At times it has been a slog. At other times a great pleasure. Usually it is somewhere in between.
Last August, I decided to make writing A Dead Guy Walks Into a Bar, which is the story of the journey I began on June 6, 1994, my full time job. Now disabled and fighting a daily battle with Lupus, I am gifted with plenty of time but limited energy and periods where it is difficult to concentrate and focus. Over the past three years, following multiple attempts at resuming full time work, as I learned to cope with the limitations imposed on me by this illness, I found that I can now really only concentrate on one project at a time. It is rendered me unable to write anything other than this book and it ends up being most of what I talk about, as I bounce ideas off others and seek input. One of the most significant sources of input came from my former second fiancee, who I got in touch with last year for the first time since 1995. She helped fill in many blanks from my period of "high madness" in 1993-94, leading up to my suicide, which she had been unaware of until we talked last year.
Writing this has been more than a rehashing of old adventures. It has a purpose outside of that. It is a map to following your true path in life and finding yourself in the process. The first fourteen chapters, as the rewrite progresses, are mostly about insomnia, which was the true driving force that led me to literally "follow your dreams." It had nothing to do with me believing the dreams meant something aside from something inside me telling me I needed to reboot my life in a new place. I'd come back from suicide a changed person, almost a complete inversion of my personality that for years made me a manic extrovert instead of a quiet introvert, a confident and eventually cocky bastard instead of an insecure lad who sidestepped controversy and feared "saying the wrong thing." Instead of being a wallflower, I was front and center not caring what anyone thought about my antics as I ran around dressed like a pirate with a woman on each arm.
There was a sense that I needed to reboot my life in a new place, free from the ghosts of the past, but at the same time I was having the time of my life in those first years after my suicide and I didn't want the party train to stop rolling. The problem was, the dreams I kept having after the night of my death were so intense and real that they kept me from getting a decent night's sleep for three years. So, much of my wild behavior could actually be attributed to the special kind of madness that overcomes you when you are chronically exhausted and in need of sleep. I have that now with my illness, but it really doesn't compare. The dream-driven insomnia of 1994-1997 was absolutely insane.
That insomnia is what drives the plot through the first fourteen chapters. I didn't really have a care in the world except for one thing: Getting some damned sleep. This is what motivated me to very reluctantly take a leap into the unknown, to follow vague and often weird clues, and undertake the journey that I did. I tried to resolve them with logic and reason. The first line of the primary dream was "Go where there is no snow," and so, since I hated winter anyway and had often thought about moving somewhere warmer, I was willing to consider moving and rebooting my life in a new location. I could make sense of that. It was a good idea, and I wanted a fresh start. The life of partying and excess was great, but it was empty most of the time, and I kept collecting stalkers in the form of women being crazy obsessed with me. There I was, a guy who when he killed himself struggled to get women to even notice him, with a collection of women who couldn't let me go. It was a lifestyle that was unsustainable, and in 1996 I began scouting possible places to move to and took a tour of the southeastern United States, eventually deciding that Cocoa Beach would be my destination.
Now there were two motivations: quieting the dreams and the idea of moving and stating my life fresh somewhere new. There was a rational reason now. I really hated cold, snowy winters, and it was always right in my face because I was a mail carrier in the 1990s. The dreams wanted me to "go where there is no snow" in order to find the woman who appeared in my dreams pleading with me to find her so she could give me "the answer" to a question I didn't know or understand. The first part I could do. The rest was just insane, but if I moved it had the potential of quieting the dreams and to give me a fresh start in a place where there wasn't anyone from my unhappy past to remind me of it.
There was no definitive plan in 1996. I'd begun planning and then became gunshy about the whole deal. After years of struggle, I finally had a full time job where I made decent money and could live a decent life. My love life had a waiting list. I was on top of the world. Was I really going to pull up stakes and dive into the unknown?
In March of 1997, there were only three people who knew my story. I generally kept it secret, mainly because I didn't want to talk about my decision to end my life. I didn't want to talk about the dreams either. Combine the two and I figured I'd get locked up, even after sharing the story with a therapist I began seeing after my suicide who ended up quitting her practice and moving to Houston and becoming my confidant for the next decade after sleeping with me. Yes, a psychologist who heard my story wasn't driven to have me committed, had instead become enamored of me, and I continuing believing that if my story was known I'd be labelled a complete nutter. I would go public with the story until September of 2001, driven to do so by a suicide on this site that rocked everyone here.
Everything would change in March of 1997, and it would change twice, like a snow globe being grabbed and violently shaken, that month.
The first change came when I met Christine, the sister of my then roommate's girlfriend, who was visiting from Orlando. After she dressed me down based on her sister's reports of me being the type of guy who put notches in his bedpost, I felt compelled to show her who I really was and ended up telling her my story. It fascinated her and drew her to me. Four months later she would tell me she was in love with me, but first she led me to Orlando. A picture was coming into view. The woman in the cabin was symbolic, and Christine was a blonde and lived where there was no snow. It was beginning to make sense that I could move to where there was no snow and not be leaping completely into the unknown. It made sense, and when I got on the plane to Orlando on March 27, 1997, I was feeling as if I was finally on the right path.
Later that evening the snow globe would get the shit shaken out of it when Christine took me out for drinks on my first night in Orlando and our server turned out to be the actual woman who appeared in the cabin in the dreams. So much for the metaphorical blonde. She now literally existed and I didn't know how to process this. I wouldn't tell Christine. In fact, I wouldn't tell her until I reconnected with her last year. Part of that was I didn't know how to process it. My brain short circuited when I met Tina the dream girl in real life. How the fuck does a woman from your dreams you've never met before show up in the waking world? How is that possible? I'd try to convince myself she just looked like the woman in the dreams, but I couldn't. If you see someone nightly in intense dreams that wake you up and prevent you from falling asleep again, you will know that person when you run into them. These weren't vague, misty dreams, these were like a second reality I went into when I slept. The original message of the dreams was "Go where there is no snow. You will know her when you see her. You will have no doubt and the sky will turn to gold. Give everything you can to everyone you know. You already know what to do." That vague shit was beginning to make sense, and I had no idea how to process this. It went against everything my rational, logical mind told me, and my rational logical mind has always been dominant. I'm not the kind of person who ever went in for astrology or card readings or any kind of New Age mysticism, but now I couldn't talk myself into believing Tina wasn't the woman from the dreams because that was impossible.
The focus of this rewrite up to this point has been properly delivering the mindset I had at the time, and how it was all about quieting the dreams. I go from considering it madness, which drove me to seek out a therapist, to trying to find explanations through research (which strangely never took me where I needed to go for answers), to figuring "sure, going where there is no snow sounds like a good idea and maybe that will shut up these damned dreams." At no point before March 27, 1997 do I ever believe that the dreams are anything more than something inside me telling me it was time to move and start my life fresh in a new environment. I have to deliver that or the punch of Tina actually showing up isn't there, and that scene is difficult enough to write as it is. That is because capturing my mental and emotional response to it is complicated. It isn't just Tina's appearance but that it happens while I'm with someone who knows my story and is talking about us having a potential future together if I move. She knows the story, but you can't tell your date that your dream girl just walked in, especially if you are about to spend five days together and you are far from home.
Basically, my hard drive completely crashed that night. My screens were flashing "does not compute" at me. It would take me the rest of 1997 to work it out, but I do believe I now have the right elements and tone in those first fourteen chapters to emphasize that I had absolute no faith in the dreams having meaning until March 27, 1997. I was merely trying to shut them up so I could sleep.
And that is where I am on this project.