Insomnia sucks. Period. Full Stop.


The benefit of sleeping extremely poorly for about four months after Longhaul Covid turned my already bad sleep situation into one that was slowly killing me was that I didn’t dream. I never slept deeply enough or long enough for dreams to happen. And in many ways, that was a good thing.

Ever since I was a kid, my dreams have been a playground for my worst fears, hosted by a cast of characters I wish lived only in the fictional realm. My first reoccurring dream is one I still remember vividly, I was in my suburban New York home and heard huge footsteps that told me King Kong was coming.

I knew we needed to get the hell out of there because, as the movie showed me, King Kong didn’t mess around and loved stomping on people or putting them in his mouth before throwing them hard into buildings and such.

But the problem wasn’t King Kong. The problem was my mother. She kept insisting that I go get a sweater before we leave, and I couldn’t find my sweater. In fact, looking back, I don’t know if I even owned a sweater at age 5. You see the problem.

Mom wouldn’t leave, and I couldn’t go without her. King Kong was coming, and we were about to get got.

It sounds silly now. It didn’t feel silly then.

A certain segment of my dreams always have felt very real. They don’t happen frequently, but when they do, they’re strong. They are the ones that affect me into the waking hours. It annoys the hell out of my wife sometimes — and rightly so. It annoys the hell out of me.

Last night, I had one of those dreams — one in which a cavalcade of people I’d rather forget had starring roles in a dream centered around high school graduation.

Now, I’m an extremely good dream interpreter. I’ve been doing it for friends since I was a kid. These kind of things are just clear to me. And what this dream was about was letting go of something from my past, battling through some really nasty obstacles that have haunted me for years, and finally arriving at my destination.

In the dream, the walk to my seat to get ready for graduation was done alongside someone to whom I was saying goodbye, someone whom I had walked through part of life on the journey to graduation. But it was a walk that hadn’t ended well, and I knew it was time to say goodbye. I didn’t want to say goodbye to this person, but I knew I had to, that it was 100 percent the right thing to do and that I needed to do it. And it hurt like hell.

But then I graduated. I walked with a broken foot down this long path, seeing different groups of all my classmates headed in the same direction, and I found my diploma, which turned out to be not the real thing but a menu to a restaurant. No worries, I thought. They’ll mail me the real one.

I immediately wanted to go find my wife, who was also graduating.

But I couldn’t find her I ran into a person who has been a huge obstacle for inner peace for me for a long time. In my waking life, I no longer want her to be a part of it. Sounds easy enough. It’s not.

In the dream, she put her arm around me and tried to tell me how proud she was of me, but all I wanted to do was get her off of me and Go. Find. My. Wife. This person was with a relative of mine, a cousin, and in the dream, this cousin had an incredibly pretentious and weird boyfriend I was meeting for the first time. I didn’t want to be a part of that situation. I wanted to Go. Find. My. Wife.

So I threw her arm off of me and walked forcefully away.

And then I found her. My wife. She was looking for me too. We hugged. I cried. She cried.

I woke up feeling … detached. As if I wasn’t me. I was sad. Exceedingly so. To the point where I feel like I sleepwalked through the first hour of my day. Waking Me was bruised by the hurtful goodbye. Waking Me felt that shit. Not just the goodbye but everything that goes along with hellos and goodbyes and all the stuff in between in any relationship. It’s something that consistently gnaws at me — how even the best relationships that last the longest end in tears when one person leaves. I have a good understanding that it’s the years in between that bring the laughter and the joy, but if it always ends in sadness and with a missing piece in the heart of the person left behind, well, what the heck is up with that?

As the day went on, things didn’t necessarily get better. I had a sleep doctor appointment and a chiropractor appointment and a brain doctor appointment, with a huge presentation and another meeting sandwiched in there, all followed by a bunch more work and then some familial duties to make dinner and clean stuff up. Which is only to say that I was busy.

But every time I slowed down, there’s was that dream. There was my modern-day King Kong thudding his way up the street to my house and I needed to find a goddamn sweater before I could get myself to safety.

As night falls, I have a deep appreciation for the journey in that dream. I absolutely adore the fact that I ended up in the arms of the person who matters most, the person who makes the entire shitty journey worthwhile. I have gained a much deeper appreciation over the past two weeks for the role my wife has played in my life from the day we first met as college freshman in 1992. In essence, she provided the safety and stability for my brain to finish its higher-functioning development, which allowed me to become the person I’m becoming today. Without her, there is no me that I actually like.

The fact that I journeyed from a place that felt right but wasn’t, through a person who who has never felt right and isn’t, to end up with the one person in my life who constantly, consistently, reliably makes sense and that to get there I actually graduated from one stage of life to another? Yeah, I get it. But Jesus Christ it wasn’t fun.

The sleep doctor said that when those who have had insomnia for a significant period of time finally start sleeping, their brains can seem to make up for lost time with a period of frequent and intense dreams. I’ve felt that since my sleep apnea finally came under control toward the end of October. I’ve had nights where it seems like I dreamt non-stop. And I’ve had nights where it seems like I was dreaming something really big and transformative.

I would never want to go back to insomnia. As I said, insomnia sucks. Period. Full stop.

But so do these dreams. I understand they have a purpose and that they’re in some way cleansing me and that, likely, my brain is healing from the trauma of a whole bunch of stuff, not the least of which is the insomnia itself and the effects of the Longhaul Covid.

The reality is, though, last night? Last night my brain hurt my heart.

More From ‘Wrestling With Myself’

When Old Things Don’t Fit

Most of us are familiar with how it feels when we find an old article of clothing in the back of our closet and make the mistake of trying it on. Bodies change. Styles change. Tastes change. In most instances, closet finds and best left unfound. I think it’s something of a truism in life…

Keep reading

The Significant Things

Oh, to know The Significant Things as they happen That the casual “hello” is the first word you are speaking to your forever love. The handshake is an introduction to the person who will most deeply touch your soul The trip, taken, is the one that starts the path to your destiny. To know The…

Keep reading


So much of this world is hard. By that, I don’t mean “difficult,” though yes, it is that, too. What I mean by “hard” is the opposite of “soft.” I’m talking about the kind of thing that, when you bump your shin or — God forbid — your pinkie toe against it, it fucking hurts.…

Keep reading

Sixteen Notebooks

It was the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2015, and I’d just returned home from a short stay in a psychiatric hospital. The pace of life in a psychiatric hospital is glacial. Days stretch on endlessly, nights pass in medicated dreamlessness, and the cycle repeats again. There’s horrible food, group sessions, recreation time outside when it’s…

Keep reading

Thirty Years in Hell: My Mental Health Story

This is a story I share with great hesitancy. I have felt the bitter sting of discrimination for having a brain illness, discrimination no one experiences when they have a problem with a different, better understood organ — the heart, the lungs, the kidneys. I know what it’s like to have work colleagues ignore you…

Keep reading


I’ve long held a fascination with scars — both my own and other people’s. Scars hold stories. Not many people get a scar from something they don’t remember. I remember being fascinated in middle school by this really cute girl I wanted to talk to. She had a tiny scar over her top lip. I…

Keep reading

What Healing Looks Like

Healing isn’t for the faint of heart. Not if it’s genuine. Not if you delve deep into the core where all that is ugly and wicked and broken has had time to take root and fester. Real healing is not all about finding sunny days and happy times. Maybe those are on the other side…

Keep reading

Since Then

Since Then … Every morning holds that moment Every mile, a reminder Every night sighs a silent prayer Since Then … The music tends to a hurting heart Harmonizing with the memories of what was Before ripping the wounds open once again Since Then … A million words haven’t fixed what I didn’t know was…

Keep reading

I’m Doing Alright, But …

The drive home last night was a bit rough, which wasn’t entirely surprising. I’ve been around a lot of people the past few days, hadn’t slept past 4:30 a.m. for four or five days, and, in general, this has been one of those “Big Feels” times that seem to happen to me. There are these…

Keep reading

The Inside Story of Johnny Boy Marketing

Big things happen in odd places and at the strangest times. I met my future wife in the basement of a dingy college residence hall. The biggest boost to my career came when I had to cancel an interview with someone who could have been President of the United States. And I realized I could…

Keep reading

A Human Paradox

One of the great paradoxes COVID revealed in the human animal is how much we need each other while we simultaneously can’t stand to be around each other for long periods of time. Stay-at-home orders booted us from our familiar social circles and, in many cases, put is in direct contact with those we love…

Keep reading

Soul Comforts

Soul Comforts A just-because gift An accidental nap Shared fries A hidden note, found A joined passion A soft hand Communicated desires A hug, freely given A safe landing place A secluded table Memory-filled songs Appreciation, openly stated Take me away from here Take me away Take me Take A common blanket A slow dance…

Keep reading

Searching For The Sweet Spot

I believe there’s a sweet spot in life. It’s that space in which everything just feels balanced. There’s not too much work or too little play, the calendar is just full enough, your friends and family are who you need them to be and you are who they need you to be. Your job is…

Keep reading

Anybody Out There?

My wife and son are going out of town for the week starting tomorrow afternoon, and I have absolutely no one I can call to do anything with. No one. Nobody. If I put in pin in my house on a map (remember those?) and drew a circle with a 50 mile radius, there isn’t…

Keep reading

The Night I Died

I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. The reasons are varied and scattered. Part of it is how much death there is around me. Well, maybe not around me personally. But more than 1,000,000 Americans have died from Covid, and that’s a gross understatement because the true toll won’t be known for years, once…

Keep reading

The Danger of Self-Censorship

There’s been a lot of talk in my area lately about banning books. I love this. Oh, it’s not because I think that banning books is such a good idea. It’s not. Nor is blindly insisting that every book needs to be in a school library to have significance. They don’t. What I’m happy to…

Keep reading

Welcome Back, Swagger

There was a time in my life when I had swagger. I was never the most popular or athletic kid in school, but for a while there, I was a really good baseball player. I could hit. I could field. And, boy, could I pitch. Some of the most “over” kids in high school would…

Keep reading

Dear World, Seriously … WTF?

Dear World, Hey there. It’s me. John. John who? Yeah, I thought you might say that. It has been a day. It has been a week. Hell, world … it has been a life. Oh. Wait. You need to grab my file? Go ahead. I’ll wait. Give it a good read. Yeah, don’t skip over…

Keep reading

A Life Devoid of Friends

I remember well the late night and early morning hours following my senior prom. I was with my classmates on a yacht/ferry/boat slowly circling New York City. I and my girlfriend of roughly a year had stepped out of the madness inside for some fresh air and quiet. Even then, I could only do “loud”…

Keep reading

Livin’ The Empath Life

I was in my 40s by the time I realized the average person doesn’t feel things like I do — not even close. Up until then, I always just assumed that when people were around someone who was feeling some sad or angry or even extremely happy, they felt that shit too. I’m not talking…

Keep reading

James Might Have Killed His Dad

James was one of the first people I met when we moved from the frozen tundra of south-central Minnesota to the ruralist of rural Missouri in 2009. We signed up my older son, Joey, for Little League right away in an effort to spur the formation of friendships and to scratch his itch for the…

Keep reading

So Many Damn Feelings — Oct. 22, 2021

👇 What’s Below 👇On Men and Crying 😭 Why I write ✍🏻Back Crackin’ 👨‍⚕️ So here’s a thing I sometimes hate about myself: I cry. Like, easily. And often. Or at least it’s “often” in comparison to how often men normally cry. At least, I think it’s often in comparison to the frequency men normally cry. I…

Keep reading

Infant Loss Awareness — Oct. 15, 2021

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, and even almost 21 years later, I’m not sure how I feel about it. So much of time is arbitrary. We screw it up so badly that we have to add a whole day every four years. So for me, today is just like any other day…

Keep reading

Fourth State of Being — Oct. 14, 2021

There’s this state of being that’s not quite asleep, not quite dreaming but definitely not awake. That’s where I found myself Thursday evening at Livin’ Sublime Wellness, my little yoga studio in Wentzville. Restorative yoga is a lifesaver for me. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Not to sound all Hippie-Dippy or anything, but…

Keep reading

Rocks > People? — Sept. 16, 2021

In high school, I was friends with a girl named Denise. She and I were both free-spirited creative types who liked to write. For a time, we served as co-presidents of the formed-by-us creative writing club, and we even went on a date (that didn’t work out too well). Denise was and is a no-bullshit…

Keep reading

Why Exactly Am I Here? — Sept. 4, 2021

Sometimes Things Be That Way There are some days that, when night falls and you take stock of all that happened, you just say — or at least think — “Well good goddamn. What the fuck was that all about?” Today has been such a day. I look back at the waking hours and realize…

Keep reading

An Emotional Day – Aug. 29, 2021

Believing in Myself So here’s the thing: I have amazing intuition. Believe what you want about humans having only five senses. We don’t. We have more. And for me, one of my strongest senses is my gut feelings about what to do and not to do. I’ve had this ability since I was a small…

Keep reading

One response to “Dreams”

  1. […] I’ve written before about how I have two types of dreams — the kind that are just the playground of the mind and the kind that are hugely deep, incredibly significant and wildly draining. Last night was all about the latter. I haven’t been able to shake them all day, but I also have no clue why they’re significant in the least. There was my college roommate, a river, King Kong, the governor of Iowa, Wifey Poo, one of my boys, a tiger… Usually my “big” dreams are easy to decipher. This? Not so much. […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: