Dealing with what is vs…
I had a dream last night (or, rather, this morning) in which I was having a conversation with my therapist. I was explaining to her that my ability to hold things in the proper time frame was diminished. I can no longer estimate how long ago something happened, or when I had a conversation with someone, or what is ahead in the calendar. As a result, time is ‘smooshed’ together … what happened a decade ago seems like it was just yesterday, and what is happening currently seems all enmeshed in what has already happened, and in what is yet to be.
It was a very long, complicated conversation in my dream, and yet it seemed so easily explained there. I think I actually understood the compression of time. The past and present and future seemed in alignment like the planets in their orbits, and sometimes were parallel, perhaps even synchronized in space and time.
In talking during this dream, I tried to explain how the memories of past events became present experiences, and how the future seemed quite visible. What would happen in the future was decided as a fait accompli, and living in anticipation of that was anxiety-producing.
The conversation moved beyond the future, then, to ‘what comes after the future.’ The catholic in me responded heaven; the scientist in me responded death, and the budding spiritualist suggested a rebirth. What might that rebirth involve? Would what I’ve done with this life impact what the next might be? Or was it more like Russian Roulette?
What if I were to come back as a slug … awakening at the edge of a broad concrete city-scape on a hot summer day. Sliding at dawn on the remaining dew, I might begin my new life in search of a good place to live it. But while slithering along on the fast-evaporating dew, a large athletic shoe cast a dark shadow over me before quickly descending and enveloping me in the tread of its sole. Each step forward carried me forward and then slammed me back down as the wearer of the shoe ran across the plaza. Thump-lift – thump-lift it took me, until it reached a course, braided surface of dried hemp, where it scuffed itself clean, leaving bits and pieces of what had been me in the mat.
What would follow that brief second life – perhaps a third chance as a newborn baby being wrapped in fabric and held close against my mother’s warm body as she struggled to stand in the desert heat, moving slowly across the savannah toward an oasis that could provide water. Would she find enough to replenish both herself and me? Or would she fall back to the sand and not make it that far, leaving us both to expire in the heat of the rising sun?
Would I then begin a fourth life, this time as a polar bear cub born nearly hairless in the cold arctic winds, sheltered snugly in the folds of my mother’s fat, resting there only a few weeks until enough fur had come in to allow me to separate from her protection and follow her across the slippery ice toward its edge, where she would slide into the water and catch a passing seal with her great claws, bringing it onto the ice and tearing into its skin and flesh with her sharp teeth, encouraging me to join her in the bloodied feast? Could I tear into it with her? Or would I instead slip into the water, away from the blood, never surfacing.
Would my fifth life again be human, and last more than a few minutes or hours, allowing me to realize my circumstances as the daughter of poverty, living in a country where another girl was only a burden to be abandoned to the expected kindness of strangers? Would I find care and gentleness in this new setting, this new country, this society that had no use for me? Would I know what might have been, or know only the want and basic needs of life? Would that life continue in endless rituals of rising, seeking, foraging, stealing, sneaking and again sleeping until the final sleep finally came?
Would I be poor, unkempt, dirty, hungry, despised and sick? Or would I be born healthy, wealthy and wise due to the suffering of others living as our servants and slaves, a shadow of who they might have been if born in other circumstances?
How many of these very different lives might be ahead for any of us? Do we recognize how fortunate we are to be who we are, where we are, with whomever we share this life? Do we make the most of all we have, and share what we can with those who seem to have less? Do the complaints that we justify in our current existence pale in comparison to what might have been … or to what is still yet to be?
Is heaven waiting for us? Have we made sufficient amends for all of our failings, our slights, our poor choices and faulty behaviors to gain admittance to that heaven? Or are we destined to a hell not best described by fire and brimstone but instead waiting in a different existence? Or is the life we live now, by choice, our heaven or our hell? Are we really ready to end this existence, forgo all claims to what we now know, and begin a new existence on our own, without all we know, and in a new setting, new form with new circumstances?
“Better the devil you know than the one you don’t” is a saying I hear often in my dreams. Would we really risk roulette with our life? Would we dare wish for another?