Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wake Me When September Ends

My birthday is Sept 30th but every year I want nothing more than to hide myself in a cave and tell the world to go away because I hate my birthday.  It’s not about the years piling on to my life, it’s not about a fear of balloons nor distaste for cake. It’s the day and the celebration of my birthday that I detest.

It is irrational, it’s something I have always felt my entire life. So over the years, it extended to the beginning of school as well as the onset of autumn. 

In time, it became almost paralyzing. When the Labor Day weekend descended, I fell into a sulk, eventually turning into seasonal depression. I always assumed it was because I HATED school. So I couldn’t wait to graduate and never have to go back to school ever again. Oddly, I was a straight A student, advanced classes and on the Dean’s list for the last two years of college (I was too busy socializing on the first two years). Yet I hated school.

 Then when I did graduate, I thought that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach would stop affecting me at September.  It didn’t. Instead, I started to hate fall. I hated the nip in the air, I ignored the colors of the trees and I just wanted to skip fall and head straight into winter. 

Over the years, it became almost pathological how much I hated fall. 

Then it was a random conversation I had with someone that suddenly caused an epiphany. I was telling someone at the office that I really didn’t want my birthday celebrated.   

One year my boss at the time, sent me flowers. I hid it in my cabinet. You should have seen my boss’s face when she came by my cubicle asking if I had gotten the flowers and was aghast when she saw I had shoved it in my cabinet instead.  To make sure something like that wouldn’t happen again, I was telling the department admin that I would really like my birthday to pass unrecognized.

You see, it wasn’t school, it wasn’t fall; it was my birthday celebration that I hated.

You see, when I was 11yrs old, we celebrated my birthday, which fell on a Sunday that year, by going to a forest preserve to enjoy the fall colors. That year we had my mother’s cousin staying with us as well as my grandmother, so we had a full house. And cousin Joy had her boyfriend visiting as well, so off the clan went to celebrate my birthday with a picnic in the park and enjoying the fall season.

There was a fall festival so my parents let my younger brother and I run off after Joy and her boyfriend. Because the combination of my brother and me was made somewhere just north of hell, we decided we would have fun. We hid from my older cousin and her boyfriend, ducking behind trees, bushes and yes cars.
But we weren’t that good; because it was obvious they saw us. So we did something more daring, my brother and I decided that we would trail them from across the road. 

It was a two lane country road that had bumper to bumper traffic because of the fall festival.  So it was easy to just zip back and forth. I led the way and my brother was supposed to follow me exactly. It went well until it went horribly wrong.

We were close to the area where my parents, my grandma and my baby brother were waiting for us. So I shot through the traffic but I actually had to pound on a car’s hood because traffic was starting to pick up, I got honked but I made it across. 

I turned to find that my brother hadn’t crossed after me and my immediate reaction was; now where did he go? I was a bit pissed at him because he was smaller and slower and now I had to tell my parents I lost my brother. These are exact recollections.

Suddenly I heard the scream of brakes, a sickening thud and I saw what looked like a tumble weed fly across the road. It was my 7 year old brother in his blue jeans and jean jacket.

He had been hit by a car. He was a scrawny, small kid and he was lying unmoving on the ground.

I heard screams, I didn’t; that’s not how I react. I just stood in absolute stillness hoping that if I blink, maybe it will change and it won’t be my brother on the ground. Suddenly I see my father flying across the road and other people running to my brother’s body.

This was back in the day before cell phones so I don’t know who got the ambulance there, but from what I remember they got there fairly fast. I remember a blonde lady with short cropped hair who was a nurse and tended to my brother as best as she could. 

My brother’s eyes were closed and they couldn’t wake him. When the ambulance got there, he suddenly went into cardiac arrest and they had to resuscitate him right then and there. What I remember well was the anguish and the tears streaming down my father’s eyes.

I remember my baby brother with his eyes wide and wondering as grandma held him.

The rest is a blur, but that memory has stayed with me for decades. It has traumatized me against my birthday. And if I never celebrate my birthday ever again, I would be absolutely fine.

I know it’s irrational, but I blame myself for his accident. Maybe if I hadn’t talked him into playing spy, we wouldn’t have been running between cars. It was my idea, but I got out of it unscathed, he nearly lost his life. But the actuality is that if it wasn’t my birthday, we wouldn’t have been there that day.

My brother rarely talks about it, it was a long time ago and he’s moved on, or not. I don’t know we don’t talk about it. 

But this post is my first step in dealing with it, it’s time to enjoy the season and time to forgive myself.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I had another very vivid dream last night, as with all dreams, they start in medias res. I am with a co-worker who I normally don’t see other than to a few casual exchanges in the hallways. But we are together in this dream as a team.

We are in a hotel and another co-worker has been killed in a very suspicious manner, blood and destruction are hinted at by the employees who have seen the room. For some reason, my co-worker and  I have been entrusted to investigate the killing. (Ok, I know, I just finished reading a detective novel).

Someone hands me a wooden box with a sliding cover, instructing me to lay the box in the hallway to set off a catalyst that will allow me to see how the killing took place. As I finish laying the box and opening it, a fog begins to seep out from the opening. I run to the end of the hallway and suddenly, I am holding hands with my coworker as we are plunged off a balcony and drifted off into reddish pink clouds.

We land in the midst of a crowd, she turns to talk to someone, I turn to talk to someone, we need to know where we are, what has happened, etc. But no one talks to us, and then I watch as my co-worker tries to get someone’s attention and I notice that they don’t even see us.

I come to the realization that they don’t see us because we are already dead. We are invisible.

My co-worker gets a look of blunted affect; she has accepted her death with surrender and drifts away from me. After a turn of panic and despair-will I spend eternity wandering the world dead and forgotten? I turn to my original mission; I need to find out who killed my other co-worker. I am determined.

I find my way back to the hotel corridor and see the corridor filled with smoke still pouring out of the box. I run in, close the box and the smoke dissipates quickly.

Then I watch as I stand in the detritus they have removed from the room, I wait for someone to open the door so I can go inside the room and see the crime scene. Oddly, even as a ghost, I have my iPhone which I use to take pictures of the objects they have placed in the hallway.

One man is talking, he’s throwing out theories on why the killing occurred. I can hear my iPhone’s camera clicking and I’m taking notes on my iPhone when I feel a tentative touch on my arm. I look over and it’s one of the managers at work, she’s looking straight at me. The man who’s talking turns to me, his theories were for my benefit. Suddenly I realize, they can see me.

“You can see me! I’m not dead! OMG! I’m not dead!”

End of dream.

I think it isn't difficult to interpret that dream, it’s just a resonance of several themes that have been rattling in my head lately.

There are invisible people, we see them but we don’t. We ignore them; they are the disenfranchised, the homeless, sometimes they are the people you pass who turn away instead of making eye contact.

Lately, I've been feeling invisible. I can’t count how many times I’m suddenly confronted with some car jumping in front of me as if my car wasn't already there. Or the lady who bangs her grocery cart into the back of my shins but doesn't apologize and instead glares at me for being in her way. Or the jackass who has pulled his chair out and when I pass, I say excuse me because I’m polite. Instead of him moving his chair in so I can pass, he nods at me as if he had deemed to acknowledge MY apology for disturbing his ruminations. He never did move his chair up. 

I acknowledge the fit of pique this provokes in me. But apart from walking around screaming “I’M WALKING HERE! I’M DRIVING HERE! HERE I AM!” There really isn't much I can do if people find me invisible. But I don’t have to feel invisible.

In my dream, I brush aside the panic because I had a mission; I needed to investigate the murder. Was it my insistence on doing my job, not surrendering to the despair and simple acceptance as my co-worker had that resulted in my becoming visible again?

Perhaps it is in that single line that I found redemption, at least in my dream. It's a start.
 “You can see me! I’m not dead! OMG! I’m not dead!”