Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mad World

You can never outrun a bad dream.

I learned this little lesson during my trip to Hawaii. There was a point a few days into the vacation where I thought I had stopped worrying and was starting to relax.

I had forgotten about the plane ride to the island and refused to think about the return flight. I had been worried about leaving the house empty, but I decided there was nothing I could about it since I was halfway around the world.

I had given my neighbor a key to the front door and my cell phone so he could call me in case of an emergency and then I just let my fears go.

Or so I thought.

One night early into the vacation I dreamed I came home to our place Brooklyn and found bars across the doors. I somehow got into the place and saw workers moving out furniture and totally remodeling the place.

An obnoxious woman behind a desk told me I no longer own the place, that it had been taken over somehow, and she started mocking me, taunting me, about how she and her cohorts had screwed us out of our family's home.

Well, I just reared off and let loose with a barrage of the foulest obscenities known to man or beast. I mean, it was sick, depraved stuff, and I looked like a total psycho.

Next to losing the house, this image of myself was the worst thing about this nightmare.

I woke up in beautiful Kona, amazed and a little spooked at how my subconscious had brought me back to Brooklyn to contend with one of my deepest fears.

I'm thinking of this dream now because I see just how much anger I carry around with me. I want to change, I want that clean slate for 2008, but the dark corners of my mind are ganging up against me.

I am great at creating rage scenarios, where I interpret something as an insult and summon up all this internal fury.

It's happened a couple of times already in this new year and it's making me nervous.

The post office screwed up the request to hold on to my mail and they were telling me that I had not received anything for the whole time I had been away.

Annoying, yes, but was it worth all the anger that I put into it? Or, to put it another way, was it worth getting high blood pressure or giving myself a heart attack or a stroke.

No, it wasn't--not even close.

I'm also raging at people from my past, including my father, who died one year ago Monday. Twelve months gone and I fantasize about bashing the guy's head in.

My father was an angry man who could explode at any second. He had gone through the Depression, fought in World War II, and came home to raise a family--none of which I've done.

That's the Signpost Up Ahead...

I want to stop all this hatred and live the life I have now. I'm just wasting time and energy and endangering my health with all this bitterness. I'm putting bars around myself.

I try to remind myself of the whimpering weenie who sat in an airplane and begged God to get his sorry ass back to earth in one piece.

I promised the Good Lord that I would forgive anyone who had ever wronged me going back to kindergarten, that I would not harbor any grudges and go into the new year as a new man.

Then the plane touched down and I went right back into my usual insanity. It got so bad that I went online and looked up several anger management programs.

I'm going to try them all, including expressive writing where you right down exactly what's bothering you. I even a special notebook for this purpose.

While we were in Hawaii, we watched some of the Twilight Zone marathon that was running on the Sci-Fi Channel during New Year's Day.

This can be an incredible time-waster, by the way, as you sit in front of the tube and swear you won't watch another episode, until that famous theme comes on, and you figure, oh, hell, just let me take a peek at the next one.

There was one episode I had never seen before that starred Joseph Wiseman as this incredibly wealthy man who was out to settle scores with three people who had wronged him--or so he thought--a minister, a former teacher, and his commanding officer in the army.

This story took place during the Cold War, when the whole world lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation, and Wiseman had devised a plan where he lured the three people into his bomb shelter and then faked a civil defense announcement of an imminent attack.

He offered his three victims a opportunity to take refuge in his bunker. All they had to do was apologize to him.

But they refused. All three wanted to be let out, to spend their few remaining minutes with their loved ones.

"If I have only a short time to live," one said, "I'm not going to spend it apologizing to you."

Wiseman lets them go, but he is so shaken that they did not come crawling to him that his mind snaps and he actually thinks the world has been destroyed by nuclear bombs.

Even with all his wealth, all his power, this man could not make peace with the past and it cost him everything.

This sounded a little too familiar to me. While I'm in no danger of giving Donald Trump a run for his considerable money, I do carry grudges for years, like a convict with a ball and chain around his ankle.

Now I'm back home, tanned, rested and neurotic. I had yet another dream this morning, where I was going to take a tour bus to upstate New York, but the thing drove off without me.

I cursed and fumed and try to call the driver on my cell phone, but it wasn't going through.

I went inside a house that looked like my aunt's summer home and started talking with this childhood "friend" of mind-a back-stabbing scumbag in reality--and then I got a message from a former co-worker I haven't spoken to in over a year.

I woke up exhausted, tired no doubt from all the running around I did in the dream. I have such anxiety bubbling beneath the surface.

I'm going to change for the new year. No, seriously, I'm determined this time. I know it won't happen easily, it won't take place overnight. There is no quick fix for a lifelong addiction, and that's what anger is for me, an addiction.

I'll do whatever I have to do to change.

Rest in peace, Dad.


Brenda from Flatbush said...

Wow, Rob. Clearing out a dead family member's stuff must be a much deeper experience than we realize--I have fairly regular dreams about liquidating my aunt's overstuffed country place (she is always pissed at me for getting rid of her beloved junk), and that was 10 years ago! (Hope yours don't last that long.) As for anger, one of the very few pieces of 'wisdom' I feel I've acquired--from seeing my mother lose her mind (not kidding), among other things--is that anger is one of the most potent toxins to physical and mental health, and it doesn't matter a damn if the anger is 'justified.' I now call it the 'malignant enemy' (a line from that old Catholic prayer, the Anima Christi). I'm still working on beating it, one day at a time. (Some of those rage dreams are pretty great, though, let's admit it.)

Rob K said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Brenda, I'm really going to tackle the anger problem this year.

It's really the most serious threat to my health and I want to be free out of it.

Malignant enemy indeed.