June 01, 2011
Last night I had a powerful dream. Now this can get complicated in a hurry, so lets define some terms.let’s call the dream I had “dream-A”. It was inside dream-A, that I had “dream-B”. In other words I dreamt that I was dreaming. Finally lets call being awake fore real, “waking-reality”.
So, in dream-A, I was handicapped, and wheelchair bound. In the dream I wasn’t surprised at this, and understood myself to be handicapped for years due to some accident.
Now I would like to take a moment to consider a very curious aspect of dreams. Namely, that in a dream you can “understand” something to be the case, without support from reality, experience, or memories. For example, you could have a dream where your sister was about to jump off a building, and you may scream out in panicked despair, love, and fear for her life. When in fact, you don’t have a sister at all. Yet in the dream you believe you do with all the certainty and conviction as if it were fact. What’s interesting is that you might think that in order to be convinced of having a sister, you would need a lifetime’s worth of shared memories and experiences with this person, before your mind would accept her presence in your dream as your sister. When really, your mind can be driven to the same conviction without any such proof.
So anyway, back to dream-A.
Reality as I knew it, was one where I was reliant on a wheel chair, and had been for years. I didn’t think critically about what the accident was, exactly how long ago it was etc. I just knew myself to be crippled, and believed and understood it completely. What was interesting was while in dream-A (where I was handicapped) I had never really accepted it as part of my self-concept. I was like a rich guy who became poor and wouldn’t accept the fact, and dressed in tattered suites, or some middle aged guy who hits on teenage women because he still thinks of himself as a young stud. Similarly I was handicapped but didn’t really see myself as disabled. But in dream-A, I had that moment where it finally sunk in, and I came to truly acknowledge the reality of my disability. I thought with bitter irony that all the times I saw handicapped people and felt sorry for them, that I was actually no different, and that people must look at me with the same sense of pity. I felt shame when I thought of all the women I’ve dated, and how they were all doing me a favor by choosing to tolerate my disability, and that I never really acknowledged their sacrifice to be with me. I felt like a pathetic charity case, and a burden to my friends and family. These and many other bitter, sad thoughts suddenly flooded me in EXACTLY the way it would in waking-reality if I was disabled and finally coming to terms with it for the first time.
After considering all these things, I arrived at a place of peace. I came to truly accept my disability as part of who I am, that there was nothing I could do to change that, and I just had to accept it and move on.
Then I was in line at a drug store to buy shampoo.
I was far back in a long line, and noticed that every checkout stand had a long line of people. We were all annoyed to be waiting so long, and upon closer inspection I saw that there were no tellers at any of the registers. I thought rather indignantly that if the drugstore wasn’t going to do their part and have people working their stations to sell me this shampoo, then I wouldn’t do my part as a customer in buying it from them. If they were going to waste my time, I would waste their money. So I rubbed the bar-code off the shampoo bottle (so as not to set off the detectors) and walked out of the store with a self righteous, indignant, and slightly triumphant attitude.
It was night, and everything was wet from the rain. The exit of the drugstore was below street level and a steep, rain soaked, shaggy red carpeted staircase led the way up. I looked around for a wheelchair ramp, and got even more angry and frustrated when I saw there wasn’t one. I was about to go back into the store to look for another exit, when suddenly I realized that I had walked out the drugstore, and wasn’t in need of a wheelchair. For a brief moment I was confused and amazed, then realized with a pang of bitterness that this must be a dream (dream-B), and that soon I will wake up to my crippled wheelchair bound life (dream-A). I then resolved that as long as I was lucid dreaming, at least I would enjoy it until I woke up, and began walking up the steps.
Now that I realized I was dreaming (B), the sensation of walking up steps, seemed strange and awkward since I hadn’t walked in so many years, but there was also a note of familiarity that recalled my youth before the accident.
I walked on and eventually found myself walking up a steep narrow stone path to the back of a provincial ivy covered cottage basking in slanted rays of warm light. The sun had lowered itself between the smoothed forms of distant mountains, across from a vast vineyard. A couple cats wrestled in the house and sent up swirls of dust which sparked in the amber light.
Then I woke up.
Simultaneously from both dreams, to waking-reality. For about ten seconds I didn’t know if I was crippled or not. Remember that I was never aware dream-A was a dream, I thought dream-A was reality, and dream-B was dream-A. So when I woke I didn’t think to examine the reality of dream-A. Which made things confusing because the reality of dream-B, which I understood to be fake (in dream-A) was more like waking-reality than dream-A was.
For ten seconds I felt this intense spike of fear, dread, hope, and confusion not knowing what was real and if I could walk. Of course the dream realities faded and I felt my legs moving under the sheets and I remembered that in waking-reality I’m perfectly healthy and have full use of my legs.
I closed my eyes and a wave of relief and gratitude washed over me. I don’t think I can even begin to describe the intense feeling of gratitude I felt in this moment. In my dream-A which represented many years, I had wanted nothing more than to walk again, I would have given anything, sacrificed anything to walk. And my wish had come true. I could finally walk again, my prayers had been answered.
I thought about how often I define my life by how it falls short of my ideals, where I focus on the goals I haven’t met or situations or people I have a problems with. This dream was a real lesson in humility, that taught me how truly privileged I am.