When I was a kid, I would have horrific nightmares. Not horrific in that they included blood and gore, but horrific in I was always running for my life. I would dream that I was being pursued and I knew if I was caught or discovered it would be lethal. I would find myself on the street of my maternal grandparents – stopping at each door knocking madly for someone to help me, to offer me safety, to do something . . . anything. Door after door remained closed, cars were on the street, but nobody was home. Finally, a door opens. I look for safe harbor and I realize that I am staring into the eyes of my pursuer. That is the moment that I would wake up, my heart beating, adrenaline racing through my body. I would be afraid to move, afraid to speak, even though my sister slept just a bed away.
I would whisper to myself, “Please, don’t hurt me” over and over again. I’d feel the tears well in my eyes, but I was terrified that the least bit of a whimper would send my pursuer down the hallway to my bedroom and I would be discovered. Some nights he would be holding a knife, others a gun, and sometimes a crowbar. The dream would come and go, sometimes the setting changed and I was running through the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle, just to turn the corner and to be staring into her green face, other times I would be in a foggy forest, knowing that my lack of clarity and perspective would be my downfall.
As I trembled in my bed, I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes. I was afraid of the world that awaited me in the land of slumber. Eventually, my survival instinct took over and I created a game. I would change the whisper of “Please, don’t hurt me” to “It’s going to be all right.” I would force my eye lids to close and I would replay the last part of the dream, but I would actively make up a new ending, a happy ending. When the door opened, there stood Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, or the Virgin Mary Mother of God. The sun burst through the clouds, the police arrived saying that the “bad man” had been caught and was no longer a threat. Music would play, ice cream would be served and eventually I fell into a dreamless sleep. If I was in the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle, as I rounded the corner, Glinda the Good Witch was standing there with her magic wand offering me safe passage back to my homeland. In the forest, the fog lifts and I am in the meadow with Bambi, Thumper and Flower.
So, these days when I find the adrenaline pumping, the nightmares crashing in, or monsters hiding under the bed, I remember that all you have to do is play the game of happy endings. Channel the outcome you wish for not the one you fear. Line up your heroes, whether they are fantasies or real and let them come to your rescue. Transform the setting to one where the sun can shine and magic can occur. Before you know it a happy ending will lull you to the safety of a good night’s sleep.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012