The Victory of Dreams Over Avoidance

There are things in my life I do not like to think about. As a probably predictable result, I dream about them instead. My dreams don’t make a whole lot of sense, tending to combine things in odd ways and tending to have no plot or point.

In other words, they are pretty much like my poetry.

Recently, I have had a number of dreams about my mother, who passed away this last December. I was fortunate enough to get to spend three weeks with her while she was in hospice. I wrote about it while I was there — virtually every day — but after the funeral, grieving kind of got overtaken by life: work, marriage, kids, grandkids.

At home, I’m a husband, a dad, a stepdad, and a grandfather. At work, I’m one of the bosses, plus I’m one of the older employees. At church, I’m the pianist. Everywhere I go, I have a job to do, a role to play, and, frequently, part of that is looking after other people’s feelings.

So, I push aside my own.

I have a number of friends who’ve lost parents in the last year. Grief is simultaneously the most common, and the most individual, experience in the world. We all grieve, but every grief is different. Most people who are grieving use every bit of energy they have just living through it.

Like a lot of men, I tend to substitute simple and practical emotions for complex and impractical ones. “Sad”, “Regretful”, and “Pensive”, for instance, all tend to come out as “Impatient” or “Weary”, which are both eminently practical: impatience pushes other people away; weariness allows you to leave and go to bed.

Where, unfortunately, the dreams are waiting.

They say that no matter what age you are when your parents die, you become an orphan, but that doesn’t seem to describe it completely to me. While my father and mother were alive, I was still their child. When my father died, I was still my mother’s child. But I no longer have that role. Instead, I’m all the things I listed up in the fourth paragraph.

When you aren’t anybody’s child, you can rightly be called an orphan. But it feels more like losing being a child at all. Because no one will ever see me that way again.

So I’m not really expecting anyone to be too concerned with my feelings. It’s more my job to be concerned with theirs.

I worry about my children and grandchildren a lot. I know this, because these worries show up in my dreams.

(Immediately after writing that last sentence, I got the photos below from my wife, who is visiting a dinosaur museum with two of my daughters and their children.

My oldest grandson, having the time of his life.

Yeah. I won’t have nightmares about that.)

I’ve had dreams where both one of my kids and one of my grandkids are in trouble, but they are somehow the same age. In one dream like that, I had lost track of them (my 24 year old son and 2 year old granddaughter, both 2 in my dream) while in a public place (a courthouse). I realized after panicking in the dream that I was in a dream.

That happens to me in dreams a lot — I suddenly realize I’m dreaming. Even so, I could still feel the panic.

Of course, courthouses can do that, even if nothing else bad is going on.

As I originally conceived this blog, writing was supposed to help me work through feelings for which I had no other outlet. Even in my writing, though, I’ve tended to focus on the feelings of others, or have relived incidents from when I was much younger — which is almost like writing about another person.

I can see that a more emotionally honest approach would be to write about my own feelings and the circumstances of my life as it is now. I have done some of that. By casual survey, two of the last twenty pieces I’ve posted have been contemporary, autobiographical, and relevant. Which means that 90% of what I write (if that is a typical sample) isn’t any of those things.

Because I am tired of waking up feeling like I’ve been in a prize fight, I’ve decided to spend the next number of days trying to do work through how I’m feeling out here. It might be poetry, it might be prose, it might be a big mess. But it will be honest.

So we will see how that goes…

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5 Thoughts to “The Victory of Dreams Over Avoidance

  1. Looking forward to whatever transpires Owen. I just hope that it is as cathartic as you wish it to be. Just remember, it doesn’t matter how old, mature, experienced, or respected, you are, to your Mum and Dad you always were, and always will be, their little lad.

  2. Thank you for sharing. There is nothing I like to read so much as the true thoughts and experiences of another person in all of their beauty and ugliness. It’s really hard to do though. I have a hard time being transparent or even figuring out what I am feeling. Our minds are quicksilver and they wander. Which is exactly what I’m doing here!! Anyway, wishing you easy penstrokes/keystrokes…and looking forward to reading whatever comes out.

  3. I miss my mom…her daily 8 AM phone call checking to see if I was awake yet…calling her after my doc appointment because she cared about my health. Playing Words with Friends every evening, her voice. Just knowing that nobody else on this planet will ever love me the way that she did.

    -The Orphan

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