It was a dream.
I was sitting on a chair, outside, in the middle of the street. I looked up the road, to the left, and then up the road to the right also. I was precisely at a fork in the road. I looked down at my hands; they were a smooth, chocolate-brown. I was a black woman.
I saw two women appear in front of me.. daughters of mine, perhaps. They were full grown, and I felt like I was in my 50s. One of them was in her own world, talking on the phone, slowly stepping her way across the street; the other appeared to be bustling around, tidying up a kitchen or living room, although neither of those were here. We were all outside. But it really felt like we were inside of a home.
With a slow, deliberate motion, using my right hand, I pressed my finger on the “last” computer key, immediately feeling a sense of relief. Intuitively, I knew that I had caught up on everything by now; paid the bills for the month, and sorted out my finances.. I had called my granddaughter, Erin, earlier that afternoon and told her I loved her. I had made arrangements for everything else. They would all be ready for me to go now.
I don’t think I said anything, but I don’t think I had to. They knew I was leaving. The two women walked over to where I was, still seated in my chair, and then they were standing maybe two feet in front of me. They still felt very far away.
One of them leaned down and peered into my face, smiling warmly. “You know that we’re going to come and join you someday — wherever it is you’re going!” She sounded excited. It was like I was going on a trip. Yeah — a tour of the stars. “And you’ll figure out how to come back to us after you leave, too.. you’ll still be here, somehow.” She said this and she smiled at me again while the woman next to her just looked at me. She didn’t seem to be happy or sad that I was leaving. Were these my daughters?
I decided, in that moment, that it was time. I didn’t have to pull a trigger, grip onto a knife, or knock back any pills. I just made the conscious decision to die.
I let my eyelids flutter and my vision blurred as the two women began to fade into the background. The background became blindingly white and fell back, further away from me (or was I retreating from it?); the women’s once clear faces turned into ominous, non-descript, black silhouettes as I continued drifting backwards and falling away from them into what felt like a well. To my knowledge, I still hadn’t left my seat. Suddenly, fear gripped my soul as I realized the truth and as I struggled to communicate it to them.. to warn them. Just before slipping out of this realm, I screamed two words; I felt my lips struggling to form them and could even sense the air escaping from my mouth, and I watched as the dark, far away silhouette of the woman who had spoken to me tilted its head ever so slightly to the left (had she heard me? was she bending over my physical body now, trying to catch and make out these final, whispered words, this imperative warning? they had to know — it wasn’t what they thought it would be –)
This is what I screamed:
And then I woke up, alive. Trembling. My heart racing. Moved.
What does it all mean?
I dreamt this dream on Thursday night. It really shook me up. Unable to fall back asleep after waking up from it, I spent a good bit of time analyzing where it came from and what it could possibly mean. My thoughts are below.
Everyone views the event called “death” (and the act of dying) differently. Some are terrified of it, and many aren’t at all phased (for many of these, it’s simply that they don’t ever take time to think about it. I fall into the latter group). I’ve always kind of prided myself in being completely unafraid of dying; every time I anticipate a fun trip, I’m convinced — “MANNNNN. I’m going to die before that date even rolls around. UGH. Oh well.” If I die, it’ll be an inconvenient bummer, but it’s totally nbd. Inevitably, I don’t die, and I end up having a great time on the trip, or vacation, or whatever it is. Similarly, every single time I hop onto my motorcycle and cruise down my driveway in first gear, I am prepared, mentally, to check out of this life. If a wreck happens, well.. whether I’m sent grinding into the concrete or shot airborne, I’m ready to submit to it. Why fight it? It sounds dramatic, but you never really know WHAT’S going to happen out on the road; hell, you could choke on your next meal and fall out (I certainly hope that you DO NOT). Anyways.. the point is, when I imagine dying early – dying young, which I feel oddly certain that I will – I don’t associate it with any sense of loss, or deprivement, or sadness; I feel very privileged to have lived the life that I have — to have experienced and discovered and learned everything that I have — and I am ready to go whenever the time “comes.” But honestly, after dreaming what I did on Thursday night, my perception of death has changed just a little.
It’s like this: I’m glad that I don’t waste time creating morbid fantasies of how I might die and then helplessly worrying over them, but I could definitely do a better job of appreciating being alive and making the most of this life. That’s the honest truth.
Whether you believe in reincarnation, heaven and hell, or something else, MOST people foster some kind of hope for the afterlife — for a life after this one, a second time around, or even a continuation of this life (this consciousness). I don’t share this hope. Between the two ideas quoted above, I, personally, would stake a little more faith in the idea of reincarnation than in an eternal, flawless paradise (because it makes sense to me; energy can’t be created or destroyed, right? So maybe you’ll die in 12 years and then come back, a moment or a month later, as a human being again and GET that ‘second time around,’ or maybe you’ll luck out and return as a tree or a burrito instead). Who. knows. Regardless, I digress. No one really knows, and unlike many, I don’t pretend to know. I do admire those who have a deep-seated faith in something and I, in a sense, even envy them of that. Faith is comforting.. it is grounding. But me? I’m content to question and wonder and free fall. In this lifetime, anyways. 🙂
Where, in the past, I wasn’t at all afraid to die and didn’t really exercise any great “resistance” toward it (other than taking basic care of my body — eating, drinking, sleeping, seeking out shelter — and wearing seat belts and helmets and locking doors), I’m taking a more active approach to life now. And I don’t mean physically trying “harder” to remain alive; I mean mentally, spiritually, and psychologically staying alive and seeking out life.
I’ve been fending off suicidal thoughts, on and off, for 9 months now. It’s no secret. I felt like dying again just last week. I struggled with mild depression as a teenager and it’s definitely re-emerged in my adult life with a considerable force. Recent life events have certainly contributed to intensifying these feelings and creating these thoughts, and I’m doing the best I can to acknowledge, entertain and battle these demons while remaining positive and present. Dreaming of dying two nights ago certainly helped extinguish a huge number of fires.
As I died in the dream — as I relaxed into death — I felt the weight of my decision. The full weight of it. The weight of years lost, hearts broken, creativity spurned, experiences undeveloped, adventures unexplored, knowledge left unknown and achievements left unlocked. The most prominent sensation was feeling scared – terrified. It was heart-wrenching. I couldn’t, after a certain point, “change” my decision, and I knew it. I felt utterly powerless in those final minutes — I knew I had done wrong, and there was no way to turn around, go back, or make reparations — and as reality quickly slipped away from me, darkness literally swallowed my entire being whole.
So here’s what I gleaned from the dream.
- Stay here. It’s super cliche, but there is SO MUCH LIFE for you to live. Right now, I’m living for the job that I love, the music and words that soothe my being, the goofy but substantial burritos that nourish and delight me every single time, and these coffee-shop-and-skateboarding Saturday mornings and afternoons where I can abandon my adulthood for a little while and simply live and exist, for just a few hours, as a simple, happy, and carefree child who knows nothing of mortgages, identity crises, or depression. If it feels like you’ve got nothing and nothing to live for, find something to live for.
- When skies become gloomy, distract yourself. At my worst moments, where it’s hard for me to trust my own heart and mind, I find that distracting myself is helpful. Watch a movie. Read a book. Write a book. Go outside and do ANYTHING. Draw a cartoon, a dog, a scene. Window shop. Grocery shop. Go ask Chipotle to make you a burrito. Distract yourself until those intense feelings of gloom have drifted off into the distance, and then return to the present moment – these pressing duties and inquiring persons – with a stable state of mind and sort your shit out.
- Stay present. Usually, it’s looking weeks, months, and miles ahead of yourself (into the future) or too far over your shoulder (into the past) that causes you to feel overwhelmed and distressed. The future is uncertain, so it can understandably weigh you down if you focus on it TOO much. You want to prepared for future events, of course, by assessing and planning for your future (because it can actually be irresponsible to be SO in the “present moment” that you neglect setting yourself up for future success), but do so in a reasonable manner.. not in excess, and not obsessively. For me, it’s usually a tendency to relive the past that leaves me feeling down. I can cite a recent example. Two, actually.
I was cleaning out the closet in the master bedroom last night (it’s nearly empty now) when I ran across two items that ripped open some relatively fresh wounds. The first was a stupid basket of Easter eggs. Growing up in a conservative Seventh-day Adventist home, my brother and I weren’t allowed to celebrate Easter, so the “fun, whimsical magic” of that holiday (chocolate bunnies, colored eggs, and baskets full of treasure) was totally lost on us. When my ex-husband, Christopher, discovered this, he surprised me one year by going out, purchasing a dozen plastic Easter-eggs (all different colors: purple, pink, blue, green, orange, and yellow), a few tiny toys, and miniature-sized candies. He then inserted these “surprises” into each of the eggs and had me isolate myself in a room while he went around the house and outside the perimeter of the home, hiding eggs. Once he’d finished, he retrieved me from the room and I then got to mosey around for a solid thirty minutes, finding eggs and discovering the prizes within. There was so much smiling, so much delight, so much laughter. It’s a beautiful memory.. and running across those stupid eggs in that dusty bedroom closet last night was a reminder of how thoughtful and loving a spouse he was. I picked up two of the eggs (a blue and green one) from the floor and then immediately dropped them, falling into a fit of tears. I stumbled into my bedroom and curled into a ball on the bed. My German Shepherd, attuned to the sound of me crying, came running down the hallway to check on me. He jumped up onto the bed, curled up beside me, and licked the back of my neck while I wailed miserably into a pillow. Not a pretty sight.
The second incident was running across a gray “I ❤ Jesus” beanie that I purchased way back in 2006. Did running across this 10-year-old beanie cause me to become emotional because I miss Jesus? Sadly, no. No offense. It broke my heart because I remembered where I’d purchased it and who I’d been with: at a flea market in Tampa, Florida with my old best friend, and the first girl I ever fell in love with.. Melissa. I don’t want to say anything else, and I also don’t need to. If you’ve ever had a great, big, deep love and they just looked away, shrugged their shoulders and shattered your heart, you can understand exactly what I felt, holding onto that stupid motherf*cking beanie.
Final tip I picked up from the dream:
Don’t just passively live.. live actively. Pursue your dreams, fight for your own happiness, seek out adventures and, if it doesn’t really come to you naturally, muster the motivation, draw up the drive and summon the courage to create a good and comfortable and exciting life for yourself. You don’t have to travel to Argentina to have a good and exciting time, you know; have you ever shopped at a thrift store? Visited downtown, relative to where you live? Gone driving without a GPS, tried out a new sport, picking up a weird hobby or Googled a recipe for a meal you’ve never had before? When you’re in a good place, you’re enabling and preparing yourself to be a comforting and supportive resource for others. I’ve been getting rid of so much shit over the course of the last four months.. couches, tables, beds, televisions, mirrors, trinkets, and clothes.. and it’s been liberating. Ridiculously liberating. Our society places a shit ton of emphasis on possessing things and decorating your body, car, and home.. but at the end of the day, ALL that really matters is relationships. The relationship you have with YOURSELF (what is that like?) and the quality of the relationships that you have with others. Live actively. Love actively and unconditionally. Live a life of adventure. There is no other way.
Still here, and steering myself away from the dark..