Friday, December 10, 2010

Broken Cane and Dreams

I never really thought much about what dreams meant before, except those that almost ushered me out of this world – bangungot. I get those a lot. 

For those who are lucky enough not to know what I’m talking about, it’s usually like this: the dream begins just like any other dream, then it slowly gets weirder and weirder and scarier and scarier and then you find yourself, in the dream, in a situation where you’re either being choked, strangled, suffocated, and then you start having a hard time breathing, then you’re there somewhere between two dimensions – the dream and real life, and in both places, you can’t breathe. The dream continues, with you not being able to take in air, you’re aware of that, and in real life not only are you not breathing, you also can’t move. To hell with Big Bang theorists, but I am grateful that I am naturally equipped with self-preservation instincts, and I believe that that’s by intelligent design – in the dream I start trying to get myself out of that situation that’s preventing me from taking in air, and in real life my body’s doing everything to wake itself out of the dream. 

A lot of times, I wake up just in time. I know that if I stayed in that in between state for a few more seconds, I’m outta here.

It’s Nightmare on Elm St., the reality show. I’ve gotten so used to these nightmares that at times, lying in bed waiting to fall asleep,  I know if I’m gonna have one that night. I remember one particular nightmare I had years ago. I wasn’t living here in Baguio yet, but was staying at one of those old cottages in Camp John Hay just before they bulldozed those down in the late 90’s to make way for those luxury log cabins up in Scout Hill. We were shooting a film here and I was sharing a two-bed room with a fellow actor. It was one of those times when I felt like I was gonna have one when I fall asleep. Sure enough, after staring at the ceiling for some time, I fell asleep, and in my sleep, I dreamt that I was staring at the same ceiling, in the same room, in the same bed. It was as if the what was happening to me in real life was moved into a different dimension – just like a touring play where they the whole stage set-up to a different venue for the next show. Suddenly, a woman appeared through the ceiling, grabbed me by the collar and started pulling me up towards the ceiling. The sensation of levitating was so real, then I looked down and saw my roommate across the room, sound asleep in his bed, and myself (my other self?), asleep,  right below me. Then it came – I started having difficulty breathing and when I looked down at myself again, I saw my body struggling for air. I (the one being pulled up towards the celing) tried to scream, but no sound came out. I remember ordering my body to make a sound loud enough to make my roommate wake up. Then I realized, that I, up there, and I, down there, are one, though at the time mysteriously separated. And I thought, I, up there, may not be heard by my roommate screaming for I, up there, is in another dimension, but if I try hard enough, my actions up there can move my body down there to do the same. Did that confuse you? It was so clear to me that night. Then, after struggling for a few more seconds, I, up there, actually heard myself, down there, scream, it was loud enough to wake my roommate up. I actually heard the sound, saw my roommate being roused, seeing me, getting up, walking towards my body down there, and shaking it and then I woke up, gasping for breath. I up there and my body down there were one again.

I wake up in the middle of the night a lot, gasping for breath. Medical websites tell me it’s sleep apnea. So perhaps the bad dreams were just coincidental. I for sure am still now sure whether it’s the sleep apnea that triggers the nightmares or the other way around. Then lately, during these episodes, I realize that dreams aren’t nightmares anymore, rather seemingly regular dreams of open spaces, sunsets, smiles, laughter, trees, loved ones - and yet I still find myself in between dimensions – in a dream not being able to breathe, and here in this world, paralyzed in bed, unable to move nor make a sound, struggling to stay alive, or here.

It’s been almost a year since I injured my knee, I tore a ligament, according to a couple of doctors I consulted. It’s gotten better several times, and I’ve re-injured it as many times. My wife bought me a cane a few months back when I started really having a hard time walking. I’d pick that cane up every now and then whenever I twist my knee the wrong way again finding myself unable to walk unaided. The other night, I dreamt about that cane being broken in half. Oddly enough, the mere sight of the broken cane in my dream brought me to that half-asleep, half-awake state again, unable to breathe.

Luckily, for the nth time, I woke up just in time to catch my breath. I found it hard to go back to sleep that night, thinking about that broken cane in my dream and though I’ve formed my own conjecture, the next day, instead of my usual morning fare of coffee, cigarettes and browsing Facebook for anything interesting happening on and beyond my computer monitor, I found myself searching the world wide web for anything that could tell me what it meant, or maybe confirm my speculation.

Typing in “search: ‘broken cane dreams’” brought me to which told me that, “To see or use a cane in your dream, suggests that you are in need of some support and advice. The cane may also represent someone you trust and can rely on.” I thought so, it’s pretty obvious what a cane may represent.

Let’s see, what are the canes in my life?

Family – my children, my wife. My life revolves around them. And while I do all I can to provide for them, it’s really me who lean on them a lot. To rephrase an oft-quoted line from a movie, “they complete me,” in so many ways.

Family – my parents, two surviving grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins. At the end of the day, they let me know that I’m not alone in this journey, that I belong.

My art – in all the forms I express it. And like the ripples a tiny pebble makes in the vast ocean, my art lets me know that I matter in this universe.

Friends – all of them, all my life. From that friend I sang songs all afternoon up a tamarind tree as a child; and 
the one I fashioned masks with to fight all evil and become superheroes; and that one with whom I crossed that threshold between childhood and being a grown-up; and the rest who remained and the ones who left and returned. And yes, even those who believed bridges were burned, if only they knew that in certain cases, some of them never actually needed a bridge in the first place to get to the door, which, for better or worse, never really closes.

So what’s with the dream? A broken cane – not some manananggal strangling me, nor was it anything remotely scary at all, yet how come that image turned into a nightmare that left me almost out of breath?

And if it did mean what it supposedly meant, which cane in my life was it about? Ahh, there you go, see, breaking any one of those canes is indeed more terrifying than anything else in and out of this world.

Did I break the heart of a loved one, a friend? Did I compromise the integrity of my art in some way?

The broken knee has gotten better, since I hurt it, sigh, again, a couple of weeks ago. After a day with a cane, I can do without it again. Whenever this damned knee gets better, I always feel like I will never have any real use for that cane again. It gets tucked away somewhere out of sight, neglected, forgotten. And then something happens, and I find myself almost totally helpless without it.

I must take care of that cane, no matter what, for better or worse. Not only because I may need it again sometime in the future, but also if only to show my gratitude for all the times it propped me up when I’m down, or helped me move on, climb up steps or get down on my knees. 

It’s comforting to know that as long as I catch my breath, when I wake up, a cane’s there to always help me get out of bed.