Loss: “a vague knot-of-air kind of thing”

Each time [the memory] appears, it delivers a kick to some part of my mind. ‘Wake up,’ it says. ‘I’m still here. Wake up and think about it. Think about why I’m still here.’

from Norwegian Wood

When you wake up, have you ever looked around the room, seen that everything was in its place–nothing had been disturbed as you slept, nothing had been stolen or had gone missing–but you still felt that you had lost something over the course of the night?

I slept for eleven hours. There were times in one of my many dreams that I felt “This is a good stopping point. I could wake up. It might be time to get up.” But I kept the illusion of the dream going. If you can manage to keep your eyes closed, time will fly by. Maybe this is what I wanted, on some level.

A gang of friends and I moved from dream to dream, alternating between wheelchairs and gas-efficient cars. I expected us to arrive at my house eventually, where I would see my family. In what must have been the last dream, we visited my high school. I waved to and talked with people I knew. Everybody was there, even those I remembered from kindergarten, even those I didn’t know. Faces whose names I had forgotten popped continually into view as we rolled through the campus. There was a line of cars on our way out, so we had to wait. The dream splintered and instead of sitting in the car, waiting for those in front to move along, we found ourselves inside the school building, confronted by a steep flight of stairs. We took turns rising from our wheelchairs, walking carefully down, holding our chairs aloft. Then we rolled/ran like mad to the car outside. As I reached the door handle, I realized that I had reached the car door many times before and that wherever we drove next would get me no closer to my house. Then and there, the scene faded to black, in the way that it does when I have slept for a long time and the dream has not resolved (or will not resolve) itself. Instead of lying patiently in the dark, extending my sleep despite the expired dream, I opened my eyes.

I didn’t get to see my family but, for several sleep cycles, I was never alone. I don’t just mean that I was always in a group. I mean that I was among friends, people who wanted what I wanted and went along with me to try and get it. So, when the dream dissolved and I opened my eyes to an empty room with all of my things resting right where I left them, I took it as a sign of absence.

Most of those people exist in real life. I could contact them through Facebook or text them right now, if I wanted. But that’s not the point. They, in real life, could never be with me in the way that they were in my dream. They have their own lives and minds to inhabit and could never truly accompany me in my own.

As I’m writing this, I notice that the reverse is equally true: That I have my own life and mind to inhabit and I can accompany myself. The people appearing in my dreams are versions of me because they were fashioned from my unconscious. The gaggle of friends that never left my side for eleven hours seems to be a metaphor for my own mind. I can never be closer to someone that I am…to myself.

I watched a TEDx video the other day called “The person you really need to marry.” The presenter finished with this: “The way I see it, it’s like I took myself to the top of a mountain or maybe to the bottom of the ocean, and I got down on one knee and I said, ‘I’ll never leave you.'”

When you don’t particularly like yourself, this can be a maddening acknowledgment. But I know the one thing I can admire about my mind, is that it is there when I need […]




Morrison wrote, History is over, you all, and everything’s ahead at last

The middle child of middle-aged parents, I find myself in a unique position. I can see history as it happened and as it is happening. I’m old enough that my parents and big sister feel comfortable explaining how the pieces of their past and present fit together in (what I call internally) their life-story.

I think, years ago, I asked my mother whether she considered me a friend and her answer was No, that I’m her daughter, not her friend. Just this December, as I watched my mother bake her annual Christmas rum cakes, I asked again, only because I wasn’t sure whether I had imagined it the first time. She considered the question for a few seconds and said Yes.

It has occurred to me recently that, despite what I would like to believe, my parents are mortal beings. There is much I don’t know about them and, if my parents do not share these things with me, their vital and not-so-vital memories will die with them. So, I’ve come to a more patient place when I talk with them, believing myself to be (perhaps narcissistically) The Receiver. I try to hold on to every detail.

My mom tells me about the mistakes she’s made, the errors that she is afraid cannot be corrected: My brother misbehaving in school heedless of her disciplinary threats and pleading, she once asked me whether she had failed as a mother. It was a cartoon looking for answershumbling moment for us both. I replied as honestly and soberly as I could.

Oftentimes I forget that my mother–such a resilient, hardworking woman with endless reserves of savoir faire–is made of flesh and bone and not stainless steel. Though she offers me tales of her younger years, it still baffles me that she had not come into this life as whole-in-herself and world-wise as she has always appeared to be. Even a woman who knows her mind can make a mistake? What a novel concept. And what a vantage point I have, to see the well-meaning but ultimately misguided actions of my parents as the consequences ripple back in time.

My big sister struggles to forgive my parents for their unintentional emotional neglect. Full grown, she feeds into patterns of one-sided affection and blames everyone and everything for the disagreeable moment in which she continually finds herself. As she explains these things to me, I can’t help but worry about her. She lives so much In The Now that she doesn’t seem cognizant of how much time is passing her by, how necessarily we end up speaking of Now in the Past Tense.

Still, still…

All these road maps for the beginning of things, I hold somewhere inside of me for when my life-story decides to rev the engine.