Sleep comforts. Sleep rejuvenates – and for those seeking it, sleep offers refuge. It was 1984 and the 16 year old me struggled to bridge the chasm between childhood and adulthood. The world confused me. So, every night, I went about the business of creating a better one.
From my teenage perspective, things looked pretty screwed. We teetered on the edge of self-destruction. So damned inconsiderate, I reflected. I had my whole life in front of me but Reagan and Chernenko were apparently intent on something cozily termed ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’. Closer to home, the miner’s strike had crippled our community and to cap it all, Frankie Goes To Hollywood were top of the charts. Looking back, it was no surprise I was looking to escape from reality.
Now, I can never claim to have been that bookworm type of kid. I’d enjoyed the high school reading list, careering dutifully between Hemingway’s bombast and Orwell’s bite with occasional pit stops in the trenches of Wilfrid Owen’s war poems or Dickens’ twisted, exaggerated caricatures. But despite my melancholic musings, my mind was still a blank sheet of paper and one day, from its’ hiding place furthest in on a dusty shelf in my local library, it caught my eye.
36 years later I still remember the exact words – ‘seeing beyond your eyes’. That’s what it said on the cover notes. Steering your thoughts and dreams to unlock the dark corners of the subconscious. A world ‘beyond the light’, was right there if I wanted it, apparently. Now, I have to mention that at this moment, a cautionary voice resonated in my head. A friend and I had recently watched the film adaptation of H.P Lovecraft’s ‘From Beyond’ – was I about to open a portal to another dimension? I skimmed frantically through the pages. Nothing to fear! So I read. And thought. And read. And rationalized. And in my eagerness to find answers, sleep quickly became an obsession. But it was there I found it.
Order. Peace. Hope. They were all laid at my feet. As I surrendered to sleep and learned to navigate my way through this new world, I heard angels sing. I saw world’s rise and fall. I climbed mountains and jumped from star to star. What was once black gradually became grey, then white. My dreams became grand, sun-washed promenades along a Boulevard of Possibilities. What if? How come? Each question led me up avenues of curiosity and overnight, all the tears of reality were washed away, and the fear that froze my heart during the day melted like ice cream in July.
It’s amazing what sticks in your memory isn’t it? A drawing of a Stegosaurus the eight-year old me breathlessly showed to my Mum one day after school. Childhood summer evenings in the back garden, perfumed by the sugary sweet smell of raspberry jam simmering on the kitchen stove and punctuated by good-natured wrestling matches on the lawn with my brother. These memories are so strong I can see them play out in my mind right now as clear as watching a movie. But when it comes to that book, things get a bit fuzzy. Can you believe that three and a bit decades down the line, I can’t remember its’ title? Even the author’s name escapes me. I suppose that’s because it only lay on my bedside table for a matter of weeks. So why has its’ lesson stayed with me much longer than Kerouac’s coming-of-age musings or Shakespeare’s soliloquys? Well, whoever this person was, they’d taught me that even though nothing in the world really changes overnight, if we learn how, we can make it a very different place when we wake.