In the dream, my mother has only recently passed away. I am standing in the middle of the living room by the antique potty chair painted in bright yellow with its hidden removable seat. I can imagine my mother lifting the cushion to display to some unsuspecting guest that they’ve been chatting comfortably on a sort of “throne.” I can hear her laughter. Loud and unsettling.
As an adult, I am not afraid of my mother.
As a child, that was not the case.
They say we marry our abusers. Of course, “they” say many things, and we never know for certain who “they” may be, or whether we should trust their word on anything.
* * *
I note the faded rose shades in the rug and I am reminded how much I dislike pink. I am surprised at the heft of the old console television, the shiny surfaces of my father’s golf trophies displayed on the radiator, the excellent condition in which the Encyclopedia Britannica is maintained, carefully stored in a bookshelf that was accessed routinely throughout high school.
I see it all. Each object, clearly. There are so many objects, I doubt I could count them all.
I am talking to boarders – one of whom is a childhood friend of my son as he looked at 16 or so, before the earrings and the Mohawk that turned his mother’s hair a little more silver. I speak to him by name and he tells me, “yes, I live here for $350 a month but I suppose that I have to move out now.”
Then he tells me another friend resides in a bedroom upstairs.
“It’s a shame,” he continues. “I like it here and l can get to work easily on the bus.”
“No,” I say. “You don’t have to go and the extra income will be helpful to me. Of course, this means I need to move from another part of the country, but then I’m alone anyway.”
I’m quiet for a moment. I’m considering.
“This is a lot of house for me to maintain and I’ll have to deal with the cold again, but I’ll manage.”
And then I realize it has been years since the house was emptied and sold. I have no place here. I have no rights to enter. I am uncertain if this jump backward in time is progress or a setback, but this dream leads to a variation of the nightmares in which I am homeless and I am certain that is not progress.
These are nightmares I have lived with since divorce, since the loss of the only home that felt safe, though safety is an illusion and “home is where the loved ones are” is too often little more than cliché.
The nightmares had abated for awhile, and I was glad.
I am uncertain why they begin again.
* * *
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
It is a question I have posed for years, to myself, as a means to fight stagnation, to combat fears, to measure my own distortions that arise out of extreme emotion or perhaps more accurately, conditioning.
There are financial fears of course, and their repercussions are significant and alarming. But money is quantifiable. It is tangible evidence of your state of affairs – in its presence or its absence.
As for anything else, I am looked at as though I ought to question my sanity. And at times, I do. Then I cease questioning it.
I know reality. I know its underbelly. I have my proofs.
I know the worst that can happen. I know the depth of the fear.
I have been told about PTSD but I am not a soldier nor a trauma survivor – certainly not in the conventional sense and it seems outlandish to consider as much in any sense. Nor have I been subjected to disasters of epic proportions or tragedies beyond the ordinary.
Perhaps I am wrong in my interpretations of words.
* * *
I cannot get the term out of my head. Hypervigilance. If it is stuck, stubbornly lodged, replaying until I begin to research it, then there must be a reason.
Hypervigilance exists in the wake of feeling controlled, pursued, intimidated, fucked with – mind games and maneuvers that one seems to play with a certain pleasure, while the adversary – if the word even applies – tries to separate fact from fiction.
Hypervigilance seems a logical response in a world that is too often without logic, in the face of responses that you are imagining things, that you should “just move on;” and your own insistence that what you feel and know is real, the anxiety is for good reason, the history you carry that does not remain in the past is very much your present.
Still, the intensity and speed with which you raise your guard can be startling. It never eases entirely; it is stoked by a suggestion, a gesture, even an opportunity.
Hypervigilance is associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which it seems that some are beginning to discuss in terms of relationships. And naturally, that would include marriage and divorce, in particular high conflict divorce, and potentially the aftermath that is equally distressing.
I linger on the word and try to explore it. I set my dreams aside, and I tell myself to “just keep going.” I hope for a gentler night’s sleep, and an easy awakening.