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[dreams] Losing my mojo

It’s no secret that I am a raging heterosexual. My Kinsey rating is so low it should probably be a negative number. These past ten years I’ve enjoyed an extremely active dating life. Even now, deep in the throes of terminal cancer, I manage to keep busy.

But I was not always like that. Through my teens and twenties and well into my thirties, I was a romantic and sexual idiot. Socially inept, mostly annoying to women. I had absolutely zero dating or sex life in high school. In college things got a little better. It wasn’t until my late thirties that I sorted myself out well enough to be attractive and interesting to the women I was attracted to and interested in. I found my mojo.

Cancer is leaching that away from me, too.

Last night I dreamt it was gone completely. I kept meeting women and trying to flirt with them, or just pass a friendly smile, and it was like I was fifteen all over again. Whatever inner light I managed to uncover ten years ago had vanished. No one was particularly cruel to me in my dream. Rather, I encountered a mixture of disinterest and distaste.

That’s unfortunately familiar territory to me, a country I inhabited for over two decades as a teen, a young adult, and into the beginnings of middle age. To go back there even in my dreams was a very bitter feeling indeed.

The dream is of course a clumsy metaphor for my sense of loss and erosion as the cancer advances and my death draws near. It’s not even a particularly accurate metaphor, as in real life I continue to get along fine with everybody, male or female. But the dream did a terrific job of capturing my mood.

All across the spectrum of my life, I am slowing, and sinking, and eroding. This I know, I don’t need postcards from my subconscious to remind me. Sleep at least should be an escape from the nightmare I’m living in, not a door into further nightmares. Sometimes I am denied even that comfort.

[dreams|cancer] More dreaming of loss and diminishment

I had a long, complex dream last night. In the first part, I was leading a large, multi-day workshop in a hotel, perhaps in Arizona or New Mexico. It was a lot of fun, emceeing the large group, being a critiquer and teacher in the breakout groups, partying on the patio in the evenings.

Then the workshop ended, and some of us retreated to the home of one of the local participants for an evening afterparty. It was a smaller group now, and people kept drifting off. I was having trouble keeping track of my belongings. For some reason, instead of being on my computer, all my drafts were handwritten in red ink on scraps of paper or in spiral notebooks. I kept dropping and losing the notebooks. The scraps got picked up by other people and used to mop spilled drinks or feed the fire in the chimito.

Eventually I found myself out on the sidewalk in front of the house in the light of morning. My writing was down to a few shoeboxes full of scraps. The notebooks were all gone. And as I kept sorting through the shoeboxes, the scraps were vanishing. Blowing away in the wind, or simply disappearing. I was grubby by then, looking like a homeless man. The crackle of police radios echoed nearby. Soon I would be run off, and probably lose even those few last bits of writing I was clutching so desperately.

You don’t need to be Joseph interpreting dreams for Pharaoh to grok this one. I awoke with a deep sense of sadness.

[dreams|cancer] Voyaging in the undiscovered countries of my heart

I had one of my science fiction dreams again last night. I was flying on a 747 with some other writers. Gardner Dozois was the flight attendant, and did about what you’d expect Gardner to do in that situation. His safety spiel over the p.a. system was more along the lines of “Keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times,” which is not comforting to hear aboard a pressurized aircraft.

The plane eventually landed at the World’s Tiniest Airport™, an artefact of the geography of my subsconscious rather than any particular airport in real life. I walked alone down the airstairs and into the terminal to find the departure lounge crowded with science fiction writers, artists, critics and fans. Jenn Reese, Greg van Eekhout, and Sydney Duncan, just to name a few. Plus most of the Pacific Northwest genre community. I stopped to talk to them, but they were all leaving on Gardner’s plane. I begged people to stay a while longer, or to take me with them, but the plane was full and the place was emptying out. Soon I was left behind alone.

Later I dreamt I was in China with my family. Except they had checked into one hotel and I was supposed to be in another. I went to a store to get a few groceries, and became frustrated that they did not have Mexican Coke in China. The checker turned out to have been educated in America, and fluent in English, so after the store closed we went out to watch the Communist youth groups in their midnight parades. We started making out, then she went off to do something, and I found myself stark naked on the nighttime streets with nothing to clothe myself but Communist party banners. This seemed like a bad idea.

I am dreaming of my own death, clearly. And separation from two of things which matter most to me. [info]the_child, whose heritage is Chinese; and the genre community in which I have become so deeply embedded. My sense of loss is palpable even in my day-to-day moments, and the dreams underscore a deep sense of abandonment.

That last is a tad odd, as it is I who is doing the abandoning by contracting a fatal illness. Nonetheless, this is how my dreaming mind has chosen to interpret the matter somewhere beyond the Gates of Horn. The country of my dreams is treacherous terrain, but no more so than the country of my waking life these days.

[conventions|dreams] Norwescon and me

Yesterday was a good day. Hugo nominations, yay! Plus lots of time with friends and associates and whatnot. No drinking for me with my fragile liver, but here I am.

However, my dream life last night was particularly strange. In retrospect, I think I was dreaming about being dead, about being a ghost.

In part one, I discovered that taxi cab drivers have the Knowledge about who among us are Duplicates and who among us are Originals. That’s why taxi rides sometimes go weird ways: to keep the Duplicates and Originals separated. Much to my dismay, I discovered I was not an Original. I wound up running away and hiding in someone’s office and trying to take control of my life from my Original.

In part two, I was traveling. Except I had gotten lost. Seriously, utterly, don’t-know-what-city-I-am-in, don’t-know-where-I-am-going lost. I couldn’t read my own travel documents. Within the dreamspace, I thought I was experiencing aphasia. I tried calling my parents for help, but my brother answered the phone and couldn’t hear me. He apparently thought it was a dead line. Everywhere I went, people didn’t see or hear me.

So, yeah. A weird way to wake up.

[cancer] Ah, memory

Hanging out in my old haunts is stirring me up a lot. Mostly good, not all. Meanwhile, last night I dreamt I’d mailed myself my own piano. (The one the souls of my ancestors live in.)

Might be a tough day today.

[cancer] Morpheus’ elusive chariot awaits me not

Because of the Late Unpleasantness in my lower GI immediately following on a chemo weekend, I slept about two weeks straight with Lorazepam every night. These past two nights I’ve foregone the pill, and have slept for beans as a result. This frustrates me.

I really, really don’t want to be drug-dependent to meet my sleep needs. In my baseline health, I am a champion sleeper. Turn off the light, fall asleep, wake six hours later energetic and refreshed. I am like the opposite of a sleep disorder. These last two nights it’s been frequent wakefulness and uneasy dreams.

Two nights doesn’t mean I got hooked on the Lorazepam. And later in the chemo cycle I’ll likely be on it close to full time anyway. But this isn’t how I want to live my life, out of a pillbox. At the moment, even sleep, one of my closest companions, seems out of my control.

In other news, I am having the opposite problem of the Late Unpleasantness in my lower GI, which is completely unsurprising as the relevant meds normally affect me like a concrete enema. Which they have. Which means my appetite is shrinking as my GI tract backs up deeper and deeper.

Sigh. Car on ice. Always.

[dreams] Sex and gasoline

My subconscious went into overdrive last night. It’s the first night in about three weeks that I slept without the aid of Lorazepam. This led to some very fitful sleep with lots of periods of wakefulness. That tends to increase my memory of my dreams. They were weird.

I had three distinctly different dreams about sex in a post-apocalyptic world, and all three involved gas stations. They also involved “soft” apocalypses, so there were still plenty of people around. Mother of the Child had a cameo in one, driving a velour love seat that had been mounted on a classic VW Beetle chassis. Various real life people also guest starred in other roles, which for reasons of good taste I shall not name. Plus gasoline. Because reasons.

There was also a fairly involved dream about the Queen of England, model trains and actual railroad trains. No sex in that one, and gasoline only by implication in that part of the dream took place in a limo as Her Majesty and I toured a multimodal freight yard where containers were handled. (That last bit courtesy of [info]nihilistic_kid and his discussion of longshoremen’s union on his blog yesterday.)

Likewise, a sad one about my family. My dad and (step)mom were young again, and my (now 39-year-old half-)brother was about three, but I was my current age of 48. Which would make me older than my dad in my dream, but that’s oneiric logic for you. I had cancer, as I do now, but I also had all my hair. Not sure what was sad about it, as only the framing image remains, but it was deeply tinged.

So, yeah, last night’s sleep was all about sex and gasoline and a few other things.

[dreams] Being entertained without a subconscious agenda

Had an unusual dream last night. It was very plot-oriented, and barely personal at all. Basically, my subconscious coughed up the first two-thirds of a movie or novel plot. This all started with a request from a Balkan nation for a technician to come service their repurposed Studebaker plant for which tooling had been purchased decades earlier. It involved a doctor at a teaching hospital in a Rocky Mountain city who was running a deep scam on research funds, and an Albanian immigrant community in that city which had a shadow culture running beneath the city’s legal and social systems. There were disabled people involved in trying to crack the scam because they knew it was their interests that were ultimately being robbed. And cool driving sequences involving a BMW 2002tii roaring up and down steep mountain roads. Not to mention the scamming doctor urinating in the public pool, being hung by Christmas lights outside a restaurant, and some weird, White Collar-like planning around money drops and such like.

My dreams have not been so entertaining of late. It’s kind of nice to see my old creative life-of-the-mind peeking through like an iceberg in drug-infused waters.

[cancer|dreams] A reader questionnaire, of sorts

Last night I dreamt I was involved in the lengthy process of filming a BBC documentary (or possibly mockumentary) about searching for lost Norman treasure in an old English country village. Somehow this eventually transmogrified into me sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked SUV with diplomatic plates in downtown Almaty, Kazakhstan talking to a friend from work (an actual person from Day Jobbery rather than one of those skeevy dream people, :: waves to Dan U. ::), explaining why the Bloggess was so much more popular a blogger than I. And, no, the discussion in-dream doesn’t make sense now. Plus bacon and eggs. Lots of dreaming of bacon and eggs.

Sadly, no bacon and eggs this morning.

Also, it should be pointed out I’ve never been to Almaty. I have, however, been to Ulaan Baator, so my backbrain does have a readymade set for ‘Central Asian cityscape’ available.

I did wonder after I woke up if I should consider splitting my blog into personal/political/cultural/writing stuff (essentially what it was pre-cancer) on one fork, and purely cancer blogging on the other fork. It didn’t take me long to realize that (a) this would be a lot of work I don’t really want to do, especially given the relatively dubious benefits of performing that work; and (b) it would be somewhat dishonest in that I don’t see myself as divided that way, and a lot of what I think about life and politics and writing and my personal stuff is heavily inflected by cancer, as well as vice viscera. So, yeah, we’re not going there unless someone can present me with a truly compelling argument in favor. I mean, that’s why I have tagging and [title brackets] right?

That, however, led me to wonder a bit more about readership here. I am curious as to a few questions, and I’m not going to put this in a poll specifically to enable both verbose and anonymous answers in comments.

So here’s a reader questionnaire, and since turnabout’s fair play as well, consider this an ask-me-anything thread with a non-mandatory focus on the topic of cancer and serious illness.

1) Do you read the cancer posts? Why or why not?

2) Are you a cancer patient or survivor?

3) Do you live with some other serious illness such that the cancer posts are helpful to you in that regard?

4) Are you a friend, family member, loved one or caregiver to someone who falls in the above categories?

5) What helps you most here?

6) What hurts you most here?

I know even some of my frequent fliers in comments are very private about their health, so please feel free to leave your responses and/or questions for me anonymously. This is contra my usual mild preference for signed comments, but very appropriate to the topic.

[dreams] Weird, weirder, weirderer

Wow, the dreams last night. I almost miss taking the Lorazepam, which is not a sentence I’d ever thought I’d say.

I had a really fitful night’s sleep, surfacing into consciousness after every REM cycle. (This is how I sleep sometimes, especially when I’m in physical distress. Which is of course a continuous state of being on chemotherapy.) As is often the case with that sleep patterns, my dreams have a threaded commonality that extends from REM cycle to REM cycle.

I’m not even sure I can describe what I was dreaming about. It wasn’t surreal, but the dreams were very crowded with imagery, color, people. In fact, crowding might have been the predominant theme. I was somewhere semitropical, surrounded by bougainvillea and and other bright flowers, at times crowded by children and their mothers in bright clothes, at other times struggling with traffic that consisted of classic cars in bright colors (sort of like an Andrew Niccol movie with the palette reversed). There was a slightly erotic episode when I encountered an old lover, there were extended bits about cooking, there was me jumping off a bridge into a river. And all of it was intensely, richly, fractally detailed across the senses, to the point of overwhelming. At one point I woke up in a state of frantic distress, breathing so rapidly and loudly that Lisa Costello woke up in fear for my health. I had to tell her I was not experiencing a seizure.

Sometimes my dreams are obvious garbage collection, the subconscious mind blowing the dust out of my mental and emotional buffers. Other times, they are obvious problem solving. Or obvious expressions of my anxieties and fears. Then, like last night, sometimes it seems like all the chocks were removed and my imagination went to the red line for no real reason I can understand. Not nightmares, mind you, just confusing.

If dreams are postcards from the subconscious, last night’s dreaming was an ink spill in the postcard printing plant.

[dreams] Organ Pockets

Saturday night, I dreamt I’d started a novelty toy line called “Organ Pockets”. Basically, I was selling 1:1 replicas of human organs in either plushie form or as foam rubber, and each came in a tailored pocket with zipper and snaps, where the pocket was available in leather, latex or various flannels. One of my production challenges was that human organs to scale have a rather wide size range, from the vast and ropy intestines to the tiny little gall bladder.

The weird part is, I suspect somebody could actually make money doing this.

[cancer|personal] Eating and watching and dreaming and scans

Yesterday was a pretty good day. We had a small family-and-friends fondue party. [info]mlerules describes some of the hilarity here on her Facebook page. Fondue pickles, not for the win. Also, [info]the_child has been introducing me to White Collarimdb ], which so far (early in season one) has been much smarter and wittier than I usually experience series television as being, with no flying snowmen yet. (A few have hopped through and done the high jump, but they haven’t kicked me out of the show to date.)

Overnight, I had the most indescribable dreams. I woke after every REM cycle, though I managed to sleep well enough during the course of the night that I’m not starting today pathologically exhausted, as happened to me last Monday. I dreamt about everything, sometimes all at once, from the zombie apocalypse to pizza to Bridezillas to media takeovers to pizza to endless struggles alongside [info]the_child to pizza to staff meetings at work to pizza to cancer to real estate to pizza. A fair amount of anxiety of the obvious sorts was mixed into the oneiric stream, but a lot of it was just the detritus of my subconscious on parade. Big time.

This morning, Lisa Costello is taking me to have the CT scan to follow up on the elevated CEA levels. Tomorrow, I go in for related bloodwork. Wednesday, I see the oncologist. My scanxiety is always an issue, as in uncertain moments such as this I tend to fixate on the essentially mechanical event of the scan itself, rather than the later-to-be-forthcoming data once the radiologist has read my scan and my oncologist has reviewed the results. The usual reality at my clinic is they release everything to me pre-appointment so I have time to read and process the report, but that’s not a consistent behavior. So I may know more (to my relief or to my horror) as soon as this afternoon, or I may not know anything until I walk into the consultation room Wednesday afternoon.

So I continue quietly terrified for now.

Also, I’m getting a library card today.