Tomorrow Ben would turn three. I've realized for those who have lost loved ones...the pain…
I like dreaming for much the same reason I love (cherish, crave) writing, they both have the potential to create new worlds, where there are no rules, up is down, the future is the past, histories and people merge, there is a bright, technicolored tapestry of possibilities. In dreams and writing, our minds can move past a physical reality to imagine a different world, dazzling and bold.
I don't sleep well anymore, so I don't usually dream at night. Ben has only come to me in dreams a handful of times and only twice in a vivid nature, one the night before my Today's Show appearance and another during our DCF investigation when we were considering moving. He had a definite message in both, which I will tell you about another day. Other times, I feel a "sense" of him in my dreams, but do not get to see him again.
But, last night I slept and dreamt, and it was so very refreshing and beautiful. I had miraculously returned from a knee injury and sabbatical from college and found myself surrounded by all of my old college running friends and teammates in my "safe place" from young adulthood...a cross country course. There was a blanket spread out for us to stretch and prepare for the race. They seemed surprised to see me, but at the same time we fell right back into our old groove, like no time had passed. I had made it back for one more season, possibly my senior year, but at the same time I was older, as if I had kids, but did not. Time and reality merged. It was safe, and we laughed and caught up. I told them I hadn't run in over 2 years (make it 10 really) but I had gotten in shape to join them for one more race. We watched college-age women warming up for other races, while my mind slipped back into its old thought patterns: what time do I need to eat my last meal, when do we warm up? The coaches hadn't expected me to join, so a recurring theme in my dreams popped up - I don't have racing shoes! But, they opened a closet on the course, where hundreds of racing shoes tumbled out...I found a pair a size too big, but it would work. We all laid on the blanket discussing time that had passed and how I'd somehow gotten back into race shape. I wished it would rain, so the slushy course would be slower..and much easier for me to compete with the younger, faster girls.
Then, we were walking inside a large university building of chemistry labs, Christmas ornaments and other miscellaneous items...almost like a Home Depot store. I watched the 20-something students mix chemicals, study fumes escaping from beakers and I was taken back to my days of pre-med courses. My gut landed on that familiar emotion of "If I had just gone to medical school instead. That was more right for me." I'd wanted to be a psychiatrist, to help others who had to deal with depression or other mental illnesses. In that moment, I was back at that decision point....could I follow another path, if only in my dreams? Then, I was washing glass instruments with a young, male track runner, who asked me if I'd come back on the JV, recreational team. I laughed "No! You know I actually used to be a good runner, I swear!" I walked down the hallway with a teammate and asked her about my old collegiate best friend and roommate who I could not find or get in touch with...its been a lifelong worry for me..."Is she even alive?" My teammate informed me she was and they ran into each other all the time.
The university building gradually merged into a neighborhood as we walked together. We were all beginning to gather at a family home in the suburbs of Raleigh...I didn't know the owners, but I watched them in the house, with their children. I got a sense that I was living there again and was an attorney downtown, with a family, we were happy. Was this family us? In another life? Was Ben inside, still alive...if but for decisions made years ago? Was I a doctor, lawyer, or writer?
If life is a combination of all potential histories, can I be transported to one where I am holding Ben this summer, camping with him in the mountains, dipping his toes into cold, river water and listening to him squeal, watching him run from the ocean waves again? Or, if life is like the smallest particles of which it is composed, where no potential history is set in stone until it is observed, then can I close my eyes and observe another version...if I go to medical school, is there even a Ben; if we had stayed in Raleigh, today would he be climbing at that same playground just like my girls did, so many years ago; if I simply text Kyle on July 7, 2014, would we all be at the local beach today in Ridgfield, playing kickball in the sand? No...only in my dreams, or writing. Maybe the truth is that this, today, as I sit on our deck in the Colorado sun, writing and crying...this moment was always going to be, and this is who I am and should be...and possibly that is where my strength lies, with infinite possibilities. I am Me, and a writer, and that is good enough in this moment. It just feels right.
I never got to run the race that I'd been preparing for at the beginning of my dream, but I did get to visualize the finish...as we often did in preparation. I somehow won that race, there was a lot of pain, but I pulled it out, and the feeling at the finish line....well, that was an emotion only for dreams or writing....It was:
the immense pain of
a lifetime of burdens
born in one moment,
lightness of being,
with arms lifted high
I am free
where all hurt,
shame turned into
(or always was)
love, joy and
being able to