What do we do with nightmares?

I woke up yesterday morning with an aching knee. The few days before Sunday were full of Annual Conference business. Annual Conference is both the name of the regional body of churches that I serve within as a United Methodist and an exact description of how often the whole of that body meets to do business. Normally Annual Conference for us in the Upper New York Annual Conference is in the late spring just before summer, but this year our session was held virtually in the fall due to COVID concerns.

My knee ached because I have been walking all over the place during the past few days. As I write this entry on Sunday night, my knee will probably hurt once again tonight as I walked into town to reach the church, stood through church,, walked across town for lunch after church, participated in the CROP Walk after lunch, and then walked back home from town. My knee will probably ache tonight, but it likely will be a far more peaceful night than last night.

Why? I am not certain if it was the change in diet, lengthy Conference activity, or stress levels over the past few days, but I honestly had a terrible nightmare coming into Sunday morning. I dreamed a horrible dream that woke me up in panic and covered with sweat.

What was the dream about last night? To be blunt for the sake of this post, the dream was a dream where everything terrible I heard over the years came true. In the dream I was called and acted pathetic, was broke and unable to care for what needed to be cared for, and was run out of my job for not being good enough for my role as a minister. Everyone I met in the dream was angry with me, frustrated with me, or full of scorn for me. It was frankly terrifying to wake up feeling awful about myself.

So, what did I do after waking up with a hurting knee and a tortured spirit? I got up, took a shower, strapped on my boots, and went back to work. I walked to work, which I was able to do quite nicely despite my knee’s complaints the night before. I led Sunday School where we had a great conversation and then led worship which led to people coming up to me that were engaged in the message connecting scripture, theology, and the problem of domestic violence.. After a nice salad from the nearby deli, I then walked around town with church members raising money for world hunger and having some great conversations. When that was done I walked home, had a quick dinner, and then went out to grab a cup of coffee and milk to make my yogurt for the week ahead.

In other words, all those terrible things I heard in the dream didn’t stop me from doing what I had to do today. I stood up, laced my boots, and faced my fears, which turned out to be nothing important at all. I am thoroughly proud with myself for moving past my fears and nightmares into a healthier place tonight.

As the day draws to a close, I don’t know what’s ahead of me tonight, but I know one thing to be true: all the terrible things that I once heard from my abuser do not define who I am today. I don’t need to be ashamed of who I am as a person. I don’t need to seek the approval and love of a person who tore my spirit and soul down violently. I can choose to face today no matter what my abuser believes. I will live and I will do so in a way that makes me proud to be me.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

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