Sep 24, 2015

Of demons & monst-ahs

Early this morning, a horrible nightmare that had wound itself around my sleep receded quickly as consciousness dawned. Something about a baby, I think, though it's too dim now to know for sure. I've been on pretty strong drugs for a while (for a terrible cough) and am convinced they are taking a toll.

Headed towards oblivion, but in clearer focus was another bad dream from a separate portion of the night.

In it, my husband and I are striking an unlikely pose: we are propped up in bed, me in his arms. I'm often in his arms - that's not the unlikely pose - but in the dream, the 'propped up' part has a movie-like falsity. There is a fancy headboard behind us, an elegant quilt over us and expensive lamps on sleek night stands beside us. This notable incongruity signals that this is not really us, it's not real, no matter what happens next. It feels utterly real though: in the dream I'm seeing ease and evidence of the deep seated security and belonging that 18 years together brings. We appear to just be resting comfortably together.

"Are you really going to leave?" I ask casually, as if continuing an ongoing conversation. My heart is thumping hard inside.
"Yes" he replies, looking steadily at me.
"You still love me?" I ask, keeping the quaver out of my voice.
His arm is affectionately wrapped around me. He is holding me very tight.
"Yes. But your ______ over the years has turned into _______." he says in a measured, reasonable tone.

I can't for the life of me remember the words now, though they made a lot of sense then. Multi-syllabic descriptors of the way I think, act and react that seemed as accurate as they were minor. Carelessness?  Superiority? I just can't pin them down but they seemed like the typical flaws most people have to some degree. Only, apparently I had them in spades.

I'm quiet for a few seconds, trying to absorb that this quality that makes me 'me' even if it is unattractive, should carry THIS much weight. Time seems to pause as a realization slams into place: however much we love another, they have a breaking point. One day, we might unknowingly reach out and very gently touch it and make things fall completely apart. Like I just had.

"And you think you might find someone else out there who is not like me....who can make you happy?" I ask numbly, still groping for reason.
"Yes" He answers simply.
"So.....this is it?" I confirm
He nods, still looking into my eyes with his gentle, loving ones, arm still clasped around me with the familiar, firm, possessive grip that has held me together for almost two decades. I used to revel in that feeling of being 'collected' whenever he gathered me into a bear hug, his favorite thing to do many times a day these past many years. The thrill of it remained (remains) intact through innumerable repetitions. It's always an exhale: I was 'collected' and held together by more than just my own fierce will. This relief has only grown through the years (and scares me sometimes). Someone else has me too....I'm not all alone.

But apparently for not much longer, in the unbearable reality of my nighttime musings. His light brown eyes remained loving as they gazed their regretful withdrawal at me. I remained frozen in his grip and in time as a dark fog rolled over to blot him slowly, inexorably out.

I awoke just then to the 6 am alarm beeping on my cell phone, tears clumped so hard in my throat that it ached. The routine early morning coughing spasm that even the Valium/Codeine night time combo can't completely keep at bay, was welcome this morning. Something predictable and familiar to tug me back into the real world, away from the horrors of the night that still pulsed malignantly around the edges of my half-asleep mind.

The real world is not very pretty these days thanks to a lingering, vicious cough. The really bad fits end up with my throat muscles contracting in such a severe spasm that my airway closes up. A desperate, losing fight for breath rages for a terrifying few seconds until I can regain control over my instinctive panic, calm down and breathe purposefully through my nose the way the ENT specialist taught me. As I splinted my ribs with my hands to relieve the sprain from the explosive coughs, I focused on breathing steadily through my nose, willing my throat to relax and focusing purposefully on The Now. Breathe and calm returned and I stepped carefully out of bed, tugging on my warm bathrobe and shrugging off the crushing sadness of the nether world that had just released me from its grip.

The morning routine of making breakfast, packing my son's lunch bag, returning text messages over coffee, showering and chivying my son out of bed and into his clothes returned me to normalcy. Until the train ride to work when my head cleared up enough to let these fading memories float back up again. I abandoned the 'medium' level Sudoku I was half-heartedly trying to solve to text my husband who is out of the country on work. Found some much needed solace in our usual banter over making weekend plans with friends. He will return home tomorrow to collect me into a bear hug again.

The strange thing is, this is not the first nightmare I've had about something like this, no matter how much I want to blame the sucker punch that is Codeine-Valium (which I've taken for the last time, I hope). It's always that he's going to leave me, always brimming with regret, love and determination. I always seem to understand why and feel for him even as I free-fall into a bottomless pit. I never remember the details as clearly as today but the tune is familiar.

I can't stop puzzling over why I always imagine he will leave one day, when all he has EVER shown me in our long life together is care, affection and a kind of dedication I could not have ever dreamed of even at the peak of my youthful, romantic delusions. Admittedly, a few others important to me have left unexpectedly at key points in my life: my father (in death) and a first love (in betrayal) come to mind. I guess I'm still locked in a perverse, outdated, senseless reaction to those random traumas though I don't understand when and how. Meanwhile, my Demons lurk in the shadows and wait until my guard is down, to prey.

I have an arsenal full of weapons that will demolish these imagined fears into nothingness, should I figure out how to confront them. It comprises not just this incredible man in my life, but the littler one he gave to me (our son), a mother who's a best friend, a brother who's my rock, a best friend turned sister-in-law who still sees right through to my soul and a bevy of TRUE friends whose hearts seem to beat in time with mine regardless of time and space.

I intend to sleep in Peace tonight. No admittance to misleading, shadowy Demons who rob me of the Truths that I know.

Oyon-ism (age 3 to 4)
When he was between 3 and 4, Oyon first heard of zombies and ghosts at daycare and developed tremendous night terrors about them. He couldn't pronounce 'r' or 'l' until almost 5 so these conversations were particularly memorable for the incongruity of content and delivery.

In the restroom (all his important thoughts seem to unfold on the pot) at Borders one Saturday he asked...
Oyon: Mummum, where do ghosts and monstahs wiv?
Me: Hmm. They aren't real, like I told you, so I guess Ghosts would have to live in your imagination. That's where you think and sometimes, make up pretend stuff.
Oyon: And where does my ima-gin-ay-shun wiv?
Me: Your brain, I suppose. Which is inside your head.
Oyon (horrified): The monstahs are inside my HEAD?!!!
Me: ALL pretend things live in your head! And monsters, ghosts and zombies are just pretend. You know that.
Oyon (sounding rather unconvinced but determined): Yeah. I know THAT!

Later that night in the bath his back is turned to the door (from where I'm checking in on him occasionally) as he puts a little wooden boat and a plastic octopus in the sudsy bathwater. I stop to watch from behind as he does something curious...he slowly reaches inside his left ear and mimes pulling something out. The 'something' then becomes his hand that dives into the water then leaps out towards the boat-riding octopus and...
Oyon: Rrrrrr! Wooooh! I'm going to EAT you! You bettah wun! ROAAAR!
Many fearsome, loud noises later he seems to have scared himself. Starts whimpering and muttering 'mummum!'. I'm about to step into view to help when he suddenly stops and goes very still. I freeze too. He brings up his hand to eye level and....
Oyon: Bad monstah, time-out! Go! Go BACK to my ima-gin-ay-shun!
This time he slowly reaches into his RIGHT ear and mimes placing something INTO it.
Oyon (making his octopus dive and swim around the boat): Yay! Monstah gone! Come on...wets swim!
Me (kneeling in front of his glistening, plump little body): Did that monster scare you, Oyon?
Oyon (dodging the question): I sent Monstah BACK to my ima-gin-ay-shun. He's in a time-out now.
Me: Good for you. But did he scare you?
Oyon (with a slightly derisive laugh as I soap his little back): Don't you know it's all pwe-tend? Monstahs aren't weal!

Other monster related adventures from those early years to stay tuned for:
- The ghost fighting arsenal I discovered under his pillow one day
- Princess bears in Arizona
- His imaginary friend 'Gadeshan', a friendly monster
- The baby tornado that didn't want to destroy stuff

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