Dreaming Is Free
Have you ever heard about the 5 seconds or so gap between sleeping and waking? When your life is one giant disaster, you have absolutely nothing to look forward to, and you'd really rather be dead than alive; It's the only 5 seconds of peace you'll get all day. They are all you get before the hamster starts running in his wheel (your brain), sometimes called the "monkey mind." You get 5 seconds of "empty." No emotions or thoughts flooding your mind and heart. Just stillness. Only 5 seconds of it, give or take. Have you lived this phenomenon?
I've learned that suffering usually forces you to evolve. It forces you to let go of those things that (suddenly) don't matter anymore and to see what really matters. Everyone endures some form of suffering, whether it's visible or not. And what the world wants us to believe is not actually the truth. We have created a construct, a matrix of sorts that we believe is "the way," but it really isn't. The entire financial system and the economy are just how things evolved. It could have evolved in many different ways. What is money, really? This concept of having money—why does that piece of paper have value? As I understand, it depends on how much gold a country has in its coffers that determines currency value, although I’m sure it must be more complicated than that. So it's fair to say that most people live in the superficial realm until suffering enters their lives or ends them. Suffering entered my life about 30 years ago. Or perhaps I should be more clear; chronic pain entered my life with my diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis. On that fateful day in April of 1992, I began a lifelong journey of physical suffering, eventually leading to mental anguish. Although I could not have pictured such an outcome, I now suffer from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
I'm happier in my Avatar dreams than I am in my life. I call it my Avatar dream because, like the characters in the movie, some who can't walk, for example, but then can suddenly walk, run, jump, fly etc., when in Avatar mode, are set free from their suffering.
I recently spent a long weekend at Wild Trails Farm, a lodge in Vermont owned by some friends. I did a lot of sleeping and, as a result, dreaming. One evening, I had a nap before dinner, and upon waking, I skipped over the 5 seconds of peace I mentioned above. I went from a vivid dream filled with excitement and special deceased guest stars (my parents) to suddenly awake. However, I've recently discovered two things: 1) My Avatar comes to life in my dreams, and 2) I'm happier in my dreams than I am in my life. I call it my Avatar because, like the characters in the movie, some who can't walk, for example, but then can suddenly walk, run, jump, fly etc., when in Avatar mode, are set free from their suffering. This is what happens to me in my dreams. None of my interactions are impacted by poor physical or mental health. None. It's like I had never been sick a day in my life, and it feels amazing.
People don't realize just how sick I really am, hence my idea for this blog. I don't look unwell. But I am truly very sick with a multitude of serious chronic ailments. My body has been forever altered, inside and out, by disease. I'm sickened by what I have become. And I am all alone. I've lost everything that ever mattered to me, especially my wife and my home. I am plagued with chronic flashbacks. Flashbacks take me all over the place, from good memories to bad ones. From young to old. And they hurt. They hurt a lot.
In my dreams, I have no pain, limitations, or maladies whatsoever. I'm perfectly healthy and can do everything I can no longer do. It's the strangest thing. It's as if my soul is split in two. How can I live in such constant pain and suffering yet not have that be part of my dreams? What's at play here, I wonder? Could it be a survival mechanism kicking in? I could imagine the heart and the soul talking and saying something like, "This guy has enough to deal with in real life; let's give him a break while he sleeps." If that's the case, thank you, heart and soul! I've not asked anyone I know who also suffers as I do what their dreams are like. Perhaps some of you who will read this can comment and let me know. All I know is that most people prefer their actual lives to their nighttime dreams, which can be quite disturbing even if they aren't nightmares. In my case, despite the nature of my dreams, except for nightmares, they beat the pants off of daily living. And even if they are unpleasant dreams, I still come out ahead because I'm healthy in those dreams.
I'm currently exploring the concept of resolving past trauma to find wellness and quality of life. Depression has worn me down to the bone. It started with my wife (I can't bring myself to say "ex-wife") recommending I read a book called "What Happened To You." I've started it but have not gotten back to it in a while. That was followed by my therapist helping me determine how affected I am by trauma. And more recently, thanks to an old high school friend, I was introduced to someone who helps people heal from trauma. I also met an "energy worker" at the Lodge in Vermont who practices Chinese traditional medicine and deals in trauma. So the weekend was all about working towards healing from past trauma, which affects your life in the here and now. How much have I healed? Not much yet.
Is it all in your head?
I write to express myself and to help me manage my grief. I spent years repressing my hurt and trauma, and now, I am finally permitting myself to be completely transparent with myself and others. Although I've spoken only of trauma's impact on your health, I also remain convinced that not all disease stems from trauma. There are newborn infants born with fatal diseases that have never experienced a moment of trauma other than being born. Science has uncovered all sorts of facts about how our DNA and our genes can play a role in passing down illness. For example, I'm HLA B27 positive. What does that mean?
"HLA-B27 is a common gene in people with certain types of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Can you inherit arthritis? This has been a key question for researchers. Now it seems clear that while hundreds of genetic variations are associated with different types of arthritis, they don't cause disease on their own. Other factors, like smoking, obesity, infection or even childhood trauma, are needed to switch the genes on. Plus, some people who have no genetic risk develop arthritis. And plenty of people who carry genes for arthritis never develop it."
So the answer is that it can be either or both - in your head and your DNA. (Although there is some debate, from what I understand now, in the medical community as to whether or not genes can get turned on or off, I won't delve into that!)
Life can be a thief
I recently moved from one apartment to another. One of the young men on the job was quite friendly, and we chatted quite a bit. He said he had heard from his colleague that I had some illness but did not know much more than that. I have several versions of "My Story" that vary in length depending on the situation. I gave him the short version with a few extra details. His eyes popped out of his head, and his response was, "You were robbed!" referring to the fact that I was diagnosed at 22 years old, had both hips replaced by the time I was 31, and have been sick ever since. I had never thought of it that way, but it resonated with me. I was robbed of what are arguably the best years of life, from 20 to 50, give or take. It's funny how when you pay attention and listen, you can learn a lesson from people you would otherwise least expect it to come from.
What have my illnesses done for me?
Being ill has allowed me to recognize the "seer" in me. That is to say, discovering that I can see through my 3rd eye, have intuition, and, more importantly, listen to it. It feels as if I "see" and "feel" perhaps more than the average person stuck in their mind and blinded by the illusion of this manufactured life. I have many times not listened to my intuition and always regretted it. The gift of seeing for me is akin to how the character is portrayed in "The Greatest American Hero" TV show from the 80s! He has the superpowers but can't quite figure out how to use them. Yes, I see and feel things, but when do I know I'm supposed to trust those feelings? The gift of being ill has enhanced my empathy, which was always present, but has grown and grown with time.
What a Wonderful World it would be if we were all disease free
My life has been beyond difficult for years. I'm 52 years old, and the last 30 years of illness, stress, and surgeries have worn me out. I remember when life was vivid, exciting, and filled with adventure and the unknown. I no longer feel this way. It's hard to find beauty in this world when you've been through hell and back. It's hard to find beauty when there is so much wrong with this world. When I began writing this chapter, I did not have a song chosen for it. But as I was working on it, I heard the most beautiful cover of a song that is virtually impossible to cover because the original is just so magnificent and omnipresent in our lives. The idea of covering it just seemed like an impossible thing to accomplish. Well, I believe that Jon Batiste has succeeded with his rendition of "What a Wonderful World."