Don’t Be Paranoid, Dr. Freud

First of all, I apologize for being such a whining swine in yesterday’s entry (no offense intended to all my friends in the porcine community; sorry, too, for having consumed so many of your kin; you may well savor your revenge before long).  Sometimes I let my nasty little moods get the better of me, and exaggeration wreaks havoc on my prose style.  That said, it may not be amiss for me to confess that my life may finally be winding to an end.  The silver lining is that now you won’t have to wade through the pretentious waters of this bloviating blog anymore (assuming I’m correct in my diagnosis and not just being a hyperbolic hypochondriac, which is admittedly entirely possible.

Nonetheless, I have certain reasons for these misgivings that I’d like to share with you now, before it’s too late, as it were.)  I’ve always prided myself on being skeptical, which tendency has backfired repeatedly, so much so that I’ve shot myself in the foot enough times for it to resemble a rather shapely piece of Swiss cheese with a bunion on it and webbed toes.  Still, I can’t help but be alarmed and feel uneasy about a dream I had about a year ago.

As I’ve mentioned before in these pages, despite being a lifelong agnostic/atheist, although I have dabbled in spiritual approaches and have a soft spot in my heart for Buddhism, not that I go in for all the ridiculous reincarnation crap (granted, Mr. Gautama may have been using that phenomenon as a subversive metaphor to appeal to some of his more blinkered followers; a friend of mine who’s studied the Bible far more extensively than I have argues that that heavily-touted tome is likewise rife with far more metaphor than stuff that’s meant to be taken literally; may Saint Melvin Gibson forgive those of us who’ve regularly fallen prey to the latter reflex with ferociously fallible folly), I’m not above superstition, especially when it serves the vast appetite of my insatiable ego.  (A profile of actor Bryan Cranston written in The New Yorker magazine last summer described the character Walter White, whom Cranston so brilliantly brought to life in the TV series Breaking Bad, as having both a big ego and low self-esteem–a volatile combo, I assure you.)

I can hear you saying, All right–get to the point already, will you?  Okay, I will.  In the meantime, feel free to unfasten your seatbelt and ask the flight attendant to bring you another martini.  We should be crashing to our destination in no time.

Anyway, I’ve had three dreams in my life that predicted terrible events that have affected three people who are or were close to me:  one involving a friend who fell from a ladder and hit his head on the pavement (which is what happened in the dream; he did so in real life the following day–even though he landed on his shoulder–luckily–instead of his head); another involving tears and a fire; and the last a murder (in the dream) that unfolded as a suicide in real life.

The last dream on that list was the first premonition I had.  It was thirty-seven years ago, shortly before my poor aunt took her own life at the age of thirty-seven, when I was a mere boy of twelve.  In the dream, I was at my grandparents’ house, watching TV.  My mother and my sister were fixing me a birthday cake in the kitchen.  During a commercial break, I went in to see how they were doing, then went back to be reunited with the TV.  Before I could enter the den through the living room, next to the grandfather clock that guarded the doorway like a sentinel stood a man dressed entirely in black.  He was a dead ringer for Zorro.  He took the pistol he was holding, lifted it, and shot me in the chest.  I flew screaming through the big picture window behind the couch and landed on the cold, wet pavement of the driveway fifteen feet below among pieces of broken glass.  Then I woke up.

The dream I had a year ago won’t take long to describe.  It had no story, just a couple of scenes.  The first one was a shot of the empty living room of my grandmother’s house, a place I hadn’t dreamed of since the above-mentioned dream, despite having been there countless times in the interim.  The second scene was in an entirely different location, on the other side of the earth–in fact, where I am now.  It was wintertime, and there were patches of snow on the ground.  It was the same place where I was teaching English at the time, on a spot of land outside the training center where my students assemble to either enrich their minds or battle the forces of boredom (from where I’m standing, it’s not always hard to tell which).

I only worked there for a month last winter.  Paranoid soul that I am, I had a feeling that I might die at the time.  Needless to say, I didn’t–at least not as far as I know.  I had several other teaching gigs after that one ended in various different parts of the city (Seoul).

Now I’m back at the same place, and my physical health has taken a turn for the worse.  (Note I say physical health.  I can’t pretend to be a paragon of sanity, and I concur with Steely Dan when they say, “Worldly wise, I realize that everybody’s crazy,” but at least I’m not as cuckoo as my wife Jina, at least not it my opinion; I took an online test for borderline personality disorder on her behalf and she got a high score).  It’s largely my own fault for letting myself go, surrendering to the siren of budding obesity, eating too much meat (a popular Korean pastime), along with sweet and salty foods, so much so that I now appear to be suffering from heart disease.

I don’t have time to go into the other factors compounding my compromised health right now, and in the name of decency and self-restraint instead of untrammeled self-indulgence I’ll spare you the details, knowing you have better things to do with your own limited share of priceless time.

Since there are patches of snow on the ground outside my workplace these days, and the pains in my chest have been getting worse, and I’m stuck in a dilapidated marriage with a woman who claims to worship me one moment (not that I’ve ever asked to be worshipped; I’d prefer to be loved, and as imperfect as my attempts often are, I try to love her) and tries to run me over with a steamroller the next, and she believes in faith-healing besides, and I don’t know if I can afford to get preventive heart surgery (as Oscar Wilde said, “Cynicism is knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”), and as that wacky old gal Julie S. Seizure said, cowards die a million deaths before they ever reach their real ones, and although I hope this is premature (words not often heard in the bedroom), allow me to say it anyway:

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.  You’ve been gracious to do so and you’ve kept me going for a long time–two years?  Three years?  Who’s counting?–and in case my fears are not misplaced, I want you to know that I appreciate your having provided me with the inspiration to scribble a few words here and there for you to peruse or skim over your morning coffee or evening glass of pinot noir.  Please keep up the tradition for me, and I’ll do what I can to survive in the meantime.  

Otherwise, good luck, and goodbye.  I would say that I’ll miss you, only it’s hard to have such profoundly nostalgic emotions or sentimental attachments to unreachable friends when you no longer exist.

Finally, by way of advice to myself as much as anyone else, I’ll close with the obligatory Shakespeare quote, the easiest way to make yourself sound smarter than you really are.  This is the last line of his seventy-third sonnet (minus the introductory word “To” forming the infinitive):

“Love that well which thou must lose ere long.”

Have fun.


4 thoughts on “Don’t Be Paranoid, Dr. Freud

  1. Don’t give up the ghost yet, Stew. I hope this really is just a bit of hypochondria… Otherwise at least wait till Spring, and we can meet up and drink to your health (just a glass of red for you though)

    • thanks, buddy. i’ll do my best to hang in there–preferably we can each put away at least a whole bottle of red wine instead! one silver lining: if i do croak, chances are i won’t have to put up with my berserk moron of a wife anymore. i appreciate your concern and shall strive to endure.

    • that’s very kind of you, susanne. just knowing you’re out there rooting for me will definitely help me hang in there for as long as i can. faith not in god, but in people, is what matters the most (at least that’s the way it is for me). i’m grateful for your friendship and hope we can sustain this creative correspondence for a long time yet to come.

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