Thursday, March 20, 2008

Monsters Abound

Early this morning, right before I woke up, I was dreaming that I was running away from something I could not see. It was dark and I fell down a hole into a cave. There was something in front of me, like a cross between a bat and a rabid squirrel, and I was sure it was trying to attack me even though it told me otherwise. “Don’t be afraid” it said in a small voice, but I wouldn’t listen and grabbed a large stick from the ground and began bashing it over and over again. “Stop”, it pleaded, “I won’t hurt you”. But I kept smashing it with the stick. Then it began to grow, larger and larger, until it filled the cave and its head was above ground. It took a large step right out of the cave and I could hear it walking away. I had to warn people. I sunk my fingers into the dirt wall and clawed my way out of the cave.

The next thing I remember is being in an office, with Dr. Phil of all people, and trying to warn them that this horrific monster was coming. They asked me to describe it and only after telling them did I realize they were laughing at me. Of course, they didn’t believe me! Dr. Phil was diagnosing me as schizophrenic or potentially manic when a loud growl could be heard. I hid inside a closet and locked it from the inside. I tried to get the others to hide but they just stood there, unalarmed and annoyed at my hysterics. The creature smashed down the door and grabbed the woman and began chewing on her. I watched everything from a crack in between the two doors. It then chewed off Dr. Phil’s arms and threw his torso into the window. Glass shattered everywhere as his body smashed through and dropped down. The monster came up to the door where I was hiding and I could hear it sniffing at me like the nose of a dog.

Then I woke up. I sprang right up into a sitting position. My pajamas were damp from sweating. I was so hot; I had to take them off. The back of my neck and hair were wet. I wasn’t scared when I woke up, like I usually am when I have a nightmare. My heart was pounding and I was sweating profusely, but somehow, even in my dream, I knew the monster to be something from my imagination.

This dream was unlike my usual night terrors in many ways. I occasionally have gory bits but not to this detail. I seemed a mere spectator, looking from behind a barrier. Although not at a safe distance, but the barrier seemed to separate in a tangible way. My little space for looking was on this side, away from the threat, while the others were being massacred. Despite the grotesque nature of a monster chewing on people, it seemed aestheticized. Like a Tarantino movie, the blood splattered artistically like paint on a canvas, the glass shattered into thousands of fragments and then rained down in slow shimmering motion. And then there was the whole Alice in Wonderland nature of a small creature in a hole that grew monstrously big. Perhaps never being a monster, it was mistaken for one and then had no choice but to live monstrously. Very Frankensteinian, really.

So this is what I am wondering - why a monster? I don’t think I’ve had a bogey dream since I was a toddler, about the same age as my daughter now. Unfortunately, she has been having nightmares too. A few nights back she woke screaming, and when I went into her room she said she was dreaming of monsters on her bed. I looked at her bed and saw many stuffed animals and dolls. “Look honey,” I said, “your animals here will protect you from any monsters. No monsters would dare come on your bed with these brave animals.” “But mommy,” she said, “they were the monsters. I was watching them, and they curled into a ball and when they popped back up – they were monsters.” She has a wild imagination. Once she told me she was dreaming of a pterodactyl ice-skating on his claws. He had to stay outside because he was too big to skate in the arena and there would be no room for the kids to skate. Another time when my husband asked how she slept, she said, “not good, the volcanoes were too noisy and kept waking me up.” The very matter-of-fact way she spoke was hilarious, like someone stating that a dog was barking.

My daughter has been saying things as of late that have been very upsetting to me. Whenever she doesn’t do as she is told and I have to reprimand her sternly, she’ll start to cry and say things like “I’m afraid you won’t like me anymore “ or “I’m afraid you won’t be my friend.” She was staying over night at my parent’s house and lost her hair clip, and my mother told me she began to cry and said, “I’m afraid mommy will get mad at me.” I’m thinking so what if I do, which I wouldn’t over a hair clip, but if I did, what would she have to be afraid of? I don’t hit her. Worst thing, I put her in a time-out. Occasionally, when I am at a breaking point, I have yelled at her. I know this is wrong, but in frustration I am ashamed to admit that I have lost my temper. I figure this is what she is afraid of, being yelled at. The majority of the time, I don’t though. My efforts at discipline are primarily a stern voice and threat of a time-out. She knows that once I start counting, a time-out is inevitable if she doesn’t listen. Most of the time the threat works, and when it doesn’t, she gets a time-out and cries through it. It is amazing how much a time-out upsets her. When she calms down, I ask her if she understands why she had one and we have a little talk about what is expected. Not the stuff of which monster movies are made.

Maybe she sees me as the safe teddy bear that pops up and turns monstrous, maybe I see myself as having monstrous potential underneath. There are some parallels in recent dreams — lurking danger hidden under a guise. Something apparently safe becomes menacing and dangerous. My own skin takes on an unnatural, diseased appearance. Or the small fury animal that claims to be non-threatening transforms into a horrific creature that dismembers and eats people. Perhaps I am the small creature that insists it is non-threatening only to turn hideous with any provocation. Perhaps that is why the dream did not scare me, although I recognized it as disturbing. It was really my own Mrs. Hide. The Dr. Jekyll side hid in the closet and did nothing as the monstrous side destroyed all in its path. Perhaps I need to be more pro-active. Like Dr. Jekyll I have a responsibility to keep my doppelganger small and unassuming.