Dreams, World Kidney Day, Poetry, & Being Ojibwe

I had a wild & long dream yesterday. I love dreams. I’m very glad to be from a culture that places a lot of emphasis & spirituality in them. The older I get, the more comfortable I feel about offering up personal interpretations of them. I know that interpretations are possibilities. There’s so much in them that can mean so many different things & sometimes in waking life I’ll stumble upon something from a dream & think “Oh, I bet that had to do with this.” Do I know enough to be able to concretely say “this is what it means?” No. But I love the ideas & possible meanings they inspire & I love taking inspiration from them for my poems.

I’m a day sleeper. I have been for over a decade. It’s a lot easier to function at night due to my illnesses so my schedule works wonderfully for me. Even as a child I was always waking up in the middle of the night thinking about things. I’ve just always felt better about being awake at night rather than the day time. I have never required much sleep & I’m someone that can have a very vivid dream even during a nap. I like writing them down. When I’ll have a week or longer of not being able to remember them, I’ll get sad. Then they come back with a vivid vengeance & all feels right again. When I wake up from a particularly vivid one, I feel more rested. It might be weird. But that’s ok. Dreams are cool.

So this dream I had started at my parents’ house in Florida. I got a call on my old flip phone from a friend. This friend turned out to be a Walking Dead character. Aaron. I don’t know why he showed up in my dream, but there he was. He was calling to say he hadn’t seen me in awhile & wanted to meet up with me on his lunch break at a McDonald’s. I asked my mom if I could borrow the car & after grilling me about where I was going she said yes. (I haven’t driven a car in about 12 years due to seizures so this was already strange & dated since I don’t live in the same state as my parents anymore.) It was this little maroon K-car of my parents’ that I drove for awhile after my Buick died & before I bought a new one of my own. That thing was like driving a golf cart. I loved it. I’ll never forget it.

There was a mob of people gathered around one of the entrances to the McDonald’s & there were gargoyles on top of the building. Instead of waiting in this long line, I found a side entrance. This McDonald’s was so huge too. There were so many empty tables in it so I couldn’t figure out why there was an angry mob waiting to get in outside. (I should mention that a lot of the time I have an awareness in my dreams. I can think things. Sometimes I don’t play myself in the dreams. This time I was me, though.) I spotted Aaron from The Walking Dead sitting with a couple of people & then they were all gathering their trash & belongings like they were leaving. He sees me & says, “Oh, I’m so sorry! I forgot to call you. There’s a lot going on at work so they made us take an early lunch & I have to get back now.” Well, that sucks. I said goodbye & then figured I’d get something to eat so I wait in a pretty long line for that.

I think a double cheeseburger was involved in my order, but I don’t know. I haven’t eaten that stuff in a long time. (I’ll get to that later.) Now, there are still a ton of tables that are empty but for some reason three teenagers asked me if they could sit with me. I let them & they just pretended I wasn’t there basically. They were obnoxious. Throwing stuff. It didn’t bother me though. I think I was oblivious to them too. I looked around & I saw a man with a bottle of boiling mustard on his table. It was getting so hot it was about to slide off the table & a McDonald’s employee ran up to it to stop it from flying off the edge. The man thanks her & continues a conversation with another elderly gentleman two tables away.

Then the dream cuts to what looks like an interview on a reality TV show. It’s the guy. It says “McDonald’s Consumer” on the bottom of the dream screen. He’s the only one in frame but he’s outside of the McDonald’s & I can hear the mob growing angrier somewhere near him in the background.

“I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the meatless Big Mac,” he tells the camera. “I didn’t think it would taste like real meat. I had to stop eating meat due to health problems. Well, I tried the burger & it does taste like real meat! It really does. I come in every day now & I eat four of them, loaded with mustard.”

Then I’m back inside & the boiled mustard is acting up again. More of the mob comes inside & they’re still angry about something. It’s starting to look like mayhem in here, so I get up looking for a trash receptacle. I realize I haven’t even touched my food. The double cheeseburger is still on my tray in its wrapper. I can’t find a trash bin anywhere. Then there’s a loud pop & a sizzle & there’s a flood of Sprite coming out of the soda fountain. Elders start surfing in it. The teenagers I was sitting with don’t notice & keep throwing food at each other. Some people are trying to stop the Sprite flow. Others are still in the middle of ordering & don’t seem to notice anything wrong.

I need to get out of here but now both entrances are flooded with Sprite & people. I look around & find this exit that has black lines painted all over it. I open the door & I’m surprised to find a man in a wheelchair. He’s been waiting for the door to open so he can get in since this is the only entrance with a ramp. I hold the door open for him, he thanks me, & outside it’s night time suddenly. The parking lot is just as mobbed but I make my way to the car. I see my youngest sister & my best friend running toward me from the car.

“We’ve been waiting for you forever!” They say. “Mom says you have to come home now,” my sister says. They tell me they need a ride too. Then both of them try to wrestle the keys from me to insist that they will drive home. My best friend was the worst. They’re not listening to me when I tell them my dad will throw a fit if I let someone not in the family drive the car. My youngest sister won’t stop laughing. Then they both start laughing. I accuse them of being drunk & then they finally give up & go into the backseat.

It’s so hard to get out of this parking lot. The mob is throwing bottles around. There’s a Sprite sprout still leaking from somewhere. I can see my friend & sister laughing hysterically about everything in the rearview mirror while I’m nervously trying not to hit anyone. Then I wake up.

Pretty wild. & it stuck with me for a few hours after I woke up. I wrote a little poem about it that’s on Twitter & Instagram that I’ll also share here:

gargoyles guarding McDonald’s,
elders surfing on waves of Sprite,
& a man boiling a mustard bottle
in my dream

I don’t eat that stuff
because I’ve seen
how they’re bound & determined
to kill my people with cheap,
delicious, but deadly vittles

kidney failure
is a worse nightmare

I started thinking about the dream & how World Kidney Day is today, March 11th. I started thinking about my grandma’s decline & death from kidney failure due to Diabetes. I started thinking about the Polycystic Kidney Disease I live with from my grandpa’s side. I started to think about how natives die at a higher rate from certain diseases such as heart disease & Diabetes. I started to think about how food choice & access is one of the factors of that. (I should clarify that my Grandma was native, my Grandpa was not.)

It’s easy & cheap to eat fast food even though it’s not good for us. This isn’t to shame or judge anyone for the food choices they make. I don’t care what you eat or don’t eat, but I do know the importance of good nutrition on our bodies & how food plays roles in our health. I think about how badly I used to eat. Sure, I was skinnier because I was burning off everything because I was very active before my diseases caught up with me & became debilitating, but I ate horribly. I can’t even imagine trying to eat the things I did when I was younger because pretty much everything makes me nauseated now. (Even healthy foods. That’s just part of living with PKD. Don’t worry, if you’ve made it this far, I’ll get to that.) I had to eat this way due to convenience & not having the funds to buy healthier things at the store. I don’t have any idea why healthier things are so much more expensive. It doesn’t make much sense to me. It all depends on where you’re at too I think. I might be wrong, but I swear produce is cheaper here in Nevada. I remember being blown away while grocery shopping when I lived in Florida. Maybe it’s all different now, I don’t know. I’m very blessed & thankful to be able to afford to eat better now especially since I really need to do all I can to keep my kidneys working for as long as I can as the years go by. I don’t deprive myself though. I still love things like pizza & Taco Bell is my weakness. I try to eat them in moderation. McDonald’s though…last time I ate it I swore it off because it made me so sick & now I can’t even possibly crave it. That’s probably a good thing. I can’t eat much meat anymore & I’m thankful for all the meatless options that are available to me now & that I’m a big fan of fruits & vegetables. It doesn’t mean I’m vegetarian though. If there were venison in front of me, I’d have to eat it. I’m Ojibwe after all. πŸ™‚

Now I’ll talk a bit about my Polycystic Kidney Disease. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what it is, but basically it’s a genetic disease that causes cysts to grow on your kidneys which can eventually lead to kidney failure. No two cases are alike. Some live their entire lives with no issues, some don’t. Old, young, doesn’t matter. It’s going to treat you how it treats you & although you’ll share similar complaints & stories with other PKD patients, you’ll probably still see some differences in how it affects you. There is no cure at this time. There is a medication available now that may potentially help some patients, but I’m not very impressed by the numbers in the studies & my doctors aren’t either. However, it may help some people so that is a good thing. The risk of it possibly leading me to kidney failure sooner isn’t worth it for me because I’ve been doing well for so long & I don’t want to mess that up. For more information, feel free to visit the PKD Foundation website — www.pkdcure.org.

I’m 37 & found out I had PKD when I was in my teens. My mother has it, her father had it, my uncle had it. My mom received a transplant from my cousin years ago & is doing well. My grandfather & uncle are no longer with us. My grandpa was blessed to have a transplant himself & he lived just past 80. My uncle unfortunately, passed at age 44 after a surgery to remove one of his kidneys that just became too big & was causing other issues. My husband also has PKD in his family. Their experiences are not mine to tell.

I am currently in stage 1, which is good because that means my kidneys are still functioning. No idea if or when they will get worse. It can happen quickly. It can happen over time. I get bloodwork frequently to monitor them & I’m always walking around like there are two giant bombs in me. My kidneys are currently the size of footballs & the fun note on all my scans is that they’re “grossly & abnormally large”. Yes, they’re gross, but it’s all pretty normal to me by now. Aside from giant painful boulders inside of my abdomen, it’s harder to walk for longer periods now that I have neuropathy. I still try though. Even if I can only go to the mailbox, I try. If I have to go shopping or some place with a lot of walking, I have to use a wheelchair. I’m often nauseated. I’m in pain every single day. I have to hope I don’t get kidney stones or infections. I have to eat kidney healthy foods & take my blood pressure medication. Even if I do all this though, it’s not going to make it go away. It’s not going to help me if they start failing. It’s just a way to possibly prevent my going into kidney failure sooner rather than later. It hopefully will keep me off of dialysis longer. That’s the goal.

Since I’ve eaten better & drink an awesome kidney health tea my auntie makes I haven’t had as many stones or infections as I used to. I don’t feel nearly as nauseated or ill after eating & hey, I’m still in stage 1. I think about people who are ill though who can’t or don’t have access to better nutrition & it makes me sad. I swear, it’s like the genocide is still going on when it comes to nutrition availability in native communities & I’m always glad to hear about my family that still is able to keep gardens & hunt so that they can have good, fresh food & hopefully keep them in my life longer. I know alcoholism plays a huge role in the numbers regarding native health & I’m also happy that there are more programs in place to help those suffering from addiction. I’ve had it all over my family & I know it’s a disease. People with addiction problems are just as ill as I am with my kidney disease & they need just as much help as I do when it comes to managing what they have to live with everyday. I don’t like the “well, it’s your fault” mentality. We all have to live in this world & cope with traumas & issues however we can. No two bodies or minds or alike. One’s poison is another’s medicine & vice versa. I’m someone who has insane reactions to medicines so I have to be extremely careful when it comes to them & am glad to find some natural things that can help me. Others’ lives are saved by medications. So I’m not on any side when it comes to what types of treatment you choose or use to make yourself feel better. We’re all just trying to survive.

I love being Ojibwe. I love the resilience of my people & our ability to endure & overcome health issues, relocation, racism, & plenty of other issues. I love our spirituality, & that it places a huge emphasis on dreams & their meanings. I was raised in a blend of native traditions & Catholicism & both still play a huge part in my spirituality. These are roots that help me through a lot. I love feeling comfortable enough to talk about all these things now because for a very long time I wasn’t. I haven’t really liked myself for a long time, & I’m glad I’m starting to again. I was always constantly confused about what would be acceptable to talk about regarding my life. I like to keep a lot private still, but at the same time I think about how many others are out there sharing their lives & experiences & how touched I am when I read them.

This pandemic has helped me in one way. I’m seeing the importance of so much & how absolutely unnecessary other things are to my life. I’m being me more. I don’t have to “hide” so much. This doesn’t mean I’m ready to leave the house more because I’m definitely not, & don’t know when I will feel alright doing so, but I can be more vulnerable now & invite people into my life via blogging & social media. I don’t have much inspiration other than my own life so maybe allowing others to see some of it without hiding it in metaphors will create a better understanding between myself & those who read me.

I want to close by letting you all know I’m here for you if you need an ear or set of eyes via text. Don’t hesitate to contact me. I correspond with quite a few people through emails & hand written letters & even though I can’t always be timely with replies, you will eventually hear back from me within a week or so. πŸ™‚ Writing letters or emails is one of my favorite things to do. The past couple of days I haven’t been feeling so well, but I’m thankful that I’ve been able to write so much from my cozy bed. I really need to tackle this stack of books to read though, so hopefully I’ll be able to do that this week.

Thanks so much for reading my writing, for your kind comments, & for sharing my work with others. It means a lot to me. ❀ Take care all.

Note: Again, I would like to say that this post is in no way a shame, blame, or judgement post about how anyone chooses to live or manage their health. In my opinion, how you take of yourself is no one’s business other than your own & your health care providers’ & what you choose to share or not share about it is your own as well. I only wish to share my experience & I’m not an expert on anything regarding health or nutrition. I’m also not perfect in my own habits, nor am I a picture of anything close to any kind of perfect health.

Published by Jennifer Patino


7 thoughts on “Dreams, World Kidney Day, Poetry, & Being Ojibwe

  1. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing yourself with us. We all have something don’t we! I did not think you came across as shaming. I’ve heard of PKD. I dream a lot too but only remember bits sometimes. I have written a few down, because I think they may mean something.
    Thx again! Talk with you later.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An outstanding piece of writing! I haven’t read anything like this! The dream you mention here has such detail! As you say here, you really have “vivid” dreams! It’s also nice that you’re able to share with your readers how much dreams influence your poetry! I’m really sorry about your health problems Jennifer! It was heartbreaking to read them! Still, I admire your courage in living with them and writing about them here! I hope things improve on the health front for you! My best wishes to your Ojibwe community, and I hope the problems you are facing regarding food etc. are addressed soon! It is also nice of you to share your spirituality with your readers! Your blend of Ojibwe beliefs and Catholicism. I already think that you are a very talented and unique poet, and that your work will survive! Best wishes to you my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

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