Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dreams: Nightmares and Tracker Jackets

“I still get nightmares. In fact, I get them so often I should be used to them by now. I'm not. No one ever really gets used to nightmares.” Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

“When we hold each other, in the darkness, it doesn't make the darkness go away. The bad things are still out there. The nightmares still walking. When we hold each other we feel not safe, but better. "It's all right" we whisper, "I'm here, I love you." and we lie: "I'll never leave you." For just a moment or two the darkness doesn't seem so bad.” Neil Gaiman
“It's only now that he's been corrupted that I can fully appreciate the real Peeta. Even more than I would've if he'd died. The kindness, the steadiness, the warmth that had an unexpected heat behind it. Outside of Prim, my mother and Gale, how many people in the world love me unconditionally? I think in my case, the answer may be none. Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

"I've been having these dreams and they always start with some type of storm": The previous quote comes from Take Shelter, a film written and directed by Jeff Nichols.  The movie's plot revolves around, Curtis, a family man who feels such stress to provide for his family that he begins having horrific nightmares which lead him to dismantle his life.  As the film progresses, Nichols blurs the lines between dream states and reality.  By the end, the viewer is left to question whether Curtis was experiencing prophetic visions or a psychotic breakdown.  Whichever interpretation the audience chooses to take, the result is still painful and tragic.  So what's up with all the nightmare quotes?  Well, the subject has held my attention the past few months.  In all honesty, from childhood on, I've always been a vivid dreamer.  While lost in sleep, my dreams felt as real and powerful as waking reality.  Fortunately for me, I managed to strike a nice balance between sweet dreams and nightmares. Yep, I was regular a Cinderella Wannabe exclaiming: "Oh, that clock! Old killjoy. I hear you. "Come on, get up," you say, "Time to start another day." Even he orders me around. Well, there's one thing. They can't order me to stop dreaming."  Now don't worry.  I didn't stay that obnoxious.  The good Lord knows I tried, but experience taught me that Dreams are a Son of a Bitch!  No, fucking rainbow is going to come "smiling through".  That being the case, the wise and prudent should dig into the trenches and wait out their existence...sorta like serving a prison sentence.  Yet, even with that knowledge, for the most part, I still mixed pleasant dreams in with bad ones...until recently.

Now every time I fall asleep another nightmare comes.  Exhaustion has set in.  When I flip off the lights, the darkness surrounds me, and I experience a sense of dread.  Its not the small nightmares that bother me.  One can almost get used to those little annoyances and uncomfortable emotions.  Nothing to worry about, not really.  Its the awful nightmares that I fear, the ones I struggle to wake up from.  When I finally break free from sleep, I hear myself cry out, my heart is racing, and panic sets in.  That's the worst, when I'm all alone and frightened.  Sometimes I attempt to explain why I feel so upset.  But the words never come out right so I delete the email.  Put down the phone. Turn on the lights.  Cuddle my kitten.  Wait it out.

My night time terrors have caused me to ponder the meaning of such dreams.  Are they emotions we can't deal with?  Memories we try to bury?  Fears we hope to overcome?  Each and every time I consider the matter, Susanne Collin Mockingjay comes to mind.  In my opinion, that final book is probably the weakest in her series, but it still holds a place in my heart.  If for nothing else, than because Collins explores the effects of nightmares.

“It's a long shot, it's suicide maybe, but I do the only thing I can think of. I lean in and kiss Peeta full on the mouth. His whole body starts shuddering, but I keep my lips pressed to his until I have to come up for air. My hands slide up his wrists to clasp his. 
"Don't let him take you from me."
Peeta's panting hard as he fights the nightmares raging his head. "No. I don't want to. . ."
I clench his hands to the point of pain. "Stay with me."
His pupils contract to pinpoints, dilate again rapidly, and then return to something resembling normalcy. "Always," he murmurs.” 

NO, I'm not suggesting that I nor anyone I love and care about has undergone government experimentation with Tracker Jackets (though if there is such a program I'm sure Dick Cheney founded it).  What I am suggesting is that the memories which hurt us the most, the ones we try the hardest to forget, are Self Made Tracker Jackets.  Whether in dreams or awake, we work to avoid experiencing the pain again.  We take shelter.   We hide.  We push others away. Because the more often someone's been stung the damaging the effects of venom.  That's the cruelest part, I think.  That sometimes the kindest souls and the warmest hearts are the ones hidden.  Listen, my Friends, once you've experienced the ache of Tracker Jacket attacks you do your damnest to avoid another hit.  Its too much to bear up under.  But, unfortuantely, simply avoiding more pain fails to heal the scars. I know this because avoidance is my option of choice. Maybe what it takes to keep the nightmares at bay is going for the "long shot".  Take the "suicide mission", hold out your hand, and say "Stay with me" to another person.  Oh, hold your horses there, it can't be just anyone.  You've got to take a leap of faith, a risk.  That risk comes in when you hold out your hand to someone who already owns your heart.  That's the scary part.  But I think its worth going after.  Perhaps we're meant to be each other's "dandelions in the spring".  The nightmares may never go away, but maybe its the sharing and comfort that make them bearable...that makes life bearable.

“Peeta and I grow back together. There are still moments when he clutches the back of a chair and hangs on until the flashbacks are over. I wake screaming from nightmares of mutts and lost children. But his arms are there to comfort me. And eventually his lips. On the night I feel that thing again, the hunger that overtook me on the beach, I know this would have happened anyway. That what I need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.
So after, when he whispers, "You love me. Real or not real?"
I tell him, "Real.”

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