So, I hope everybody is doing well.
At the moment, I'm visiting loved ones and family in Hawai'i for the holidays. The school semester is done, as are most of the book release promotions for Light from Uncommon Stars.
So, with all of this good stuff happening in my life, these first few days of relaxation must have felt like heaven, right?
Well, actually, no.
My first two nights in Hawai'i have been riddled with nightmares. No need to detail, but they are the same the awful invalidating nightmares I have from time-to-time. In fact, they’ve been more vivid and disturbing than usual.
And I will have them tonight, and perhaps once more, before they go away—because they happen whenever I come to Hawai'i.
When I first made this connection, my mind raced to metaphysical theories about the islands disapproving me. Perhaps I was being spurned by ancestors for being queer and transgender, and not getting along with my parents. Or maybe this was psychological—in my heart of hearts I was not feeling worthy of this beautiful place and my family chosen and otherwise.
All of these sounded plausible. Maybe I should call my parents to have a heartfelt talk. Maybe I should visit my great-grandmother’s grave to pray to the ancestors and re-connect to the land.
And there must be some good videos on YouTube video to build self-esteem…
However, I don't expect these nightmares to continue. By about the fourth day or fifth, my dreams will resume their regularly scheduled programming. In fact, they’ll likely be a little better than usual because I am in Hawai'i.
Because the immediate reason behind my nightmares is that flying to Hawai'i affects my sleep cycle.
There’s a time change; my body is sore and dehydrated from the flight. Because I usually just eat pretzels on the airplane, I’ve skipped and doubled up on meals.
Also, I'm thrilled to be here. The air is so darned clean, my skin loves the humidity and there are birds and mango trees. And there's Marukai.
And so, I am excited and awake, and having reunions, and either drinking coffee (in the morning) or something alcoholic (at night).
As far as my body is concerned, my Hawai'i trip can be summed up by time change, adrenaline, and dehydration—none of which is great for sleep.
And poor sleep messes with my dreams and gives me nightmares.
Yes, my feelings of guilt or invalidation do exist. There is much that I need to apologize or make right—or maybe absolve myself of, in order to love who I am.
But these are deep, chronic problems that will haunt me long after this trip is over.
In contrast, these particular nightmares will likely go away once I get used to the time difference and remember to drink water.
Whenever something terrible happens—whether real or dreamed—my feelings of my guilt and inadequacy—and an ever-present sense that I am messing up royally—spill over and suddenly it’s all about apologies and penance.
I don’t think I am alone in this. It’s so easy to trace misfortune to measuring who we are versus who we think we should be.
Maybe we're not praying hard enough. Maybe we're not being good enough children. Maybe we did something wrong, Maybe we are something wrong.
I can’t help but think that this reveals something very beautiful about being human. In our panic, we reveal a willingness to be culpable, to examine our significance, and to acknowledge powers greater than ourselves.
And yet, we can all point to moments in history when “not being pious or pure enough” has led to horrible things.
And, if the bad things are happening now in real time, what do we do? After all, I've had existential issues all my life—if I had to solve them in order to have a nice trip to Hawai'i, I'd be pretty screwed.
Besides, with all the stressing and fretting and panicking, I might be overlooking that I'm really just thirsty and exhausted.
So, perhaps I should have some water and get some sleep.
Sometimes these times of pandemic feel like a collective nightmare. And these times have been like all other past times, with the same questions about how worthy we are, how good we are, how our souls will fare in whatever worlds we have to come.
And again, there’s a certain beauty in using our ability to think to immediately question our worthiness, to reinforce our humility before powers greater than ourselves.
However, it might be better to step back and ask ourselves if we’re tired. If we remembered to hydrate.
I know that these days, whenever a friend calls to check up, it makes the entire day a little more bearable.
Are you bored, too? Are you getting enough sleep? Want to hear a something funny? Here’s a cute video of a baby sloth.
Laughter is a such a glass of water these days.
We're given this wonderful ability to think and experience life in a way that no other living creature can match. We can split subatomic particles, date the universe to 13.8 billion years. We can create music and literature, and utter prayers that lend us far greater meaning and significance than our mortal flesh would otherwise allow.
However, mortal we still are. And sometimes to think is to overthink, even to brood. And so, during this rather nightmarish time, it’s good to remember to have some water and hydrate.
And, maybe you can remind someone you love to stop doom scrolling and get some sleep. Or send them a YouTube of a baby sloth. That usually works, too.
*Cover and all photos by me this time. :)