11 May, 2011

A Better Place

I’m a dreamer. Not so much in the classic sense as in the literal sense. When I sleep, my mind opens up and creates the most fantastical, epic scenes. Sometimes, I am dreaming in other languages, which I fully understand, and speak fluently. Sometimes, I know where I'm going even though I have never been there. Sometimes I even solve world problems. (I once had a dream that I invented a way to stop a tsunami.) Other times, my dreams have me being chased by wild animals and, although weary from running and hiding, I always manage to outwit them. Often, I’ll go to bed with a problem and when I wake up the next morning, I have an answer. It fascinates me when people tell me that they don’t dream, or that they don't remember many of their dreams. I am always dreaming and remembering. 

A few nights ago, I had a wildly vivid dream. In it, my best friend Denise, who died a dozen empty years ago, was still very much alive. We were wandering in the hills above Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany, which is where we were on our last time together. She was acting completely possessed, chasing huge Bavarian cows across the alpine meadow, their cowbells clanging loudly as they outran this mad sprinter.

I can still hear her laugh. Sometimes, it was more of a cackle. And sometimes, it was a beautiful belly laugh. If I close my eyes, I can smell her hair when we hugged. She’s the only friend that I would let hold my hand for any length of time. Anyone else, I would pull back into my own comfort zone. With Denise, prolonged non-sexual touch was not only possible, but expected.

I knew that she was going to die. In the dream, I mean. I suddenly had an urge to stop the clock. Just stay put. Don’t move. Keep her there where it was safe. But I knew that was impossible. I knew somehow that this was the last time I would laugh with her. So I watched her hair fly back while she chased cows and laughed and laughed at their enormous bodies charging off.

“You’re going to die soon.” It just came out. I couldn’t stop it.

“I already know…” she replied, unfazed.

She told me not to worry because she would be going to a better place. I didn’t understand what she meant. She was a devout atheist who believed that we are all just worm food when we pass on. So, what is she talking about, this “better place”? How the hell is “worm food” a better place? But she insisted that she was going to be alright, that I shouldn’t worry, and that she was at peace. That this “better place” was somewhere far better than here. That I would understand when I got there.

I trust her.

This dream was undoubtedly brought on by the fact that I attended a memorial service last week for a prominent member of my circle of friends. She was an incredible life force and her death hit me in the gut. Grief is processed in both overt and subconscious ways. Sometimes you think you’re fine, and then you are sideswiped by the most gut-kicking pain. And sometimes you feel pain, but the smallest, most beautiful thing lifts you up and you don't even realize that you're smiling for perhaps the first time in days.

I work out a lot of things, including grief, in my sleep.

And I’m grieving more than death. I’m grieving change. A breakup from a long-term relationship. This beautiful place I live that will be too big for just me and my cat, Fernando. For the life plans I had hoped to achieve by now, that just weren't possible. For love lost.

I'm feeling topsy-turvy. Catawampus. Off-kilter.

And yet…

Strangely, I’ve not felt this grounded in a long time. Even though I cannot always gauge where my center is, and I don’t always know up from down, I do know where my feet are planted—firmly on this godforsaken, awe-inspiring, fantastically bipolar planet of ours. The planet that feeds us grief and love together and calls that a “square meal.”

I ponder occasionally what it will be like to get off this ride, eventually, when my station arrives. Will I gladly walk off into the unknown, or will I try to stay on the ride and beg for one more stop? It seems that a lot of life is spent avoiding or prolonging the inevitable. What if we looked forward to it? What if it was something exciting, like breathing the air Paris for the first time? What if it was the ultimate rush that no drug known to man could ever match? What if it was, as Denise told me in my dream, “a better place”?

As I feel my way around in the dark, I notice that I'm a little crazy. It feels good. I'm beginning to think that without a bit of crazy, life would be colorless. Dull. Bland. I think that sanity is, at times, totally overrated. My writer friend Iced Borscht reminded me of a quote by Charles Bukowski: "Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead."


I've always been a little bit of a nutter; I don’t always dance to any discernible drumbeat. But there are stigmas attached to expression without restraint. One must somehow keep feelings and extreme thoughts in check, instead of going Mad Hatter on the world. And yet that feels wrong. To go against the grain would be unnatural. Why fight the fact that I'm a bit whack right now? Soon enough, the pendulum is likely swing the other way again and I’ll come down from the chandelier I’ve been swinging, stop eating rocks, and sit down to have tea and scones and cucumber sandwiches.

Until then, I will continue to dream. Of clarity in the midst of insanity. Of beauty brought about from change. Of dancing unfettered.

I'm already in a “better place.”


  1. Beautiful. Just awesome, Jackie.

  2. I keep hitting the "like" button on Facebook and it won't let me do it!

  3. How I love you, my nutter friend. What a brilliant piece. It's like you climbed inside my head & subconscious in parts of it. xoxo

  4. Jackie,
    I'm sorry for your loss.
    You had to start my day off with tears (smile). Your words really took my breath away. A very good friend of mine is battling stage 4 cancer. It doesn't look good, but yet I keep holding on for that miracle.
    Thanks my friend for a beautiful post. xo

  5. I just loved this, it's beautiful, poignant, and real.

  6. This was such a moving post and written so fluidly. Great job Jackie. Sorry to hear about the break-up (clearly it's been too long since I have seen you), would love to catch up.

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