I just spent the weekend in Missoula with Emerald. It was a gorgeous weekend, minus all of the smoke of ID, and we enjoyed a wonderful combination of hiking, social gatherings, and down time. Emerald lives in a big red barn of a house with an ever changing number of girls. I never know where I am going to sleep when I stay with her, but I know I will sleep. Getting away from home with all its obligations and responsibilities brings on a guaranteed 9 hours of snoozing. I got to sleep in the “pepto room”, which is a small outbuilding decorated with old LP’s, pink walls, windows all around…and no heat. I had a 20˚ sleeping bag, a hat, and stars to fall asleep to. I slept 9 hours. With longer sleep, comes dreams. I had disturbing ones, and I don’t think it was the color of the walls.
I dreamt of the swimming pool. We got kicked out early by little kid swimming lessons, and then a woman made a comment to me, “So nice to see you here.” In that one statement, I heard her pity, her smugness at leaving her own warm and occupied bed to come swimming, and condescension rather than care. Though seldom treated this way in my early grief, I was very sensitive to it, and raw when it occurred. This past summer, this type of response has faded. I am no longer an object of pity in my community and those that would gloat in their marital bliss have somehow disappeared from my close circle of friends as if being a widow is contagious. In my dream, I replied, “I have been here all along.” I started swimming in the early mornings when Jim got sick. I rarely miss unless I am out-of-town. Swimming kept me sane during a very insane time, and it, along with my early am running gals, continues to steady me.
I also dreamt of bike thieves. Jim and I agreed that there should be a special place in hell for bike thieves. Jim had his childhood paper route bicycle stolen from our front porch on the day of our wedding. My first mountain bike, sold to me for cost by the local shop in Tahoe that I sent all my knee patients to, was stolen a couple of years later. Jim did not understand the level of my distress until I pointed out to him that I had known and loved that bike longer than I had loved him. Her name was Secretariat, and she introduced me to folks in Tahoe that did more than drugs and nightlife for fun. It carried me into the hills of manzanita and ponderosa pines so I could cry in solitude after my sister’s death. In my dream, the thieves were stealing all the fun parts off of my blue Schwinn bicycle. They stole the rattly blue fenders, my handlebar streamers, and the horn. My blue Schwinn was a present from Jim on our 20th wedding anniversary. I bought him a one person tent. We bought each other presents that would bring each of us individual joy. No matter how sad I am, stressed by work or solo responsibilities, I get on that blue bike, and I have to smile. In my dream, I wanted to call the police, but the person with me stated there was no point. If the police came, it would just be my word against theirs as far as ownership. I woke myself up, crying.
I decided to drive home yesterday via highway 12. I had Sadie with me, and I wanted to hike with her to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, hang in the pools, and perhaps convince her that not all water was evil. The hot spring parking area was the epicenter of fire activity. No stopping allowed on the road for 15 miles in either direction. I finally found river access at the Nine Mile put in. Sadie and I watched the water go by, I let her off the leash for the first time since her surgery, she still thinks water is just for drinking, and the gray haze matched my mood. The dreams just would not leave me alone. I finished the drive, unpacked, Skyped with my son, went to have a drink with a friend and told her about my dreams, heated up some soup for supper, and went to bed.
I awoke at 3:30 am, laughing. This happens a lot. I have awoken at 3:30 am almost every night since Jim died. At first, it was distressing, then I just reframed it as the time that he checks in. I don’t really believe that Jim exists in any kind of intact form on the other side, but I do know that I am unusually open at that hour. Any defenses I have built up through the day have faded with sleep, and I am not yet awake enough to rebuild them. Lately, I am having an out-loud conversation, or I just awaken, laughing. It always feels profound….and then I can’t remember any of it when the alarm finally goes off at 4:30. Last night, though, the message was loud and clear. “Stay steady on those things in your life that keep you sane”, and “Don’t let ANYONE steal your joy.” I got up at 4:30 and went swimming. I have errands to do at mid day….think I’ll ride my bike.