When I close my eyes to fall asleep, I am afraid of the world I will meet in my dreams. What – or who – did I push to the back of my mind today that’s destined to meet me in my most vulnerable state? What battles will I have to fight in the land of my dreams? What tears will I shed as I face people who have hurt me in my day and come back to haunt me in my sleep?
I know this isn’t how dreaming is meant to be. I know they call it “rest” for a reason.
But, these days, my mind doesn’t rest. When my body slows down for the night, my mind races faster. When my eyelids cannot hold themselves open any longer, my mind takes me to the places I least want to go – faces me with the people I’ve tried to push out of my head.
I yell and cry, but still they are there, haunting me like Ebenezer Scrooge’s three ghosts. I cannot look into their faces. I am as powerless to them in my sleeping as I am in my waking. They paralyze me with their piercing eyes and fake smiles. I don’t know what words they will speak, but I already feel smaller in their presence.
When I close my eyes, my world is theirs, even more so than it is during the day. I have given these people power over my thoughts. I see myself through their eyes.
When I close my eyes to fall asleep, I am afraid, because I do not like the person I see when I look at myself.
In the final moments before I drift fully into my head, I feel my dog, Luna, inching closer to my chest, attempting to protect me from the world that is only known to me. She knows there is pain in the place where she cannot go. She feels me shake and tremble as my eyes fall shut. She can’t protect me there like she can on the mean streets of Lyndon.
She knows these demons are mine to fight, but she wants me to know that I am not alone. (She, too, is fighting demons in the form of rabbits, squirrels, and … flies.) With Luna by my side, I slide into my dream world, scared to find who will meet me there, but so thankful to know I am not alone.
As my breathing slows and my heartbeat settles to a steady 65 bpm, I am greeted, as I feared, by the people I successfully hid from my thoughts that day.
They walk towards me, glaring into my eyes, and begin to speak, rattling off the litany of things I missed that day. They tell me I’ve failed, that I’ll never be good enough, and that they won’t stop haunting my waking or sleeping until I’ve figured that out.
In tears, I stare back at these figures, mere holograms of the people they represent. I speak no words. I have nothing to say, for I’ve started to believe them. How can I speak back when I know they are right?
Everyone I know has these people in their lives. Some have found ways to silence them. Others have become paralyzed by them by day and by night. I want to be the former, but I know I’m walking uncomfortably close to the latter.
When I open my eyes each morning, however, I am also surrounding by people. Faces of loved ones line the room: Susan, Alix, Noelle, Andrea, Katherine, Stephanie, Laura, Phillip, Amy, my parents and grandparents. All these faces smile at me around my bedroom, holding vigil, stopping the unwanted visitors from disturbing my waking world.
In the groggy-ness of the morning, I also roll over and see the person whose eyes mirror back to me the self I most want to be. And for a second, I forget the unkind words I believed about myself in my sleep.
For a moment in time, I am beautiful, loving, hopeful, and called.
I hold onto this moment as I close my eyes once again; this time to meet my Creator.
As I breathe in and out, I see Jesus’ face more clearly. My gaze meets him and he matches me tear for tear. I hear the words he speaks to me like a dear friend or loving parent:
Count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out of speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens, for though they don’t like it, I do!
And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Paraphrased from Matthew 5:11-12 (The Message)
“Be blessed,” he says to me.
And when I open my eyes, I am no longer afraid of the world that will meet me. For I know that God is there. And resurrection is just on the horizon.
This post is a part of a Lenten discipline I am participating in to write each day on a specific word. These posts reflect daily thought processes and conversations with God as I journey through this season of repentance and reflection. I hope they will be meaningful to those of you who find this space and journey with me.