When I lay my head down at night I prepare myself for whatever colorful, emotional trek I am about to embark. A dystopian hell in which I cannot find my family. A rendezvous with a random high school acquaintance who hasn’t even crossed my mind in 20 years. An altered memory with an outcome much better or much worse than the real thing. One of my children drowning. The possibilities are endless and, all too often, arduous.
It seems silly to say, but dreams are such an integral part of my make-up. They affect my mood. Sometimes they determine my energy level for the day. They drive me and drain me. I’ve even been known to have a prophetic dream or two—a quality that freaks out Mel. I assure him it’s just intuition painting me a scene since I’ve never been one to listen. I learn shit the hard way. Sometimes twice.
Dreams also come to me as a form of therapy. Even though I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve or appear to be an open book, there’s a whole-fucking-lot beneath the surface. The iceberg analogy doesn’t even cut it. No. Icebergs are white, bright, clean. Solid yet less dense than the massive ocean it occupies. Imagine more of a trench-filled ocean with some hammerheads, a few Portuguese man ‘o wars, the Kraken and a happy little archipelago cause your girl likes to come up for sunshine sometimes. My dreams, they give me the gills to breathe down there. A light to see all the creatures lurking in the trenches. A voice to say what I’ve always wanted to say without anyone in real life knowing the things that haunt me. That’s the pirate booty.
When I’m lucky, a dream comes to bestow a level of empathy and understanding I’d never obtain otherwise. It’s like a divinely-taught, tuition-free course in humanity. And once I catch those feelings I can access them anytime thereafter. Kinda like having my very own shelf full of dream jars (like Roald Dahl’s The BFG).
I had one of those dreams several months ago. So affecting I woke up in tears and went through the motions of the day in a heavy stupor. I couldn’t get the imagery out of my head. The poignant picture my subconscious painted as to say here—now you understand.
A person I love, someone in my family, called to let me know he and his wife were pregnant. I felt an immeasurable sense of joy knowing that we’d have an addition to our family, a little girl maybe, with a likeness of the person so dear to my heart. A sense of peace washed over me knowing this person would soon experience a love unlike anything he’d ever known. This person—more than anybody—deserved that.
Then some other odd and irrelevant stuff happened at that point, in the surreal Salvador Dali way that time passes in dreams, when I got the call to come to the hospital. His wife had a late-term miscarriage.
At the hospital, a doctor came to the waiting room and asked me to come with him. He took me into a small conference room with a projector and proceeded to explain to me that the wife would be experiencing crippling grief, and I should be there for her as much as possible.
On the projector was an animation: an outline of a woman with a bloom of lush, colorful flowers in her womb. Then, slowly, those flowers began to to wilt. A vine connecting the wilting flowers in her womb to the garden in her mind caused those flowers to wilt too. One by one, all the petals fell. A striking image of grief and depression.
With the falling of each petal the outline of another woman came into the frame, until she was enveloped by a tribe of love and sisterhood. The vines and stems began to perk up, regaining its color until new flower buds appeared.
It wasn’t the same garden but she would be okay.
When I woke up (in tears), I knew I wanted to incorporate the imagery in a story I’ve been working on for some time. I’ve since tried, but words continue to fall short of the image; plus, my writing has been shit lately.
I’ll never do the image justice, neither with words nor drawings, but if anything, I now know how to be the tribe.