Wednesday, September 1, 2010

River of Dreams

I am overcoming my sleep deprivation issue.  It's been a long row to hoe, because I have somehow transformed myself from a spoiled young girl with a devoted family and unending vistas of possibilities and potential into a scared, skittish woman who startles awake at every hint of noise in the house.  I think my father's death (of which I'd been informed in the middle of the night, wakened from a deep sleep I'll never know again, it seems) was the beginning of the bad times.  He was my noble sire, the Greatest Father in the World, and the man who gave me a love of words and language and reading.  I was his princess, and I knew I was adored and supported unconditionally -- by him, if not by my mother, at least, not in the same unequivocal way.

Which is all to say that I knew in my heart as long as my father was in the world, I was safe.  Noises at night did not rouse me.  At one point, an apartment I lived in alone was burglarized while I was asleep in bed.  I didn't know of the deed until the next morning, when I stumbled out to watch cartoons to find no television in the living room and a balcony glass door wide open to the world.  After my father's death, I no longer felt safe to cast off the clothing of care and worry I wear during the day to dip my soul in the healing River of Dreams.

That's how it is to me, this mystery of sleep.  You have to get to a point of surrender.  You have to be willing to close your eyes and keep them closed, and turn off the voices in your mind that remind you of your job and your paycheck and your mortgages and your bills, voices that nag me that I'm not writing and the book isn't going to write itself, voices that hound me for not being of the right genetic makeup to do things that come naturally to other people -- voices that call me out on being a mediocre, unmotivated freak of nature.  Pulling all of that nastiness off of me to let the visions of rest play in my mind, turning control over to the great Mercy of sleep, and dipping my toe in the endless rolling nonsense stories that flow in the River of Dreams -- that's the magic that has become elusive to me.  I sense it there, that current, those stories.  I know there are millions of them: I'm playing poker in an Old West Saloon while my mother sings the blues.  I'm riding horseback through the backyard, but it keeps stretching, and my dogs are begging me in human voices to stop.  I'm stealing clothes off a clothesline of a farm in Kansas, and a tornado is bearing down on me.  There are millions of tales just like this, none of which make any sense, but all of which disconnect me from my real worries and cares and let my mind breathe.

Why is it so easy for me to cling to the nasty soup of self-doubt and sadness, instead of removing the cloak of it in exchange for rest and healing?  Is it because I'm so obsessed with my own real story?  Is it because I fear losing something again, as seems to so often happen in the middle of the night?

No matter what it is, the refusal of my mind to wade in the River has made me angry.  I've forced my Self down to its sweet, strange banks.  I've held my Self down to the odd water, and tasted the flow of gibbering silliness that does not touch reality, but only hints that it's there -- the images and movements that make a safe, if abstract, landscape for rest.

It's been a colossal struggle, but I might just be winning it.


  1. Melatonin is your VIP pass to the river, no?

    Even in a sleep-deprived state, you are lyric, wonderful and awe-inspiring. How do you do it?

    - Liz

  2. I want you to win it, too.

    I've been to that place where safety was stolen from me, where security died and left me vulnerable. Ever since, I've been looking for something to trust instead that can't die and won't abandon me. But though I might have found it in theory, I'm still not quite ready to abandon my caution and surrender. Giving someone or something that level of trust is a long and scary road.

    I want you to win it, because I want to win it, too.

    Brilliant and inspiring post, MJ.