Yes, I am back to writing again (on here). You all know that I juggle many life responsibilities: full time job, caring for a 5 year old, and going to school part time. In the meager amount of “off time” that remains, my life is full of hobbies. One such hobby is walking through different neighborhoods, even unfinished ones. I was quite surprised recently to see Annecy, with its beautiful exteriors and gated entrances, to be a project lost in time. Without knowing anything of its origins, my guess is it went unfinished during Phoenix’s housing crisis and so far, no builder has the inspiration (and perhaps, money) to built it up again to the original vision.
During this semester especially I needed a break from chaos. My course work was more demanding and the day after Kiernan’s funeral, I was faced with the fact my dad suffered another heart attack. He is recovering well, I understand, but I had a few real rough weeks this term. This incomplete community, a mix of dreams and harsh reality, provided a great venue in which to just relax. I walked quietly with my spouse and we found ducks and geese waddling towards us for food by the lake. Sadly, without the promise of food, they ignored us quickly and went back to the water.
Today, I wanted to tackle a difficult subject few people probably think of sharing in their lives. My grades show off my academic skills and more importantly, my fixation on self-improvement. I brought my GPA up from last semester. However, as my earlier comments reveal, the challenges are not so readily apparent. One of the hardest things I’ve faced as a full time worker and part time graduate student is the burden of additional stress. For me, this stress associated with midterms and finals, manifests itself as nightmares. I’ve had one each semester since my program began. As well, I’ve never had nightmares of this sort before.
These nightmares, in their own weird ways, combine elements that bridge my military and veteran identities. In sharing one–the worst so far–with you all, please balance out your perception with the fact I’m succeeding in the classroom. The problems I deal with are not limited to our veteran community and as my successes illustrate, do not prevent me from being an active, invested individual in my community. I will never own the label “dysfunctional veteran” and I would not want anyone to read into my nightmare and feel disgusted with me as a person (and representative of the veteran community).
The nightmare I had occurred late this semester. After the most Paris terrorist attacks on November 13th, after Kiernan’s funeral, and after learning of my dad’s health issue, my brain concocted a completely horrific scene for me.
For some people, it may be painful to read about my nightmare, so use your own judgement before reading further.
It’s important to identify to you all I have not been the victim of improvised explosive attacks. This is however an element that appeared in the nightmare.
NOVEMBER 2015 NIGHTMARE
Unlike other nightmares where I may be solely in the company of strangers or a veteran friend, I was with my husband and daughter. We were part of a tourist group of sorts. We did not know those in our company but we were not fearful of our surroundings or the strangers. There was a general sense we got along at least in the typical pleasantries you share with strangers in public settings. We were in an outdoor venue. There was plenty of open space and older style buildings. It is clear to me however we are not in any part of America I’ve ever visited. The scenery does not give off the impression of well known modern areas in Europe nor is there Middle Eastern architecture. The landscape reminds me more of Johannes Vermeer’s paintings, perhaps because I love the style, more than anything I’d expect today in modern cultures. Below is an example of the Johannes Vermeer painting that most resembles the buildings in the nightmare. The buildings are of mixed heights and areas close to me are more dirt paths and open space more than anything else.
Some individuals who blended well in the scene approached clusters of us. The individuals who were approached were offered trinkets of some sort. They were palm sized and had bright colors. It was apparent the packages were meant to be opened. The strangers left after leaving these “gifts” and without an exchange of words, the group generally understood those trinkets were not to be opened. Although I previously did not hear conversations in the nightmare, a hush was identifiable by the odd situation of these adults holding these small things they knew not to open and also burdened by not knowing what to do with them.
Our bewilderment was broken by multiple sudden explosions and screams directly on the other side of buildings behind us. In the nightmare, our group is in the foreground, the buildings in the middle, and the victims on a street behind that I could not see. We all scatter in different directions to avoid shrapnel and I cannot identify exactly where either my husband or daughter are, but I move in the direction that seems best to avoid the impact of the explosion and the shrapnel.
As I move away though, the body parts are instantly visible. It is such a disgusting scene of heads and arms and bits of everything thrown out in multiple directions from those trinkets which turned out to be handheld improvised explosive devices. We are not privy to the violence on the street but we see the human debris rise over the buildings and towards us. Unlike other dreams, movement occurs in a realtime. In past ones, it’s been unrealistically slow or disjointed. In this one, the pieces that remain of those victims unfortunately pelt me as I fall down from the blasts. I feel (quite literally feel) the weight of blood and pieces of tissue fall down on my back.
And then nothing else happens.
I wake up from the worst dream I’ve ever had and for a little bit of time, it’s like I can feel the weight of those body parts, the blood and tissue, still on me.
Can I read a lot into this nightmare? Yes. This semester was a bit more brutal than others. I’ve had a lot of extra work on my plate. There were extra burdens in my personal life. The world witnessed the tragic loss of too many people in Paris and equally painful but less publicly recognized, Beirut’s November terrorist attack. I lost a friend of two years and was faced with the potential loss of my father. Let’s not forget either having the burden of those final assignments! My brain is exhausted right now.
For anyone who’s wondering about that “W” on my transcript, I dropped my applied project back in October. There was too much going on even back then.
For the time being, I am glad I made it successfully through the semester.
I anticipate only one nightmare awaits me sometime next semester.
If I’m lucky, once my Master’s is over and I’m not juggling the demands of student life and full time employment, maybe they’ll be gone completely.