Of Dreams and Nightmares and Waking Life

It’s supposed to be a pretty day today (59 and partially cloudy beats all the snow and rain and cold any day.)  I have stuff to do today, which includes shelter work and (hopefully) finally taking that injured stray with me that’s been wandering around the apartment complex.

But I have a pretty good headache, which started yesterday around noon and was nicely exacerbated by laying practically upside down, mouth open for an hour, having a cavity filled.  When the Novocaine wore off, I was in less than optimal shape.  I went to bed at 8 last night, hoping to ward off the impending migraine.

But then I had nightmares most of the night.   Dreams fraught with tension, but some sort of epic adventure… * Dreams of wanting but never quite being able to reach…  Dreams of confused desire… Dreams of frustration, where my every attempt to affect some sort of change is thwarted or ignored.

Dreams of needing to be onstage but forgetting my lines.  David Lynch-esque dreams where the events and the characters change but are the same.

And dreams of yearning sadness.  I had a dream last night about a friend of mine who OD’d a few months ago. He was alive and I kept trying to tell him I loved him and he could smoke all the weed he wanted, but for God’s sake, stay away from the heroin!  When I awoke and remembered he was already gone, I was struck by the usual feeling of quiet despair at not being able to change things.

Once, I woke up screaming.  I woke my kid too.  My husband slept on peacefully, so I guess it’s a good thing it was a nightmare and not a masked murderer in my bedroom.  I know myself enough by now to know that when I awaken screaming from nightmares, it’s often because I am so stressed out in my waking life that it spills over into my sleep.  Once, when I was still with a particularly troublesome ex, I awoke screaming every night for about a week.  I still lived with my parents at the time, and by the third night or so, my mom and stopped coming in to check on me when it happened. (Ironically, for the short but extremely stressful four months my husband and I had to live with my mother and step-father while I was pregnant, it was my husband who had the night terrors almost every night, often kicking out– and kicking me– in the middle of the night.)

And then this morning I get on Facebook and am greeted immediately with the sad but not unexpected news that my friend’s cat has passed away.  I kind of got attached to this cat because for some reason, even though they did not really look alike at all, she reminded me of my own girl who passed away 2 years ago.

Anyway, I’m not writing all this looking for sympathy or anything.  It’s just life…how things are.  But, since this is my blog, every once in a while I indulge in a post that has no real point except catharsis for me.  Thanks for coming along with me, readers.

Peace.

 

 

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Things Will Never Be The Same

Sorry to be all doomy and gloomy, but that’s how I feel right now.  I know I’ve written before about how time passes and things change.  Especially from childhood to adulthood.  We can never get back our childish naivety or carefreeness.

There are so many beautiful things in life, but there are also times when life feels like nothing but watching the people around you die.

We moved out here several years ago.  There are many friends I fell out of contact with.  A few months ago I found out that one of them, someone with whom I had once been very close (and had since tried in vain to get back in touch with) had passed away.  Technically liver disease, but he wasn’t in the best health when I knew him, and he had some…bad habits.  Ever since, I’ve felt this sense of loss that goes not only with losing a friend, but with feeling like I never got to tell him how much he meant to me.

Tonight, I found out his son, also my friend, has died of an overdose.  I knew they both been in some trouble off and on the past few years.  I had asked after them, trying to get phone numbers from some of our mutual friends, from time to time.

But they had mostly gone their separate ways too.

Our little band of misfits grew apart a bit at a time a few years ago, I think.   I guess life got in the way…and lifestyle choices.  No more movies at the Senator. No more Halloween parties.  No more camping out and car shows together.

And now I guess there never will be.

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This time last year…

This time last year was a bad time for me.  I lost my grandmother and my cat in the same week.  I didn’t make it back to my home state for my grandmother’s funeral…and I buried my cat, my longtime buddy, in a blanket in the park.  My grandma died in a hospital after succumbing to injuries from a fall.  My beloved Neeners died in my lap on the way to the vet’s office for what was to be a second opinion.

I still have a strange feeling of unreality when it comes to my grandma’s passing; maybe it’s from lack of closure because of not being able to be at her funeral.  Most of the time, my grief is sort of a dull sadness that resides in the back of my mind.  The other day, I happened on a photo of her holding my daughter when J* was about three months old, and I suddenly felt the grief rear up, along with the familiar disbelief– denial– I’m really never going to see her again?

With Neeners, my grief is tainted by an unshakable guilt– why did I not do something for her sooner?  Even if I couldn’t save her, maybe I could have at least spared her pain.  What must she have thought of me when I had to give her the medicine that made her sick to her stomach?  Did she think I was torturing her and she didn’t know why?  I feel like I failed her somehow, even when I try to tell myself I did the best I could.  If we had had the money to get the tests she needed for a more accurate diagnosis, sooner…

It’s too late for me to do anything about any of this.  I could try to end this post with some wise thought or platitude about how time marches on and we all die sometime.  Really, my only point with this post was to sort of remember my lost loved ones on this sort of anniversary week of their passing… and hoping that “honoring” them somehow keeps them from being forgotten.

Things Not To Say to A Grieving Person (Me, At Least)

Obviously, when it comes to death, everyone handles it differently.  Though the stages of grief may be similar, every person’s individual experience with grief is unique.  Differerent people find comfort in different things.

Death can be a touchy subject for many, myself included, and that means finding the right thing to say to a grieving person can be hard.  In the wake of losing another acquaintence from high school, I have been reflecting once again on society, people, and the role of social media in the grieving process.  Many people are clueless when it comes to tact, even in their everyday life, but especially in times of other people’s sorrow. Often, even well meaning people unwittingly say the wrong things.

My personal policy is ‘when in doubt, keep your mouth shut.’

Unfortunately, a lot of these people don’t have any doubts about the stupid things that may come out of their mouths.

As I said before, everyone finds comfort in different things, so to say that all grieving people would be annoyed or insulted by these things would be presumptuous of me.  But I will say, when I’m grieving, I do sometimes want to smack people who say certain things.

So here are a few things I try to make it a point not to say to someone who has lost someone else.

1) Who died? – Especially with the emergence of social media sites and “smart phones”, people seem to have forgotten some very basic manners.  If you must look in on your friends’ grief when they post about losing someone, there are waaaay more tactful ways to ask about their loss then “who died?” (Yes, I actually saw someone say this, this morning.)

2) They’re in a better place-  Oh, really?  That’s nice.  Personally, I prefer being above ground to below ground.  Oh, you meant Heaven?  Well, that’s sweet of you to say.  Really a nice thought… except, I’m an atheist, so…yeah, that doesn’t comfort me a bit.

3) At least they’re not suffering- Yeah, you may be right.   Maybe their long battle with cancer is over, or they no longer have to fight their addiction…  Or maybe they were just out with friends last week, having a grand old time, smiling and laughing, enjoying their life until it ended, perhaps suddenly and unexpectedly.  You know… not suffering.  

4) She/He’s lived a good long life-  Yup.  In fact, their life was maybe so awesome and good that they (and the people who loved them) will probably miss them like crazy, and wouldn’t have minded them sticking around for a bit longer.

5) Heaven has another angel- Um… like I said…atheist.  But even if I wasn’t, humans don’t become angels when they die, do they?  I thought angels were created by God before humans ever existed.  Maybe I’m being ungracious, and people are just saying things like this to find comfort in what is likely a very confused and upsetting time. But, again, to me at least, these types of sentiments ring a little false.  They offer me no comfort, and in some cases, not a little bit of annoyance.

6) The good die young- Yep.  But, then again, so do pimps, drug dealers, and, often, rock stars.  Chances are, the deceased was none of the above.  We all have light and dark.  The fact that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to who lives and who dies is part of what makes death so hard to accept.  And please, don’t say

7) It was part of God’s plan

Not to me, anyway.  I might not be able to restrain myself from smacking you and then telling you it was in God’s plan.

I have also heard some people say that they hate it when people say “If you need to talk…”

I personally don’t think that would bother me, unless the person saying it never seemed to notice my existence before my grief.  Some people just thrive on other people’s drama.  And maybe grieving people get tired of talking.  If you feel you must say something else, asking your grieving friend or relative “what can I do (for you/ to help)?” may be reasonably safe, and then leave them the option of what telling you what it is specfically they need (and it may not be someone to talk to…)

Basically, unless your grieving friend opens one of these avenues of conversation (for example: indicating they believe in Heaven, or mentioning that they are glad their loved one’s suffering is done) the best bet when addressing someone who is in mourning is to just say, “I’m sorry” and not much else.

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                              In Memory Of Greg Knapstein (1981-2013)

Police and the Use of Force

Watching a little more mindless entertainment on Netflix.  Crossing Jordan.  I love crime dramas, and I watch a lot of different ones, (much to my husband’s dismay.) But it’s interesting to me how often this so-called “mindless entertainment” actually leads to thought provoking…er…thoughts.

So this particular episode of Crossing Jordan deals with an alleged cop killer who dies in police custody.  (*I say alleged because there is no question in the scope of the show that the suspect did kill a cop, in real life he is of course presumed innocent until trial.)  Upon examination by the coroner  it’s discovered that the suspect has petechial hemorrhages in his eyes, which although possibly indicative of many things, often indicates strangulation.  Upon opening his head, it’s discovered he has a bruise on his brain, basically the result of hitting his head/being hit in the head so hard that his brain slaps against the inside of his skull.  Though he is alive when apprehended, he dies sometime during transit to the station and is instead taken to a hospital.

There is pressure from all sides to either discover or cover up what happened.  There’s a coroner’s inquest.

In the end it is revealed that one of the arresting officers did indeed kneel on the suspect’s back to (in his own words) maintain control of the situation.  The suspect was, according to the officer, acting erratic (as if on drugs), and was also quite large (6’4″,) and a known* cop killer.  It is implied that perhaps a stranglehold was used to subdue the suspect, something that is against police policy, according to a senior officer.  There were no drugs found in the suspect’s blood, so again it is suggested excess force was used.

Eventually, it is discovered that the brain injury sustained by the deceased suspect occurred three days before the arrest (essentially around the time the suspect killed the officer victim.)  Not only is the injury the cause of the suspect’s erratic behavior, but likely contributed to his death in custody.

And as often happens, a TV drama leads hubby and I into a serious discussion:   Why is it against police policy to use force?

I know a lot of people mistrust cops.  I know a lot of people hate cops.  Lastly, and most importantly, I know there are bad cops.  However, I have immense respect for cops.  You may not trust them, or like them, but chances are, if you’re in trouble or need help, you will call them. And you expect them to come, and to protect you.  So why do you expect them to do this, essentially without being allowed to use force to defend themselves?  There is necessary force, and unnecessary force, but in a given situation, it has to be up to the persons involved to decide what is necessary.

Sadly, incidents like the Rodney King incident in 1991 taint the reputation of the police force and have far reaching and damaging repercussions on police procedure.   And with suspects able to file even illegitimate claims against officers for brutality, police officers are daily in situations where they may face bodily injury or death if they run across the wrong suspect, but face inquest, job loss, and possible criminal charges for using “excessive force” to defend themselves.

Am I alone in feeling that if a person violently resists arrest, tries to harm an officer (either intentionally or due to drugs or mental instability) that an officer should be able to use force to defend themselves and keep themselves and their partner safe, even as a preemptive measure?

Am I the only one who feels like most people know that cops have guns and can use lethal force if a weapon is waved at them, and consequently, if a suspect becomes violent or resists, it’s their own damn fault if they get their ass kicked or killed?  To be clear, I’m not advocating cops beating on people for no reason, or using excessive force on non-violent offenders, or in any way taking advantage of their position of authority, but I do believe we expect police to do a generally dangerous and thankless job for relatively little pay, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt in most situations where force is necessary.

I don’t know much about the supposed blue wall.  I’m sure it does exist in some departments, among some cops.  But is it at all possible that if those officers felt safer in their jobs, and felt as if they were backed up by the law in cases where force was required, they might not need to “cover” for one another in some cases?

In conclusion, these are just my personal thoughts and feelings as related to police– they’re not backed by statistics or science, that I know of.  But since police are essentially civil servants with whom virtually everyone has either tangential or direct contact at some point in their lives, I figure we are all entitled at least to an opinion (as I’ve said before, opinions are one of the only true rights humans really do have!)

Police Brutality?  Bitch, please!

Police Brutality? Bitch, please!

“Death is a Door…”

“… we all acted alone, we were caught alone, and every one of us will have to die alone. But that doesn’t mean that we are alone.”  (Hans Fallada, 1947)

“Every living creature on earth dies alone.”  (Donnie Darko, 2001)

Donnie Darko and Roberta Sparrow

Donnie Darko and Roberta Sparrow

“Everybody dies alone.”  (Firefly, 2002)

“Son. Everyone dies alone. That’s what it is. It’s a door. It’s one person wide. When you go through it, you do it alone.”  (Dead Beat, 2005)

Are you afraid to die?  It seems like a simple question, but it requires you to be brutally honest with yourself.  What are your beliefs?  Are you religious?  Do you actually believe your religion’s tenants on death and afterlife?  

I suppose it could make a difference to you if you genuinely felt God will be with you when you shuffle off the mortal coil.   But I imagine some people clutch to their ideas of an afterlife specifically to keep at bay the terrors of death.  What happens when we die?  Do we just cease to exist?  I for one can’t conceive of not being aware, not being able to think.  

Have you ever had a serious illness or injury and felt that black stab of panic?  Am I going to die?  Maybe you’ve just been in a significant amount of pain and felt like you would die. (If you’ve ever had a migraine, you might sympathize with the thought of wishing for death, or at the very least, a long narcotic induced oblivion.)  I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks sometimes as well, which can make even a non-life-threatening situation feel exponentially worse. Suddenly, you think that migraine may actually kill you…just give you a stroke or something.

In these moments, that’s when our true feelings about death surface.

I’d like to think if my family was on a plane and it was going down, I’d be okay as long as my last moments were spent with those dearest to me, my husband and child.  But it’s been my experience that when you are in that moment of fear, panicked, you are completely alone.  

Don’t get me wrong.  Not every death is untimely or traumatic.  You may die of old age, going peacefully in your sleep, or surrounded by loved ones, but death is a door and it’s only one person wide.  We all walk through it alone.