Beef Stick

Disclaimer: This post references sexual violence and has derogatory language. Proceed with discernment.

I had the most bizarre dream last night.

In the dream, I am inside a semi-empty space. There are windows. A door. It sort of looks like the entryway to those buildings that have multiple floors. Maybe it’s a lobby for a city apartment building? Or the ground floor where you can take the elevator up to businesses above? Something like that.

There is a police officer in the room with me. That’s it. Odd.

He approaches me and quickly puts me in a hold. At first, I’m not concerned. The sense I have is that he’s trying to teach me something. It’s almost like he’s an instructor giving me a real-time demonstration of what it would be like to be grabbed. He shuffles me around and instructs me, firmly, to look around…be aware of my surroundings. “Oh!” I think to myself, “got it! He’s like a self-defense trainer!” I even sort of like it. I’m not someone that balks at being touched. And I generally feel comfortable being held. So…at first…I feel like I’m still, on some level, in control. I’m not a victim. I’m a participant.

But then, he shuffles me to the ground. The whole tone of the experience shifts. It becomes clear that…oh no…he’s not trying to teach me…he’s trying to rape me. My response is sort of…odd. In the dream, I look up at him and despite being fearful internally, I try and put on a face of calm, steady, clear-headed, rationality. I say to him “wait…seriously? This is what’s happening right now?”

He grins at me with a greedy “you bet your ass” sort of expression. Do I fight him? No. Some part of me knows I don’t stand a chance at winning. So, instead, I try to engage with him. I say “wait…just a sec…LOOK at me…what is your name?”

I think my logic is that if I could somehow get him to see that it’s a human being he’s trying to humiliate and cause physical harm to, he might reconsider…

But no.

Instead, he laughs at me and says “Hmm….my name? Let’s say it’s Beef Stick.” All at once, I realize that not only is this guy going to, literally, fuck me….but he sees it all as humorous. He is not only excited by the prospect of causing me distress, he’s amused by my attempts at de-escalating things. As if THAT would make any difference.

I try and think what I could do next and then…

I wake up.

My first thought…I’m not even kidding you…is “Beef Stick? WTF?”

My second thought is “I just had a dream about a rape? THAT is random. And terrifying. What does that mean?”

Now…you have to remember…I’m a nerd. I have also never (well…not yet, anyway) been raped. So what do you imagine a highly sensitive nerd who has just had a bad dream about rape does? Obviously, she googles “significance of rape dream.” Because…it’s the future…and we can just google our nightmares, now.

It turns out that dreams about being raped (when one has not been raped and is not, therefore, simply reliving and trying to process a true trauma) are generally about a loss of power. Something is happening to make me feel like a victim. Something is happening to make me feel like I can’t use my powers of rationality, relationship building and connection to wriggle free.

And then? I just laughed.

For those who may not know me well…I recently bought a house. It’s an adorable house. Walkable to work. Perfect size. I was…AM…excited. About a month ago, I decided to get bids on what it would cost to make some upgrades to the place. Easy, right?

I started with my AC unit. When the fires hit last summer(you know…the ones that gave us Oregonians a red sky resembling what Hollywood would likely use to depict an apocalypse?) I was fortunate enough to have a working AC unit. That meant I had a reliable means to keep my air fairly well filtered and fresh even while the air burned outside. But it putt-puttered along with a fair amount of effort. It’s as old as the house (so…about 20 years old?) It seemed like a good idea to invest in a new one before this next summer…so that should ANOTHER set of wildfires catch, I could feel a bit more confident in my AC unit’s survival. So….I went ahead and started there.

The AC guys were awesome. From start to finish it was painless. Enjoyable, even. They came in, got rid of the old unit, put in my new one…and then they just needed to get into the crawl space to finish up a few things.

But when he resurfaced…he said:

“So…I have some bad news for you.”

“Oh?” I said (P.S. NO ONE wants to hear “I have bad news” from either your doctor…or ANYONE crawling around the crawl space of your house).

“Yeah…you’ve got a leak, down there.”

Ugh.

He referred me to a plumber. The plumber came, and he, like the AC guy, was terrific. He stayed late into the evening until the leak was all fixed. And when HE surfaced, he said:

“Sooo…I’ve got some bad news.”

Damn.

“It was your hot water line that leaked. Hot water is more corrosive. You’ve got a fair amount of damage and some mold. You’ll need a restoration company out here as fast as you can get one.”

Oooookay.

The restoration company came out. And HE was ALSO pretty great. Straightforward. To the point. He got to poking around and basically said “yup. You’ve got mold. We can fix it. Getting the mold out won’t be an issue, but we will also have to rip up some things….and I will be honest with you. With the fires from last summer and the ice storm that followed…everyone is looking for contractors right now. The mold we don’t mess around with. We can get on that, tomorrow. But the fix-up afterward? We will be a few weeks out for that. You will want to get in touch with your home insurance company…” Translation: we can fix the mold problem, but it will leave your house a big hot mess, and there is no telling when we will be able to repair it.

I thanked him for his candor, and said something resembling “Okee dokee.”

So then the insurance adjuster came out. And I’m not kidding, folks….HE was great too. I KNOW. What are the odds?!? Law of numbers says that there really should have been at least one asshole in this mix. But nope. The adjuster came out. He saw. He took notes. He basically said it looked straightforward and explained what my insurance covers. He gave me the green light to give the restoration the green light, and the work began.

What began as a small patch of work started to spread. It turns out, the leak didn’t just affect the entryway (our initial assumption). It affected everything along that entire wall…which means it affected the entryway, the guest bathroom, and the master bathroom…

So long story short…I have roughly half a house, right now. There are generators pumping out air from dehumidifiers in every corner. My house looks like a war zone. The washer and dryer is out. The guest bathroom is completely empty…as in…no toilet or cabinetry is in there. I have no AC unit (well…I have one, but I just can’t use it). I also have no hot water. When will my house be a home again? I have absolutely no idea. Neither does anyone in the restoration company. Why? Because some people are literally without any house AT ALL. As in…they don’t even have walls. My lack of half a house and a bathroom? Not exactly top of the list on their priority. Which is understandable.

Basically…This means I should have a home, again, sometime between 6-weeks and infinity.

What a mess.

But also…what a delicious metaphor.

When I look around my house, I honestly cannot help but think that is resembles the way we must all be feeling, on some level…with the happenings of the last year.

And much like with my dream, there is an element of absurdity to all of it.

We have a presidential election in 2016 and who do we choose? A reality TV show host. I honestly don’t care if you love Trump or hate him. You have to admit…that’s weird.

Just call me “beef stick.”

But wait…I’m not done. A pandemic hits. We all need to socially distance. We need to voluntarily slow down our economy. People are dying and there is not much we can do about it. (Talk about feeling like we are begin dragged to the ground.) And when you go to the grocery store, what is out of stock? Toilet paper. Wait…seriously?

Just call me “beef stick.”

Fires raged all across the west coast on unprecedented levels. Ice storms cause power outages the likes of which we have never seen…and rather than come together and say “huh…maybe that whole climate change thing is real” people say “See? You said the globe was getting WARMER. Obviously that’s not true, because ice storms are COLD.”

Just call me “beef stick.”

In an effort to try and stay connected, many of us lean on tools like social media. But it turns out that the social media platforms we currently have seem to only be exacerbating the divisions in our country…in our world and wrecking havoc on the mental health of our young people (young teen girls, in particular). Sooo…the tools which were built to create connection have aided in only more DISCONNECTION.

Just call me “beef stick.”

The world doesn’t just look dark to me. It looks surreal. There is an element of “you have GOT to be kidding!”

And perhaps the hardest part is the not knowing. Will things ever “return to normal?” We don’t know.

Will we learn from all this and get better as a nation? As a world? Yeah…no idea.

Is this something we are all going through? Or might it be something we are growing through? No clue.

But through all of it, there is a nugget of ruthless, unapologetic, stubborn hope inside of me that absolutely refuses to die.

Because here is the thing…

I don’t know when my house (which is basically a really really nice TENT at this point) will return to “normal.” There are too many variables to create a solid timeline. But when I look down at the wreckage, there is a strange sort of calm that comes over me. I can SEE into my crawl space, now. I can watch, in real time, as the wet and damaged parts start to dry. For months, I was living in a home that I THOUGHT was in great shape. But it wasn’t. Ripping out the carpet and the flooring and even the walls (seriously…whole WALLS needed to be ripped out) was jarring. But at least I can see what’s really happening under the surface. If I hadn’t gotten a chance to see what was happening, I could have gotten legitimately sick from black mold. My house might have amassed even MORE damage than it already had and who KNOWS what would have happened?

My insurance will cover some part of the damage. That’s a blessing. And the restoration company has explained to me that I’m allowed to make upgrades to what I had, before. The insurance company will only cover the quality I had before the work began…but I can just pay for the difference.

In other words…while my house is currently a hot mess, in the long run, I have a pretty solid opportunity to not just fix my house, but make it even more luxurious than when I started. Only this time, I can be confident that everything (literally from the ground up) is stable and will likely remain so for a significant portion of time.

I would like to think that’s where we all are, right now, as a people. That we are just in a phase. I would like to think that while the world currently looks like a hot mess, that’s only because we had to rip everything up to see just how bad the situation was. We THOUGHT everything was fine. We THOUGHT we were settling into a sturdy home. But it wasn’t. We had some leaks. Income stratification. Racism. Political divides. Social isolation. Loneliness. A sense of disconnection from each other…

We may have absolutely NO idea when or if things are going to get better (just as I have no idea when my house will get fixed or improved upon). But there IS an opportunity, here, to think about how we might start to fix things from the ground up. I’m hearing individuals talk about how these times have woken them up and alerted them to a need to adjust their priorities to align with their values. I’m watching as small communities are rallying and making attempts at connecting with people around them. There is a chance that we might create something vibrant from it all.

I don’t necessarily have hope that everything will be sunshine and lollypops. But I do have hope in our ability to navigate a challenging situation. It’s not a guarantee. But it’s a shot.

Much like the character in Dumb and Dumber who was told by the woman he was desperately trying to win the heart of that he only had a one in a billion shot….my heart can’t help but say “So you’re saying there’s a CHANCE.”

And if I’m wrong about all of that? If the world descends into chaos and darkness?

Well…just call me Beef Stick.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. W. M. Brown says:

    Wonderful post and perspective. Thanks for sharing some light!

    1. leahburkhart says:

      Thank you so much for the feedback! I am delighted to know it brought a measure of lightness at a time that can sometimes fees a bit ominously heavy and grey.

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