the point is to keep dreaming and keep praying for courage. And here’s to you if everyday you try to do the same.