Tag Archives: Fear

Dream within a Dream

Someone just sat on the edge of my bed. I know this because I can feel the depression of the mattress but I don’t know who it could be considering I am alone. I am paralyzed by fear and afraid to open my eyes because I just know it is a ghost—a friendly ghost, like Casper I hope. But I am also incapable of moving my limbs as if I am pinned down and I have a sense of helplessness. This is so vivid that it almost seems real, but it is a dream—a dream that I want desperately to wake up from.

Then, as if by magic I am awake and not afraid at all. I am with a friend, telling her of my harrowing experience with the supernatural being in my house. But this is different—somehow I innately know that I am actually still dreaming, although in this dream, the fear is gone and I feel serene.

Suddenly I am aware of a newfound power where I can control the course and temperament of my dream and I can have anything I want in this alternate reality. What a freeing feeling I have, for in this dream, I get to have do-overs—my son is mentally healthy, I am happily married, and I am young again. I can fly if I want, why not, this is my dream—in my new world anything is possible. I have no more money issues. I am enjoying the best day of my life and I can summon up friends and loved ones who have passed over. I am outside in a beautiful field taking pictures that automatically transform into gorgeous images right in front of me. I am having the best food and sex ever and know this is the way it will remain. I am joyous and free, oh yes, I am happy for once.

But then the theme of the dream dramatically changes, as if something ominous and vile is inserting itself into my perfect dream. The dream is gradually becoming dark again, and I am hearing thunder in the distance. My brain desperately wants me to continue dreaming but it is no use—the booming thunderclaps become louder and louder, making it impossible to maintain my sleep. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, I am thrust into total consciousness. I lay there, realizing that I am now awake, seeing the lit up room from the lightning bolts. It is morning and I reluctantly get out of bed with a heavy heart. The depression is palpable because this time I know for sure, I am back in the real world and my lovely dream is over. I desperately want to return to the utopia of my subconscious—maybe I can go back tonight, but I know it is gone and reality is back.

The Bomb

I was reminiscing with my friend last night and she reminded me about what it was like during the time when a nuclear holocaust was a very real possibility. I guess today we worry about mass killings, terrorists, and ISSIS. But back in the early 60s, annihilation of our world as we knew it by the Bomb was the main cause of anxiety. Childhood should be a carefree time of innocence, but as children growing up in those days, the Bomb loomed large in our consciousness. During that time, everywhere you looked in Manhattan, was the ubiquitous bomb/fallout shelter. In Stuyvesant Town, where I grew up, each building was equipped with a carriage room where we kept bicycles, carriages, and things of that sort. However, during the paranoia of the Cold War, our carriage room doubled as the official fallout shelter, complete with the circular, yellow and black symbol promising survival; never mind that the walls were not designed to protect us from a nuclear attack and it was not equipped with any long-term survival gear or food and water. I guess this was the only place in our development that would at least semi-meet the requirement that all buildings have such a “safe place.” As a little girl, I remember being outside in the playground, or on the street, when suddenly the loud blare of air-raid sirens would usher us indoors to whatever building we were near. It became so “normal” for this to happen periodically that it was just an annoyance and nothing to be concerned about. Then an all-clear siren would signal us that we could come out of hiding and resume our activities. In school, we had “bomb drills” where we would huddle under our desks as protection from flying glass—not even thinking that we would all be incinerated. My brother and I played a game of “what would you do if?” We would ask, “What would you do if you found out that the USSR launched missiles and you knew you only had about 5 more minutes before they hit?” I would answer that I would hide in the bedroom closet, knowing full well that it would be over for all of us. These childhood games were born of pure FEAR about the future of our world—something that children should not have to think about. I vividly remember opening the front door to my best friend, Janet, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and seeing her worried face reflecting exactly what I felt—namely that we might all be doomed. That feeling of pure helplessness was something I’ll never forget and the fear I felt that day is still palpable for me

The fallout shelters provided people with a false sense of security because in actuality, the city would have been flattened and we’d be liquefied. If anybody were “lucky” enough to survive the initial attack, the radiation would slowly take its toll. But, as humans we wanted to believe we had some measure of control and these shelters met that need.

As the years rolled on and the Cold War lessened, those bomb shelters and signs gradually disappeared giving way to a tenuous sense of security. Unfortunately dangers still exist wherever we go and we cannot escape them. But what made that time period different from the world crises we currently face was that the very existence of the earth and our species was threatened—that life on this planet would cease to exist, and that horrible fate was in the hands of mere mortals.

Prejudice

Prejudice—it is such a damning word and so many of us in the civilized world find the idea of “prejudging people” based on their race, sex, ethnic background, religion, or sexual orientation, reprehensible. It is, after all, not PC to show prejudice and we all want to be politically correct don’t we? Humans wear many different masks; the one they show in public, the one they show in private, and the one they show when angry. It is easy to fool everyone and even yourself into believing that you are not a bigot, but given the right circumstances, the very thoughts that we portend to abhor will come to mind without hesitation. I believe that prejudice in some form does lurk in the dark recesses (or sometimes surfaces) of our psyche and is based on FEAR—fear of a culture different than ours. People who claim to be free of any prejudice must have been sent from some another Planet or had their minds magically cleansed. We are the products of our environments and, as children, we form opinions based on what we hear in our home or see on the news each night. Our brain is like a sponge and when you grow up with certain preconceived ideas of what black people, Asians, gays, women, or Jews are like it is very hard to shed these notions, although we try. Most of the time, people know that racism or gay bashing is not acceptable, but in times of anger, one’s true thoughts pop out and we sometimes show our real colors. Often, people don’t even know what they say is a slur such as the expression, “Jewing” someone down or saying that someone had a “Jewish” nose. Even people that I would never consider having a prejudiced bone in their body will surprise me with a remark such as “Black people never tip” (from a massage therapist friend of mine). Prejudice is really just a generalization about a group of people, and a “one size fits all” mentality. With that being said, last Monday morning, I was shocked to discover a bullet hole and bullet in my computer room. I noticed plaster dust all over and finally saw that there was a hole in the wall. The woman next door is a tenant who is black. Her 15-year old son was the culprit and apparently fired the gun from his bedroom, which went through their garage and entered my room. I called the owner who is black as well and she was appalled—she has now started eviction proceedings. I say their races to show how there are good, troubled, bad, smart, evil, (in short, it runs the gamut) people in any race. There are classy, “trashy”, criminals, and amazing people everywhere and, knowing this, I tried very, very, hard to avoid stereotyping this neighbor and saying this happened because she is black. Yet it was hard and I had to literally “talk” out-loud to myself saying, “Now, I do NOT want you to blame this terrible incident on him being black. Maybe, being black in the environment he came from and friends who he runs with is most likely the cause of this kid going in a bad direction. But, the landlord is an accomplished individual, and my other black neighbors in the area are respectful, lovely people. So, being black does not equal criminality.” You have to look at people on an individual basis and not lump groups of people into ONE person. Everyone is different and there are no cookie-cutter human beings—that is how I stopped myself from that line of thinking. I think that when those feelings of anger at a certain race, religion, or ethnicity come up, even for just a moment (and they all do, even if we don’t want to admit it), we have to take a step back and analyze if what we are feeling is rational. More often than not, we are just falling back into old patterns of thinking (often fear-based) where we blame an entire race or culture for actions perpetrated by a few. I think it is just a human condition to be suspicious or critical of another culture, but being aware and knowing it is wrong will go a long way.

Competition

Competition has ruled my life ever since I can remember. Everything from being the fastest runner in the playground when I was a kid, getting the best PR in a race, being the best looking, or whatever it is; I have to turn it into a competition. Although I seem to crave it, competition is also the source of constant fear and unhappiness. Fear that I won’t measure up to someone else or someone will be “better” than I am and the ensuing unhappiness when I feel disappointed in myself. It is a never-ending merry-go-round that I can never win because there will always be another person who trumps me.

For years, I ran races with a very competitive spirit. Of course, not being an elite runner, my competition was other runners in my running club, or often just myself. In running there is such as thing as a PR (personal record) and before any race, especially full Marathons, I had an idea of what my time should be. Sometimes I achieved my mark, being very proud, but inevitably another runner I knew had a better time. Then my pride in my achievement would dissipate. Other times I didn’t live up to my own expectations (there’s that word again) and although I just ran 26.2 miles (something that most people can’t do) doing pretty well, I would beat myself up. It was when one day I decided to totally stop running races and just run for the pure pleasure of the sport that I became free. I never entered another race and I felt happier. The same holds true for anything in my life because to me everything is a competition. All through my working life, I constantly compared myself to coworkers, wondering if they got a promotion, a raise, were liked more by the boss, etc. As a massage therapist, it is almost impossible not to be competitive–always wondering how many clients someone else had that day, how many “regular clients” they have, always jockeying for the boss’s approval. Of course, jealousy and competition go hand and hand. Even in my photo meetings, I want to be the best, instead of just enjoying the companionship and learning from like-minded people. I tell myself that I should just write because it feeds my soul, and not to worry about making money. I tell myself that I should just do photography because I like it and not try to feel that I have to adopt other’s methods, or their style. I want to be creative because it makes me feel good, and not have expectations or have to be accountable to others (which would happen if this became a business). I need to remember my own lesson with running and follow my own advice. For some reason competition is in my blood and although I have my theories, I’m not totally sure why. But, what I do know is that “everybody is a star” in some way; most of us have something we’re exceptional at and I need to recognize my own talents. When I stop comparing myself to other people, and just accept who I am, and not who I think I should be, I am so much happier.

Jealousy

Jealousy for me is defined as an irrational FEAR that somehow I am missing out on something or that someone is getting recognition for something that I deserve (at least in my mind). I never thought of jealousy as a FEAR, but upon introspection, I realize it really is. Although almost everyone is jealous at some time in their lives, it seems more extreme in my case. It comes in many forms and can attack when I am feeling spiritually fit, emotional, depressed, happy—in short, it sneaks up on me when I least expect it, regardless of my state of mind and can be triggered by even the most mundane comment. A perfect example happened today when the instructor in my Spinning class was extolling the virtues of a “masseur” she went to in Naples, Fla. She went on to say the it was “a whole hour” of bliss, and even though I have elected to walk away from that profession, I still found myself feeling annoyed and jealous and actually wanted to say that I was indeed a massage therapist too. Luckily reason prevailed and I reminded myself that this was my choice because I wanted to pursue my creative self that I had put on the back burner for so long. I simply did not want to continue as a therapist. But, jealousy, or the green-eyed monster as some people call it, is an emotion that is found in almost every species. A few years ago I discovered that my 18-year old parrot was extremely jealous of the new Macaw. Every time I paid attention to the new “baby”, Merlin would come running over, get on top of the cage, get in-between us, and try to engage me. I found it very funny and cute, but it is not so endearing when it involves myself because it often leads to other emotions such as depression and resentment. In searching for the roots of my jealously it is easy to find it when analyzing my childhood. I grew up in a middle class apartment complex called Stuyvesant Town on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. At that time, neighbors actually knew each other and it was a sort of a Peyton Place type of atmosphere (for those of you who remember that show), where we all knew each other’s business. Although Stuyvesant Town’s buildings spanned 14th through 20th Street, having at least 13 floors in each building, it didn’t seem like Manhattan. In fact it was quite bucolic—a little oasis surrounded by a not so savory neighborhood—with playgrounds, grass, trees, an oval, and a flagpole. By the surrounding neighborhood’s standards, we were looked upon as “rich” but looks can be deceiving. My Mom had a group of friends that lived in Stuyvesant Town—some in our building— who played Mahjong every week at each other’s apartment. I would always overhear their banter about their vacations, or their summer homes and wonder why we didn’t have that. Their family life always seemed to contain an element of happiness, which was missing in mine. Years later I realized that it is all about “perceptions”, but didn’t recognize that when I was a child. All I knew was what was in front of my eyes so I compared “my insides to their outsides”, or in this case, “my family’s insides to other family’s outsides.” Although I certainly never went hungry or without decent clothing, I was acutely aware of the difference in my family compared to the other families in my neighborhood. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment, which necessitated me sharing a bedroom with my older brother, creating more and more resentment as time went on. Our Main floor apartment overlooked a main walkway and allowed my brother and I to see the comings and goings of our neighbors. It always seemed that we got the short-end of the stick and I was filled with envy when, looking out our window, we would see my Mom’s friends loading up their car, getting ready to go on a family vacation. I remember thinking that why was it that WE (our family) weren’t able to load up OUR car and take off for a fun vacation. Well, for one, my parents didn’t drive so we had no car, but the other reason was that we struggled financially due to my Dad’s compulsive gambling. Luckily my Mom had a good job but those extras that we noticed other families indulging in were not ours to have. I believe that is where the seeds of jealousy began and to this day, I still find myself “looking over the fence at other people’s yards” and finding my situation or life wanting. As an adult, wherever I worked, the green-eyed monster plagued me. Someone got a better review, better job, better assignments, better, better, you name it—whatever it was it was better. As a massage therapist, I would constantly see other therapists getting more clients, more bookings, more money, more of whatever it was and, again I would be left wondering, “Why not me?” Whenever I think I have conquered it, it pops up again. Recently during a photo class, I found out that a few people were taking a class I didn’t even know about and that they had been to the instructor’s studio several times. Immediately, I asked, “When did you find out about that?” or “Really, when was that?” And there I was, feeling “left out” as if I was a child again—as if I was looking out the window at my friend’s family, happily laughing, loading up their car, getting ready for a fun time—one that I couldn’t partake in.

Overthinking

Overthinking; that can be a good thing or a curse, depending on how you view it. I am usually not an impulsive person, but sometimes I just don’t listen to my gut. I thought I was being “brave” a few months ago when I decided to give my job notice. But my resignation letter left the door open a crack by saying I’d be willing to work 1 or 2 days a week. In my heart of hearts I was hoping the owner would refuse that option, but she accepted it. So, although I now work Fridays and Saturdays, I still hate it and I get more and more resentful as the week progresses that I “have” to even be there. Also, in just those 2 days, I still get reprimanded. Last week and this week, I was told I had fallen down on my Spa etiquette. Both times I was about to say, “OK, this is not working, so I will be leaving in a month.” But I held back out of FEAR, and we all know that FEAR is the thief of dreams. It’s crazy to keep working there because I made arrangements to get enough money sent to me to live, but I am greedy. It all comes from my childhood where life was uncertain and I always felt I was living in the Coney Island Steeplechase funhouse, with constantly shifting floor boards due to our money situation. It’s hard to break old habits and that fear still exists and I always fear I will end up living in the street. In reality I was not totally brave, and that is not being brave at all.