Tuesday, September 05, 2006


In Which the Dreams Keep On Coming...

My little personal goal this year--I would never go so far as to call it a resolution--has been to take better care of myself. Well, to be completely accurate, it's been my goal to be more in tune with the warning signs my body gives me after I've abused it a little too much. One of the great but unforeseen advantages to keeping this blog--aside from your excellent company--is that it has served as a more or less accurate journal that reveals just how often I manage to fuck myself up. Which is quite a lot, actually.

There's no helping my being prone, accidentwise. And my luck is what it is: not bad, but hilariously bad. But I've realized for some time now that I ought to be able to get a better handle on being sick. I would conservatively estimate that 95 percent of my illnesses are opportunistic microscopic muggers that fall on me at some dark hour when I'm exhausted and least able to defend myself.

(The other 5 percent I chalk up to bugs brought home by the kids. Oh, and ass-strep. Can't forget ass-strep.)

It's been a struggle, but I've managed to become just a smidge more aware of the red flags my body waves when it's careening headlong into the intersection of Total and Collapse. Some of you may recall that this time last year, I spent the Labor Day holiday in bed with borderline pneumonia (one day there was fluid in my lungs, the next there wasn't). This year, I spent the long weekend engaged in labored breathing as well, but for a completely different reason: Thomas and I did a ton of cycling on local trails and Her Lovely Self and I weaned the Brownie from her training-wheeled bike to the more family-ride-friendly tandem. Which sounds positively fun--goddamn idyllic, almost--reading it above like that, but in fact featured some godawful moments even worse than getting kicked in the baseballs (of which more later, once I finish editing the video I've come to call "Worst Dad of the Year").

And here's the cruncher: Despite the fact that both kids have had some kind of sniffly cold for the better part of the week and poor HLS went to bed Saturday night (okay, Saturday afternoon) with a headache and fever, I came out of the weekend feeling pretty great. I mean, I'm a little sore and tired from assorted exertions, but it's a good kind of soreness, a please-stand-by-while-your-muscles-rebuild-and-leave-you-even-stronger soreness. Nothing like the whoops-sprung-another-rib-from-coughing-so-much soreness I felt last year.

So physically, I think I'm doing better keeping myself in fighting trim. Or at least I've tricked myself into believing that, which is close enough for me.

The bigger struggle, I have to admit, has been figuring out when I'm mentally exhausted. I don't get grouchy and snappish like other people in my family do (no names, but they know who they are). I tend to alternate between a state of total quiet and a state of babbling, hysterical amusement which, actually, is more or less how I am most of the time.

Ah, but I have noticed one thing.

I have recurring dreams only when I'm exhausted or totally stressed out.

For the most part, I don't remember my dreams, but reruns stick out in my memory, if for no other reason than I know I've seen this one before. It's as though the executive producer of Subconscious Programming up in my brain just nodded off or walked away, leaving a hapless intern in charge who, for want of knowing what else to do, grabbed a pre-recorded tape off the shelf and popped it in. Suddenly I'm back in a field in the middle of nowhere, fleeing in panic from the Cream of Wheat chef or the Quaker Oats guy, to name a particularly harrowing dream from my youth, which often recurred at the start of each school year (Please don't read too much into it. I have nothing against African-Americans or members of the Quaker faith, but I did hate hot cereal as a child and I do remember being most stressed in the mornings before school--breakfast time--so I suspect the dream was my way of coping with that stress).

Lately, the dream that has been coming back involves some variation of the wake after my grandfather's funeral. Unlike the dream of being pursued by hot-cereal mascots, the ambiance of this dream isn't particularly sinister--aside from elegiac undertone of the entire affair--but I'm convinced it's a stress-induced dream. For one thing, as the wake progresses, I become increasingly aware that a lot is going on and I'm having trouble keeping track of it. There are too many stories I want to hear, too many family friends and relatives I want to catch up with and I become increasingly desperate and frustrated about it.

Then, towards the end of the dream, a group of mourners with musical inclinations form an impromptu band and perform a song called "The Ballad of Diamond Jim," which is supposed to be about my grandfather, although it sort of isn't. It's the tale of a Boston-Irish barkeep who owns a bar in Southie (my grandfather never owned his own bar) and who never let anyone in his bar go thirsty. If you didn't have the money, you still got a drink. In fact, he never refused a drink to anyone, except the Devil, who visited the bar once. Diamond Jim tossed him out on his ass and the Devil swore one day he'd be back to get either a drink out of Diamond Jim--or his soul.

In the end, Diamond Jim dies behind the bar (which also never happened to my grandfather) and the Devil comes to claim his soul. Since he's already bound for hell, Diamond Jim admits defeat and asks the Devil to share one last drink with him after all--something on the rocks, since Jim won't be seeing ice again for a long, long while. The Devil toasts Jim, downs his drink and immediately passes out. He wakes up in Hell the next morning with a wretched hangover and it's then that he realizes Diamond Jim spiked his drink--the ice cubes were made from holy water. He can hear the funeral procession topside and rallies his hellish minions to catch Jim's cagey soul, but he's repelled at Heaven's gate by a laughing St. Peter, who informs the Devil that because he overslept, he missed catching Jim by a good 30 minutes.

In the dream, it's a really good song (although I suspect the hapless intern just grabbed a Pogues tune to fill in the soundtrack), and I do my best to remember it, but whenever I wake up, I can only recall a line or two and when I scribble them down, they sound ridiculous. But of course they would, and not just because of that special brand of dream logic that makes stupid things seem fucking brilliant, either. Alas, as some learned readers here would be only too happy to echo, I have the worst kind of tin ear and absolutely no musical ability. I could sooner build an atomic bomb from household supplies than compose music.

But every time I have this dream, I keep thinking the song is good--it certainly brings the house down--and I keeping waking up annoyed with myself for not being able to remember more than one complete verse, which is this one, one of the last ones in the song:

So raise a glass to Diamond Jim
The drunkard's patron saint
Some think he's still in Heaven
But me I say he ain't
In every bar in Southie
On up the Legion Post
There's men who'll swear they've had a drink
On Diamond Jimmy's ghost.

See what I mean about my tin ear? Not exactly Rodgers and Hammerstein, is it?

Anyway, that's the dream. There are plenty of ways to interpret it (too much going on in my life, not enough time to enjoy it all; general anxiety about dying before I get to realize my own dreams; feeling that my gifts are inadequate to the tasks I've set for myself; worrying about what to do if Satan ever shows up and wants a drink), but whenever I've had it the past few months, I've taken it as a sign that I have too much going on upstairs.

As for solutions to my mental exhaustion, I've been hard-pressed. I used to exercise a lot more than I do now, but like a million other flabmeisters in their late 30s who daily inch their sluglike way towards inevitable decrepitude, it's awfully hard to find the time. Writing here has always been a great soother, of course, but ever since I returned from vacation in New Hampshire, work has bled me dry and I find myself in a near-vegetative state when I get home. At which time I pass out on the couch or in bed and find myself back at my grandfather's wake. It's a bit of a quandary, I admit.

Which I guess means that no matter how hard I try, my reality--at least for now--is going to be at odds with my little personal goal.

But I can dream, can't I?

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Hell, that's a much better song than my head can come up with.

The only recurring dream I have is my fever dream. Always when I have a bad fever (100+) I dream of being on a vast plain (a la Tron) being chased by a giant metal ball. I run and run and run and when I finally wake up I'm sweaty and the fever's broken.

Anyhow, take it easy, maintain a good fitness regimen, all things in moderation, and try to keep surviving all those accidents.
I guess I have a tin ear too cuz I thought that was kinda catchy. Would love to hear the rest of it.
I only had recurring dreams when I was pregnant and those were too strange to even try to describe. I think you probably have more lives than a cat, but still, take it easy. I would encourage you to exercise but that would be kinda hypocritical on my part!
When I was pregnant, I used to dream about losing my baby ALL THE TIME. Glad I am a better mommy in my waking state.

But lately, I've been dreaming about my sister who passed away in December. I think my dreams help me cope and heal and deal.
If that isn't already a song (the story of Jim/Devil/Cubes), find a serious musician and make it happen. That's a song that should be sung in every bar in America. It should be a gawdam' standard!

As for the dreams, yeah, you're stressed. Not just work and family, but the underlying concern you have, the fear of death. My bet is that once you take yourself on a walk and have a talk with your inner, truthful self, you'll be ok. Until you become comfortable and accepting of your impending demise, you'll probably have these sleep issues.
In recent years I have started to have very obvious dreams whenever things have been on my mind. They're metaphors, but they're freaking obvious metaphors.

And sometimes I just dream strange and interesting things.

I don't know if my dreams are tied to stress or not, but I always like it when I remember them.
Actually, as I read the words to your "song" a tune popped into my head right away. Google the scotsman song, about the scotsman who falls asleep drunk and wakes with a blue ribbon tied special for him. That tune goes well with your words.

I often think something I dreamed would make an awsome story or whatever, if I could just remember more than 2 seconds of it once I wake up. Glad to hear you are trying to take better care of yourself, that means we get to keep you around longer!
I don't know, you can say what you want about the lyrics, but backed up by a real Irich punk band (The Pogues, Flogging Molly, etc.), that has the makings of a true drunken singalong...

Take it from a guy who spent quite a few years in bands and who's written a lot of songs - that verse is a good one. It scans well. I put music to that, in my head, immediately as I was reading it.
Am I the only one who sang that song to the tune of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia?" One of my favorite tunes, actually...haha. Just me, huh? Oh well...
The Rugrat Chuckie Finster is afraid of "the guy on the oatmeal box" too. And my mother's biggest childhood fear was Mr Peanut. She still thinks he's creepy.
my pregnant dreams were the worst-- always involving either grave-digging or water slides. I'm sure there is some symbolism there somewhere.
That's actually pretty catchy for some subconscious written verse.

I dream frequently but, I don't always remember much when I wake up in the morning. But I do have a repeat offender that just perplexes me. It takes place in my neighborhood during the winter with fresh snow falling on an already white landscape. Also, it usually seems to be twilight or dusk. I'm always standing at the sliding glass window, staring outside when a huge blue passenger jet just roars overhead and into my line of vision right before it crashes into the line of homes in front of mine.

I don't know what it means. But anyhow, try to keep yourself in one piece. I'm not going to advise fitness since I am guilty of slacking in that department too. I told myself I was going to devote time to Yoga and Cardio this year.

Maybe enjoy a walk around the neigborhood after work when the sun is starting to set. It may clear your thoughts.
Ya gotta try and get the rest of that song MM - it's gold. Try setting an alarm at different times to wake you up so you can write in that notebook on the bedside table.

Cotton Family - I know that song ver batim, I have it stored for my Grandfathers unfinished memorial DVD. As a kid, I can remember listening to Irish Drinking song albums Papa loved to play. Diamond Jim's song would fit right in.

When I have dreams about work, that's when I know I'm stressed. The most vivid and funked up dreams can be had, when using the nicotine patch to stop smoking. That'll give ya some mind blowers.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?