Recreating REMs

I came up with something almost two months ago. I can’t remember if it popped into my head waking up one morning, after a nap, or just before going to bed, but there it was: Recreating REMs. I jotted the phrase in my phone for later. Later, I found it bubbling over with meanings and connections and started writing in my journal before they floated away with my next mind spiral.

Recreating can be rec-reating, a nod to my profession and work as a recreational therapist, but also defined as: ‘to refresh by means of relaxation and enjoyment, as restore physically or mentally’ and ‘to give new life or freshness to’. The word can also be re-creating: ‘to form anew in the imagination’. REM is rapid eye movement sleep, the particular stage where we process experiences through dreaming. In my case, it’s very much a part of my waking life through symptoms of narcolepsy, so ‘REMs’ represent my invisible chronic illness, but also sleep and rest.

A group of tall trees with a river barely visible beyond them. The end of a light blue and yellow hammock is on the far left with the author’s relaxed bare feet resting on the edge. The summer sun creates patterns of light and dark green on the grass and leaves.

‘Recreating REMs’ is about prioritizing the restoration of rest, learning to enjoy the slowing down, and weaving it into leisure for myself and others. It’s about carrying the philosophy of ‘rec-reating’ to my waking dreams – what I want and need out of life. It’s seeing the journey of my growth and evolving as past/present/future and cultivating qualities of refreshment, giving, relaxing, joy.

A drawing-in-progress by the author. In the middle is a column of purple, pink and blue that appears to be dripping. About halfway down it spreads out and drips in long thin strands of the colors. Surrounding the column is a mix of greens and yellows, branches with leaves extend out of the color downward. Below all of this appears to be rolling waves of green, purple and blue.

But it is also re-creating – what I know, my relationship to and expectations of rest/work/identity, where those stories came from and then living out what needs to be changed. It is the re-imagining of dreams possible for myself, loved ones, my community; dismantling old definitions, harmful systems and boxed in beliefs from their core. It’s recognizing that REM is a stage of sleep, but it, like us, can’t sustain alone. Throughout history we’ve thought sleep alternatively 1) was not important, 2) had one stage or another that was the ‘most’ important, and 3) was the same for everyone. Now we know that sleep is just as essential as breathing, water and food, and that the entire process of sleep is incredibly complicated and connected to the rest of our body systems. By the same line of thinking, yes, we can survive alone, but we always carry the patterns, memories and connections we’ve learned and lived from the collective – for better and worse. We’re wired to move toward relating with others, and being with others is rarely simple.

20200803_1601586367814842661107754.jpg
A drawing-in-progress from the author. Crescent moon shapes of purple, orange and blue cluster to the bottom left. They appear to be connected by a vine shape to a long red and pink curve. There are 6 red/pink curves that all connect to a point near the top right of the page, and each is a little shorter than the last as they fan across the page. Around and inside the top of the connection are dots that decrease in density outward. Between and behind the ribbons are various shapes and colors of yellow, blue, pink, red, orange, and purple.

Because over the last however many months I’ve (again) been learning about how I contribute (however unknowingly or unintended) to the systems that oppress, silence, harm, erase
black people,
people of color,
indigenous people,
people of different faiths,
queer, disabled, neurodivergent, and poor people,
but also the earth,
oceans,
environments,
‘resources’ that we forget are alive,
ecosystems…
and me.
I’ve been feeling the gravity of this generational trauma amid a global pandemic, and am still trying to sort out my own shit.

I don’t know where this might take me. Right now, I’m just trying to practice some very hard won self-compassion. I’m collecting and exploring experiences and examples where I’m already ‘recreating REMs’ – ones I might question or initially think are inconsequential, but can be seen with renewed purpose and gratitude when connected to living out a ‘how’ and not just changing the name of a blog and listing a ‘what’ or ‘why’.
I want a life of reciprocity – to give, express, share, and receive, listen, learn in equal measure, and so this idea, mantra, phrase, project,
whatever it is, seems to be a guide or compass in my story right now.

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