I stood in a small, windowless room. It was sparsely furnished – a narrow bed, a dresser, a lamp. Empty wire hangers clattered in a tiny closet. The only exit was a single, locked door.
Somehow, I escaped the room and found myself running down the street. Then, in a flash, I was inside my parents’ house. I ran up the stairs and hid in my old closet, where, as a teenager, I chattered on the phone late at night, wrapping the cord around bare toes. A receiver appeared in my hand.
A man named Drew was on the other end. I recognized his sweet, southern drawl. “Are you drugged?” he asked.
“No,” I replied. “I don’t think so. I got out and I ran down the street and now I’m hiding in my parents’ house.”
“No, you’re not.” He said it so sweetly I didn’t quite believe it, until I noticed the blackness in my stomach.
The blackness grew, deepening and expanding until it reached my brain. I looked again and I realized I was huddled in the tiny closet in the tiny room where it all began. I looked at my hand and the phone was gone.
On my left, I noticed a small indentation in the drywall. I dug at it with my fingers, making an opening. Through the hole, I saw stained, corrugated metal.
At last, I felt the subtle rocking of the ship.
It’s been a few days since I had that dream. I wrote it down when I woke up, convinced it would make a fine story. And maybe it will.
The thing that stands out to me about the dream is how it felt to realize I was doomed. Even in the midst of my dream, I felt the blackness inside like a tumor. This physical sensation gave the dream more weight, perhaps helping me remember it in the morning.
Today, after seeing Sam off to school, I sat on my front porch wondering what’s wrong with my life. Something’s off, I thought, like a splinter, or an itch I can’t scratch. And I remembered this dream.
I’ve been haunted by the subtle sense that I’m falling into the same trap all over again. Like escaping a shipping container prison, only to find myself right back where I started.
The Prison of Belief
I think we build our own prisons, not of corrugated steel or iron bars, but of beliefs.
I grew up believing that people needed to be managed. I learned to hide in plain sight, silently pulling levers and pushing buttons in a calculated bid to keep the peace. Because the peace was all I had, when I had it.
My world became quite small. It was a natural progression – a smaller world required fewer levers and buttons. A smaller world could be managed.
But all along, I cursed the smallness. I dreamed of unfurling my true nature, sparkling and magical, like a sunset stretched across the sky.
So I did.
And it was terrifying.
Before long, without realizing it, I started construction on a new prison.
Where are your edges? Where do you stop, and where does the world around you begin?
On an atomic level, do you think your skin cells form a solid barrier between you and not-you? Or do the carbon molecules in your skin dance with the oxygen and nitrogen and hydrogen in the atmosphere?
When was the last time you contemplated the fundamental nothingness of the world and everything in it? Are you aware that supposedly solid forms, both you and not-you, consist overwhelmingly of empty space?
You and not-you are the same. You bleed into infinity. And this is precisely what frightens us. We believe our edges into being as a way of mitigating our terror.
Your prison is like this – an imaginary boundary between your-life and not-your-life.
- This is who you are.
- This is what you’re good at.
- This is how you make money.
- This is how you love.
That’s the splinter. That’s the itch that can’t be scratched. It’s the invisible edges you unknowingly create for yourself in a desperate attempt to feel safe. Those edges become your prison.
We live in a universe of infinite possibility. You are limitless, if you know you are.