Slogging Through My Worst Nightmare

I generally lucid dream. Even things that should be horrible nightmares usually aren’t much more than stressful for me, because I know that I’m dreaming and have some control. It doesn’t make being chased by zombies particularly fun, but it does take the edge off. There’s only one nightmare that I regularly have where I don’t know that I’m dreaming. I inevitably wake up from it tense and ready to run or fight, usually with a headache from clenching my jaw that lasts all day. I’ve been having it since I was a teenager.

The dream is pretty simple: A natural disaster of some sort has occurred, or is about to, and I can’t get my family to safety. We’re not blocked by a lava flow or anything. They just won’t listen. It’s worse than herding cats. I get my younger siblings into the car so we can drive away, and discover that my dad has wandered back into the house to look for a book or something. I physically drag him back out and my siblings have gone off on their own random side quests. I scream that there’s danger coming and they just don’t seem to understand, or they don’t believe me. Now that I’m an adult, my partners get added to the mix, always with the same results.

I usually have to spend some time in these dreams searching for and packing up supplies, only to discover that my loved ones have all scattered like confused chickens and I have to round them up again. It never works. We never get to a safe place. No one ever listens or acknowledges the danger that I can clearly see coming our way.

I am very literally living through my worst nightmare right now. This pandemic is a worldwide natural disaster, and people I love are not taking it seriously. My aunt flew home from a visit with my cousin and walked right into the house with my elderly grandmother after I repeatedly told her she needed to get a hotel room and quarantine for two weeks after going through several airports. My dad wouldn’t buy a chest freezer when I told him that he should be prepared to stock up on groceries for the family because he didn’t think there would be a stay at home order in their area. The order came about a week later. My grandmother is losing her memory and keeps going out on little errands. She won’t wear her mask. My dad won’t take her keys away. My siblings are adults now and are being much more realistic than their dream counterparts, but two of them work in essential businesses, so they’re still at risk.

Everywhere I look, folks seem to be finding their own level of “careful” and most of it falls far far short of the level that is recommended by experts. People I trusted seem to be bizarrely comfortable risking the lives of their friends and loved ones in order to not be bored or lonely. People whose intelligence I respected are of the opinion that this deadly and highly contagious virus probably won’t get them because… Well, just because.

I haven’t seen one of my two partners in months, and I don’t know when it will be safe to see him again. I haven’t seen my family since Christmas, and I don’t know when I’ll see any of them again. Every time someone in my local community group on Facebook proudly proclaims that they won’t wear a mask to the grocery store because they’re not a sheep, I see those hypothetical dates being pushed further away.

Pretty much the only way to keep all this off my mind is to focus as much as possible on other things. It’s best when I’m working hard in the garden, but I recently had a weird episode that drove me inside on a beautiful day. It was truly ridiculous.

I got scared of the wind. The weather was pleasant but windy, and I had the overwhelming sense that the wind itself was dangerous. The world felt dreamlike and unreal and I couldn’t keep my thoughts together. I couldn’t get anything done, and I wound up crying on my front steps because I didn’t want to go inside, but I couldn’t handle being out there. Clearly, spending months in my worst nightmare with no end in sight, even under pretty much the best possible conditions, is not doing wonders for my mental health.

There’s no particular point to this post, really. Except, perhaps, to beg you to wear your mask in the grocery store so that my only remaining grandparent is a little bit less likely to die before I get to see her again.

This is Steven. He thinks freckles are food. Don’t be like Steven. Practice social distancing.

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