I’ve been rolling an idea around in my noggin for a while now. Like any marble that gets started in my head, it has picked up moss and twigs and now semi-resembles a deranged lawn gnome. It’s taking up too much space in my brain so I thought I would deposit it here and see if it will leave me alone afterward. I want to preface this thought, however, by noting that it doesn’t particularly bring me grief. I know some readers will think this notion terribly sad and feel badly but it’s not my intention to bum anyone out. Here goes.
If you’ve read this blog, you know that I grew up with a delightful brand of abuse that vacillated between emotional and physical with a dollop of sexual thrown in for flavor. Yes, I do have the ability to make fun of these things. I followed my charming parental relationship with a love relationship where my male partner had a talent for emotional abuse and capitalized on my diagnosis of mental illness to initiate sexual abuse. So, all summed up, loads of abuse. Abuse does horrible things to your psyche. Your perception of normal becomes skewed because, for you, normal is something very different from the general public’s version. I’ve lived with a skewed perception of normal for a very long time. I believed that abusive behavior from the people who are meant to love you was something to be borne. I put up with daily hearing awful, self-esteem eroding statements because that was my normal.
I don’t remember what it was in particular that made me wake up and take notice. I remember a creeping anger. Every nasty comment. Every awful behavior. I just grew angrier and angrier. I realize now that my anger was normal and healthy. But back then I didn’t know what to do with it. When I expressed it, often loudly, I was told I was acting “crazy” and asked “have you taken your meds today?” There’s really no higher insult than to ask a person with mental illness if they’ve taken their meds. Instead, I made a hole down deep inside myself and stuffed all that anger way down into it. I don’t think there’s a worse thing I could have done but it’s all I had at the time. The anger I couldn’t fit in that hole, I acted out against myself. There was self harm and as nuts as it sounds, it helped in the short-term. In the long-term it just created more problems. And when I’d turned all that anger against myself, and made it all my fault, then came my suicide attempt. My suicide attempt was the beginning of the way up and out. It was a brutal way to open a door to everyone else’s normal. But it worked.
That’s the background. And now I live in everyone else’s normal. I have an internal Geiger counter that tells me how normal my normal is.
The thing I’ve been dancing around is dreams. As far as I can tell, everyone I know has dreams. A couple I know wants to retire in Sedona, the bearded gentleman wants a house on the beach, Mini-me would like to figure out how to place objects in Minecraft. So many women I know dream about finding Mr. Wonderful and settling down. I don’t seem to have dreams.
As far as I can tell here’s why: I’ve spent my entire life going from one crisis to another. Abuse, especially by a parent who likely has Borderline Personality Disorder, is one little crisis after another. In my experience, it was a constant monitoring of that person’s emotional state and constant brainstorming about what I needed to do to avoid the coming shitstorm. Even when I was pregnant with Mini-me, a time I imagine is a dream-a-polooza, I was navigating manipulation and deception of his father. When he was born, instead of getting that dreamy “here’s your baby” moment, my baby died twice and needed a week of NICU support. And then we found he has a spinal birth defect and would need spinal surgery. Honestly, my life has more or less been one damn thing after another. My moments that should have been dreams — my wedding, the birth of my child, deep loves — were nightmares.
It’s not to say that living the way I have hasn’t come with some important perks. I’m wildly resilient. I have a great sense of humor. I have an excellent ability to read the emotional temperature of individuals as well as rooms.
But I don’t have a dream job. Or a dream house. Or a dream outfit to wear to the Oscars. Okay, maybe I’d really like to walk the red carpet at the Oscars. But is it a dream? I have no idea.
But I don’t dream. In fact, the whole concept seems awfully scary to me. I live in a world where things that are seemingly permanent — parents, partners, children — get taken away. It seems to me that a dream is supposed to be uplifting. A baby, a kitten, a job, a house, true love. Maybe you work your tail off and you get that wonderful thing. And that’s great. Good for you. But what if you don’t? What if you can”t? What if some metaphorical boulder is put in your way and that dream becomes unattainable? What then? Logic (and my logic is often faulty) tells me that you take a deep breath and pick out some other dream. But I wouldn’t know for sure.
And, I don’t really know how this whole dream thing works. Is it like the tooth fairy? Do you put a note under your pillow and the next morning you get a quarter and a dream? Do you see a picture of a ginger baby in a parenting magazine and a kernel of a ginger dream begins to grow in your heart? Is it like a watermelon? Do you eat a seed and a dream starts to grow?
What I lack in dreams I more than make up for in sarcasm.
This is really the sort of thing I should be asking my therapist. But she never gives me step-by-step instructions or Venn diagrams. So, dear readers (if you exist), how do you grow a dream in a landscape of cynicism and sarcasm?