Exit 231. No. Not a good idea.

About a week ago, I had a disturbing dream.  I don’t remember all of the details, but I do remember hearing somehow that Acrux, the ex from 2011, was back in town.  I don’t remember if it was for good or for a visit or what.  And “town” wasn’t even the right place, because for some reason I was at my parents’ house, which is in a place that Acrux never had any connection to.  But I do remember her showing up there, wanting to talk.  And I remember her being nice.  She brought up the idea of getting back together, and I said let’s see where things go, or something like that that left the door open.

It was just a dream.  It’s not real.  For one thing, she definitely wouldn’t go out of her way to see me.  After all, she wouldn’t even go out of her way for me when we were together.  And I really don’t want to get back together with her.  She wasn’t nice.  She didn’t care about me.  She just wanted someone to tag along while she did her thing.

But I have to admit that there have been times when I’ve thought about getting back together with other exes or women I was interested in.  Sometimes I entertain thoughts of these women coming to me and apologizing, saying that they messed up and realized that I was the best they ever had, and wanting to get back together.

No.  Not a good idea.  And this is exactly why I feel like I’m better off not staying in touch with exes.  Whomever it is that I’m thinking about, I’d get too caught up in the feelings of what things might have been like, based on my initial impression of what she was like before she showed her true colors.  That isn’t reality.  She’s not real.

Just like my dreams.

Or, in this case, maybe it would be better to say nightmares.

Exit 125. Shining a spotlight on one of the things I dislike most about myself.

I had a strange dream the other night.

I was eating sushi, which doesn’t happen very often to begin with.  Sushi isn’t in my regular rotation of food, although I have a lot of friends who love sushi, and although I’m sushi-illterate, staring at the menu and randomly hoping I’ll like whatever I pick, usually I do in fact like it.  Anyway, I was with a few other people.  (I think I remember who one of them was, and he is definitely not someone I would ever be in a social situation like this with, but that’s not relevant right now.)

For some reason, in my dream, I went outside, leaving my food on the table.  (As is often the case with dreams, certain details stand out clearly even when they make no sense.  I remember exactly where this sushi place supposedly was: in Davis, in that strip of stores near 2nd and E Streets across the parking lot from Baskin-Robbins and the Paul Sykes memorial.  Again, I have no idea why this specific location was in my dream.  I’ve never eaten sushi there, and I don’t even know if there is a sushi place in that shopping center.  That area holds no particular significance in my life beyond memories of seeing Paul and his band (warning: link contains NSFW language after the song ends) a few times in 1995-96 and a painful rejection experience in 2000 at a restaurant in that shopping center that no longer exists.  But, again, not important.)  I don’t remember why I stepped outside, but I saw someone outside and started talking, which took longer than I thought.  When I got back to the sushi place, the people I was with had moved to an outside table, but my food was still inside.  When I went back inside to get it, it was gone; I asked the server what happened to it, and he said he threw it away, because he didn’t know if I was coming back.

I was angry.  I yelled at him and said they were the worst sushi restaurant ever, and I was going to tell all my friends not to eat there.  He said he had to throw my food away, because it would have spoiled by then based on how long I was gone (okaaaaaay), and I yelled at him that I didn’t care, I was hungry.  Then I stormed off, back outside to the people I was with.  I left soon after that, feeling terrible about myself for blowing up and making a scene, but as I passed the restaurant again on the way to my car, I felt a sudden urge to go inside and yell again at all the customers inside that they were wasting their money because this was such a bad place of business.  Then, as I got in the car, I felt terrible about myself because I couldn’t let it go.  I felt like a real jerk.

I don’t remember much after that.

But I think this dream was shining a spotlight on one of the things I dislike most about myself.  Every once in a while, I really do get very angry in public at people who are only doing their jobs, in ways that happen to be inconvenient for me.  And, just as in the dream, I always feel terrible afterward, often to the point of apologizing to whomever I blew up to.  Once, I even sent a letter to a place of business apologizing the next day.  But still, getting upset in public like that is childish, and it doesn’t help anyone with anything.  It doesn’t happen often, but it shouldn’t be happening at all.

I’ve improved the last few years at stepping back for a minute and calming down when I get really upset with the kids at work.  Maybe this dream is a reminder to do the same thing in situations like these.

Exit 73. Read your Bible.

I’ve been having some strange dreams lately.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping in general, and at least twice in the last week, I’ve had already short nights of sleep cut even shorter by waking up from some really bad dreams.  Last night’s was particularly creepy.

I was at some sort of church gathering, but I wasn’t at any church that looks familiar to me in real life.  And it wasn’t a regular service, because we were outside.  I don’t remember if there was a band playing, or a guest speaker, or just a church picnic type event, but we were definitely outside.  During this event, there were these two children walking around, probably around 10 years old.  I couldn’t tell if they were boys or girls; I thought they looked more like girls, but if so, they hadn’t been through puberty yet and they weren’t wearing shirts.  They definitely looked out of place, like they had been raised in a cabin deep in the mountains and hadn’t had much contact with contemporary urban or suburban life. They kept walking around telling people why the Bible is wrong and all this stuff about contradictions within the Bible and inconsistencies between the Bible and other historical records.  They spoke in an expressionless, monotone manner, as if they were reciting words that they had memorized and recited many times before.  It seemed like whoever they were, they weren’t really sharing opinions they had; instead, someone had probably trained them to go around to church events and do this just for the purpose of trolling, to upset Christians just for the fun of it.  Maybe they had parents who were militant atheists who enjoyed doing this, for example.  I even wondered if they were demons sent by Satan to sow doubt and discord among the Christians in the crowd.  Every time they spoke, they would finish by regaining expression in their mannerisms and saying “Read your Bible!” in the sense that if you read the Bible, these contradictions would be obvious.

The behavior of these girls in the dream (I’ll call them girls, even though as I said I’m really not sure) reminded me of two other things.  Back when I used to do chat rooms, sometimes there would be these trolls who would come to Christian chat rooms and copy and paste statements about apparent contradictions in the Bible specifically for the purpose of trolling, much like the behavior of the children in my dream.  Also, I saw a video once of people who were driving around groups of people lined up to buy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and shouting spoilers to the crowd solely for the purpose, again, of being jerks.  In at least one instance, the trolls mispronounced a name that appears prominently in all seven books, proving that these people knew absolutely nothing of the Harry Potter universe.  I got the same sense from the little girls in the dream, that they didn’t really know what they were saying.

At one point, the girls were running around on the roof of the building, doing their usual thing.  All of a sudden, I felt myself levitate above the crowd, and the next thing I knew, I was on the roof too.  It was as if God had placed me up there specifically to preach.  I spoke to the girls.  I told them, “Jesus is the Son of God!  Jesus is my Lord and Savior!  And Jesus loves you!”  That last one finally broke the expressionless face on one of them.  She seemed to be struggling to comprehend this concept that Jesus loved her.  I told her that Jesus wanted her to come to him, that he brings life in a way that no one else can.  She looked like she was about to cry joyfully at this news, but then suddenly the lack of expression came back to her face and she continued her thing of reciting who Jesus really was in history and how this contradicts the Bible.  I took a step toward her, and at that point she fell off the roof.  I didn’t know if she survived the fall, but I kept feeling that I had a chance to save her eternal soul, and if she didn’t survive that fall, she was going to live all of eternity without Jesus.  I woke up with chills at that point, without knowing if she survived the fall.

It was 3:30am.  I had only been asleep for two hours, and I didn’t know if I was going to get back to sleep after that.  I had to pee, but I was too afraid to venture out of bed for a few minutes, in case there were half-naked demon children in the hallway waiting to tell me everything supposedly untrue about Christianity.  I did eventually summon up the courage to go to the bathroom, after praying for a few minutes.  The first thing I did once I got back to bed was download the YouVersion Bible app on the new phone I wrote about last week, and I read about a chapter and a half from where I left off the last time I had read the Bible (which I’m sad to admit was about a week ago) before I started falling asleep and decided to give sleep another try.  I got about three more hours of sleep.

This whole experience got me thinking a lot, though, about how I haven’t been reading the Bible as much as I should be, and I’m not always good at explaining what I believe, and why.  So I’m going to go read the Bible now before I do anything else today.  And as for explaining what I believe: Human beings are inherently sinful, and this separates us from eternal life with God, our Creator.  Jesus came to Earth to live with us and die for our sins so that all who proclaim him as Lord and Savior can live eternally with Him.  It is the work of Jesus on the cross that saves us, not our own good works, but our works can reveal whether or not we are true believers, whether Jesus is truly our Lord.  And it is not our place to act judgmental or hateful to those who don’t share our beliefs, but it is our place to make sure that as many people as possible know this truth so that they know how to find eternal life.

Exit 71. Not everything is meant to last forever.

I don’t often remember dreams.  When I do, they’re really bizarre and nonsensical, and they don’t usually mean anything.  However, I have one very clear memory of having a dream and waking up with a clear sense of what the dream meant.

It was December 2011.  In my dream, I came home to my parents’ house.  From the time I moved away for school until 2006, whenever I would visit my parents, Mom would go find the remaining cats from my childhood that we still had, and she would bring them to me and say to them in a falsetto baby voice, “Look!  Your big brother is home!”  This practice stopped in 2006 because that was the year that Pee-Wee, the last cat from my childhood, passed away.  Mom said once, and I’d have to say she’s probably right, that Pee-Wee was always my favorite of the many cats I grew up with.  I said once that she was the closest I ever had to a little sister.

Back to the dream.  (I wrote about this in a friends-only Facebook note back when it happened, and I’ve told this story many times, so this may sound familiar to my long-time friends.) I got home, and Mom went in the back yard to find Pee-Wee.  She brought her out and said, “Look!  Your big brother is home!”  In real life, Pee-Wee had died five and a half years earlier, but in dreamland, she was still alive.  I remember thinking she was really looking old, and I thought to myself, how old is she now?  18?  19?  No, wow, she’s 23!  That’s old for a cat!  (Leave it to me to do math correctly in my dream; she actually would have been 23 had she been alive on the day I had this dream.) I noticed (here’s where it gets dream-level weird) that her skin was falling off, and I could see bones and internal organs in one spot. Then Pee-Wee ambled out into the street.  A car approached, and she moved so slowly in her old age that she barely got out of the way in time. She went to sniff something in a bush, and more of her skin came off, and I could see her brain. Then I woke up.

As I’ve mentioned before, I had a was in a long distance relationship at the time that just wasn’t working, with a woman who I’ve called Acrux.  In a few weeks, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, she would be visiting her old housemates up here.  I sat there thinking about the dream, about how letting go of the past can be really sad, but often quite necessary. Not everything is meant to last forever, and sometimes holding on for too long can just cause more pain.  I’ve never been a fan of euthanasia in pets or humans (and I’m not interested in getting into a political discussion right now), but in the situation I dreamed about, Pee-Wee was in a lot of pain holding on to this life.  And that’s when it hit me, that this dream wasn’t really about Pee-Wee.  It was about Acrux all along.  She wasn’t going to change; the events of the previous few months had shown me her true colors. Holding on to this relationship, trying to salvage a combination of what we had in the beginning and what I always thought a relationship should be like, when she was clearly unwilling to do so, was just causing more hurt and nothing else. If I stayed with her, things wouldn’t be the same as my idealized memories of what things were like in the beginning. I knew at that moment that I had to bring this up when she came for a visit a few weeks later, and I knew at that moment that our relationship would not survive to the end of her visit.  We broke up on New Year’s Eve.

Now some things should not be discarded so lightly.  I believe that marriage, for example, is a lifetime commitment.  (If you are divorced and reading this, don’t take that as judgment on you.  I’m just stating my beliefs here, and everyone has their reasons.)  Also, another example, one’s core spiritual beliefs should not change if they should suddenly become inconvenient.  But some things just aren’t meant to last forever.  When I first started writing this blog, for example, I was looking for a new job, although I didn’t go public with that until it was a done deal.  Things at my previous job had changed to the point that everything I had enjoyed about working at a tiny Christian school just weren’t there anymore, and it wasn’t worth the low pay anymore.  Letting go of my job of seven years was a positive change for me, although it certainly wasn’t easy.

I have a few other things right now, one major one in particular, where I’ve been wondering if the time has come to let go of something that has been a major part of my life for a long time, but which has changed to the point of causing hurt.  Saying goodbye is hard.  This whole concept is hard for me.  I want things to last forever.  And I want to be a voice against any further changes, but this is unlikely to happen at this point, so maybe it’s time to find something better somewhere else.

Exit 22. All in my head.

I had a strange dream recently.  In my dream, I was sorting through a bunch of boxes, just like I need to do one of these days in real life, except I was at my parents’ house.  I decided to take a break and turn on the TV.  ESPN was on, or maybe ESPN2 or ESPN8 or whatever, and they were showing water polo.  Remember, my dreams are pretty weird sometimes.  Problem #1 with this dream: I don’t follow water polo at any organized level, and I certainly don’t know why I was so interested in that game.  It was a big game, though, like a championship or something like that.  They were about to do the coin toss.  Problem #2: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a coin toss in water polo.  Anyway, the announcers gave the names of the water polo-related celebrities that would be calling heads or tails. Problem #3: Why are celebrities making the call instead of players?  This makes no sense.  This dream keeps getting more and more messed up.  But as they were announcing the coin toss callers, much as they would announce who was singing the National Anthem, I thought, “Hey, Vega the Nice Ex played water polo.  I wonder if she’s there?”  Just as I had that thought, the announcer read her name; she was the second of the celebrity coin toss callers, having attained the status of water polo celebrity by virtue of having won a gold medal in water polo at the last Olympics.  They read her full name, with the full version of her first name (she normally goes by a shortened version of her first name, or at least she did when I knew her) and a hyphenated last name (I don’t remember the other last name, except that it had three syllables), implying that she had gotten married since we last spoke.

Problem #4: To my knowledge, Vega the Nice Ex never played water polo.  She may have at one time, and I may have just forgotten–we broke up in 2006, and I last spoke to her in 2011, and at that time it had been a few years–but she certainly didn’t win an Olympic gold medal in it.  I would have known about that.  For that matter, maybe it wasn’t the coin toss at all; maybe she was actually singing the National Anthem, and that’s why they were introducing her.  That would make a lot more sense, since Vega is a classically trained soprano.  But I know that in the world of this dream, Vega had played water polo in the Olympics.  Nothing ever makes sense in my dreams, after all.

Vega being married is not a problem in this story, since she was in a serious relationship last time we talked.  But I do remember feeling a spark of some awkward negative feeling go off in me when the announcer read her new last name.  I felt like a failure.  Even though in real life we broke up mutually and on good terms, I was presented with this clear picture that she was an Olympic gold medalist and had a husband now, and the whole episode made me feel like I would never be good enough to attract an accomplished and successful woman like that, or any woman for that matter.  Then that got me thinking about something that someone else said to me a couple weeks ago, and how the contrast of these two settings would make a perfect topic to write about for Highway Pi.

Shortly after that thought, I woke up and realized that I had been dreaming.  I found that kind of frustrating, because I couldn’t use my idea for what to write about if it wasn’t a true story.  But then I got to thinking about how the fact that this dream was complete fiction actually ends up making the point I was going to write about even stronger.

All that crap about not being good enough, it’s all in my head.  Just like the dream.

I mentioned above something that someone else said to me a couple weeks ago.  She told me that she enjoyed reading my Facebook posts about my job and my students, because of how I have a career that I enjoy.  With where she is right now, at a part time job that is not a direct stepping stone to her career, and having to take a lot of classes before she can start her master’s in a field completely different from her bachelor’s degree, it is nice to read about someone with an established career who enjoys his work.  My gut reaction when she told me that–and now that I think about it, it was my out-loud reaction too–was that it felt kind of odd for someone to see me as an example of someone with his life together.  I certainly don’t feel like I have my life together.

Now I’ll admit that getting this new job took away a significant part of the reason I tend to feel like I don’t have my life together.  For the first time in a while, I actually have enough money at the end of the month to save something, and I’m finally making more money than I made in 2003, with actual opportunities for advancement.  But I’m still 38 with no wife and no kids, and I’m probably farther from the wife-and-kids goal than I ever have been.  I’m still confused about a lot of things, as well as what I want in the first place, when it comes to that.  And my house is a mess.

But it’s all a matter of perspective, and my perspective when I see myself as a failure for these reasons is distorted.  My perspective when I see myself as a success because I make more money now is just as distorted.  All of that is in my head.  It is based on false premises that a high paying job and a traditional wife and 2.3 kids living in the suburbs is a universal measure of success.  It’s not.  That is a flat-out lie, just like Vega’s gold medal in water polo was a flat-out lie.  And even if I were to become acquainted with an attractive single Olympic gold medalist, why would that automatically disqualify me?  Why should I feel less worthy, of less value as a human being, because I don’t have these great accomplishments?  That goes against everything I believe and stand for.  And yet it’s so hard to change those thought patterns.  But it must be done.  Those thoughts, those destructive lies, are completely counterproductive in every way, far more so than the actual counterproductivity values of having a low paying job, not being popular with the opposite sex, or not having a gold medal.

I am a beloved child of God.  I have a pretty awesome job and great friends.  And I refuse to let lies control me.