three things: 1/18/17

FEED: Long, long ago, my son introduced me to the eerily beautiful photography of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison. All their work is fabulous, worth gazing at and letting it settle in you, but it’s the images my son loved that stay with me the most. Here’s one I always associate with him:

“Burn Season”

Check them out — not just in the link above, when I first mention them, but I also linked the image to the specific collection for this one, all of which make me think of Will. So for me, it’s a melancholy kind of soul-feeding, looking at these images, but there is also a resonance with the world right now, and resonance is also valuable. Looking at their larger body of work, though, is lifting in the way art lifts.

SEED: My New York therapist, Elizabeth, always told me that dreams are really just showing you how you are thinking about something, how you are processing it. Dreams use a range of personal imagery, maybe, relate to personal themes, other experiences, etc. Last night I had a nightmare that couldn’t be more obviously related to how I’m thinking about the forthcoming nightmare in our country. I was in our NYC apartment, and Marc and I were packing to flee — and it was urgent, we had to go immediately, something absolutely terrible was about to happen (not specified within the dream but I think I knew what it was). As he always does when we have suitcases, he was leaving to go get the car and pull it up to the curb, but he came back immediately and said, “There isn’t time, we have to run now!” And so we fled, in terror, with a sense that we couldn’t outrun what we were fleeing. If that isn’t the most obvious nightmare you’ve ever heard, I don’t know what would be.

I think constantly about why this feels as destructive and scary as it does, why it feels so all-encompassing. After all, I’m a straight, white, well-educated, middle-aged woman beyond reproducing years. All the hate that he spews, and that his administration is ready to enact into law, won’t affect me personally, at least not in the loudest, most hateful ways. Of course living in a society permeated with that kind of hate will affect me. Living in a country determined to build a wall, remove families, block immigrants, remove access to health care for all but the wealthy, with the greediest sharks directly from Wall Street in charge of Wall Street, and people who want to destroy schools in charge of education, and people who have no idea what they’re doing in charge of the rest will affect me, even if it’s largely indirectly. And a big part of the tremendous upset is that I live among millions of people who voted for him, who weren’t bothered by his mocking the disabled reporter, his gleeful boasting of assaulting women, his harassment of ordinary people, his egging-on violence, etc etc etc. Not bothered by voting for the candidate endorsed by the KKK. Just not bothered by that. My fellow Americans.

The nightmare of his impact on global politics is likely to affect me, and I just hope we all survive. Except for our Civil War, we’ve never had war on the ground here, thanks in large part to the simple fact of geography. The terrifying thing is that with him, absolutely anything [bad] is possible, and the unimaginable — like him being elected in the first place — will be our actuality. Hence my dream, hence my constant despair which arises from the need to be ready for any nightmare.

Resist. We will resist. I will resist. We are stronger together, and as long as he doesn’t destroy the world (whether through war or his idiotic ignorance related to climate change) we can start over when he’s gone.

READ: One reason Obama always felt like my president — and this is a huge (yuge) distinction with the incoming not-my-president — is that his solace and ground is in books. He is a writer, and he has all the talents and skills of a novelist: a keen ear, an eye for the right details, an ability to observe, and an understanding that fiction has the capacity to tell the deep, sustained truths of human life. I can’t even process how deeply I’ll miss him, yet. My beautiful friend Deb directed me to this article in the NYTimes with/by Michiko Kakutani, their chief book reviewer, titled, “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books.” I may have enjoyed the transcript of their conversation even more, because there is a lot more of his voice. If you like books and/or our beloved president, you’ll enjoy the articles too.


residual effects

my sweet little patio SANS saggy gross mattress
my sweet little patio SANS saggy gross mattress

It’s been such a long time since I dreamed; I’m not sure I’ve had any dreams since before I went to Myanmar last fall, followed immediately by the end of the world as I knew it, and the resulting bad sleep. Finally, Friday night I had a strange little dream, the first in months, that there was a saggy, dirty mattress propped against the fence in my patio. The dream was all brown, monochrome, like an old faded Polaroid photo. No action, just that crappy old mattress. (Coincidentally, someone placed a CraigsList ad selling a mattress that started running early Sunday morning and they put my cell phone number in the ad. Weird, right?)

Sunday night I didn’t sleep all that well. I was restless and just felt at odds with myself. I’ve slowly returned to being able to sleep in my real time zone, which happened much quicker than it usually does, after a trip to a 12-hour-different place. But Sunday night wasn’t good. I had a glass of wine with dinner, maybe that messed me up. Around 1am I woke up from a terrible, terrible nightmare. I was in a house, like an Italian apartment house, the kind I imagine Primo Levi lived in when he threw himself down the stairwell. The kind I seem to remember in an Italian brothel, in the movie Catch-22. So basically: Italian, not that I know what that’s really like. But I was wandering through the apartments in this large building with a central courtyard, trying to find my way out. It was very dark, the middle of the night, and suddenly a woman start screaming, shrieking, nonstop. Some of it was just screaming, horror, and some of it was her yelling HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME!! And then just shrieking again, in agony and terror. She was clearly being brutally attacked. And then, all at once, it stopped, completely. She was silent. And that was worse, that was so much worse. So I scuttled my way into an empty apartment, scooted backwards into a far corner, and as I was trying to get settled in, I glanced at the partly open door and saw the murderer, standing there staring directly at me. He was very odd, short and fat, bald with a ring of greasy hair, heavy eyebrows, a disconcerting but disconnected stare, strange hands, torn and filthy clothes. And he was breathing strangely, and staring at me. I could only see a thick slice of him because the door was only open a few inches.

lots of screaming
lots of screaming

I woke up with a terrified start, panting, unsure where I was, completely terrified to look at my bedroom door, afraid of my empty, dark house. It took a good 10 minutes to calm down enough to start talking to myself, talking myself through it: It was just a nightmare, that’s all. Here I am, in my cozy and safe home, no one is there, I’m OK, it was just a bad dream. Take a deep breath. It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK. I put my arms around myself trying to calm down. An hour and a half later, I was finally able to fall back to sleep. And within 20 minutes I had the exact same dream again. Literally exactly the same. The same house. The same shrieking and screaming and begging, the same sudden silence, the same backward scuttling, the same man staring at me in the same way. I woke up in a sweat, panting, re-terrified. I lay in bed for a couple of hours and then drifted off to an uneasy sleep, for an hour.

All day yesterday I was odd. Nothing felt right, I felt strange, uneasy, with a residue of terror. Isn’t that the most terrible thing about nightmares; your body seems to believe it really happened. Your mind went through it as if it were real. I couldn’t get the woman’s screams out of my head all day long, I felt in my cells her terror and agony and my paralysis, not helping her and just listening to what happened to her. And the horror of seeing that man standing at the door, knowing that I was next. I felt that horror, and all day long yesterday it kind of haunted me. It’s the strangest thing. I kept trying to relax and shift my mood, I tried once or twice to just talk myself out of it, I tried everything I knew but it just stained my day. Finally, at the end of the day I gave in and let it be, went out for some distracting comfort food — a very good hamburger and a great crafted beer — and let the rest of the day go as it would. I never did get entirely away from that feeling, that stain.

I’m so easily influenced by things. My mood, my thoughts, my dreams and nightmares, things I read or hear or see, things that happen to others. I used to make such fun of myself for being moved by the world, but I realized one day that I was grateful to be that way, grateful not to be so jaded and hard that I go along, largely unmoved. There’s a cost, of course, and yesterday I paid the price, but all in all I’ll take it. But I do hope that was the end of that particular nightmare.