Sweet Dreams

There’s one place you can see your loved one again; one place you can go and no-one else can.

The sub-conscious mind is a wonderful thing. At its finest – when we dream we’ve exchanged cheeses with the Queen in Botswana, accompanied only by Freddie Mercury and the Dali Lama on a unicorn – we marvel at how the mind comes up with such stuff and, unless we’re one of those who believes we can interpret this stuff – an Oneirocritic – -who then says “Ahhh…well cheese means…” etc., we just have a laugh and move on with our day.

Once we lose someone though, things take on an altogether darker turn. Elsewhere, I’ve described a dream I had after Gail died in which I instinctively knew I’d been working somewhere else in the country and I was driving home knowing Gail and I had had an argument and we hadn’t spoken for days. This was a lucid dream though, I knew that as soon as I got home and got in that door, I would see Gail again for the first time since July, and my subconscious wouldn’t let me do it. As I put the key in the dream door I woke up. I was utterly crushed.

As I write this I still don’t feel I’ve dreamt about Gail properly. For well over six months I simply never dreamt of her at all. After seven or eight months she started to be in them but somehow out of sight. Gail’s friends would tell me they’d dreamt about her, they’d spoken to her and she to them, but I had nothing. I’ll admit, it was starting to upset me. I discussed it online with a grieving friend – someone I’d never met – who had lost her husband in similarly health-related circumstances and she admitted to similar thoughts to mine. You almost start to ask ‘Why are YOU dreaming about the love of MY life and I’m not?’. You get angry at others for it. Illogical and self-defeating but that’s how the grieving mind turns.

After about eight months the desire to dream about Gail changed as she started to drop in under upsetting circumstances but never as I knew her; it was almost easier to return to the frustrating days when I couldn’t see her. Without fail these latest dreams are really distressing, leaving me shaken and upset when I wake up.

Always in my current dreams, we’ve broken up, she’s left me for someone else, she’s come back to get her clothes after moving out or something equally upsetting. These aren’t lucid dreams either. These are so real that my first thought on waking is always ”She’s left me and I’ve lost her’, to be replaced moments later with the realisation that the situation is real, but for an entirely different reason. It’s like being kicked when you’re down with your assailant then walking on you as they leave the room. These nights – and, frankly, whole days sometimes – can just leave you deflated; bereft all over again for what you’ve lost and angry for whatever the dream situation left you in.

I’m no Oneirocritic, but I understand it’s said that dreaming about being cheated on refers to feelings of insecurity. I’m not sure I feel insecure in myself, but I can guess you don’t need to be a Greek Philosopher to say that a certain amount of self-doubt is inevitable now Gail has gone.

With over 11 months passed as I write this, I’ve got to the stage where I dread to dream. During the months following July I could barely sleep, lying awake for hours going over things in my mind. Then I slept like a log for a few months before ending up in my current state where I stay awake as long as possible to stave off an unwanted dream. Quite where this cycle will go I have no idea of knowing.

I know how Hamlet felt at least.

Living In A Box

I saw an old friend last night; someone I’d not seen seen for many years. Someone who knew me well enough to know who I am and what I’m like, but not someone who had seen me enough in recent years to understand I’d also changed

We talked about the differences since we’d last met. We were both significantly older for one thing. He had also been through a messy divorce and, of course, I’d lost Gail. He asked me a lot about how I was coping, feeling and dealing with things and – as you might expect from things mentioned here – I had much to say on the subject.

He listened and then said something: “You know over the years I’ve done some shitty things; things I’m really ashamed of and wished I’d never done. But I don’t let them bother me. I put them in a box, tie the box up so it can’t come undone and then I shove it in the back of a cupboard and don’t ever get it out. That’s how I cope. Perhaps you should try it?”

Given some of the short-shrift I’d given some well-wishers over the last months, you might have thought I’d have made my excuses and left to avoid unpleasantries. I didn’t though and for an odd reason. You see, it was something Gail used to talk about, using the exact same imagery. When I asked her something about a previous marriage or an unpleasant childhood memory that is exactly what she would say. “I don’t know. I put it in a box a few years ago and I can’t open it now”. It was an interesting comparison.

Perhaps that is how some people cope. Or do they? My friend said it got him through but it’s very hard to say if that person is how they think they are or whether that stuff in the box is actually in there at all. How can you tell? You can get a long way by pretending you have things locked away when you actually don’t. Indeed, knowing Gail as I did, I never thought that box was tied at all and those things escaped all the time. It was why she was so complex and maddeningly infuriating sometimes. Furthermore, by never confronting them, I’m not sure they didn’t do more harm. I’d long associated the Lupus with some bizarre thoughts and actions but I’d never been able to pin down which came first; the illness or the strange behaviour. In fact, in the months following Gail’s passing I’d come to believe the liver failure that had made her so confused at the end that she believed dreams were reality, had actually existed for perhaps a decade or more before the end stage.

But as we used to say when we got tetchy, when one of us was trying to lecture the other “Let’s cut out the cod psychology, eh?”

The fact is I can’t put everything in a box and forget it. The reason? I actually don’t want to. Why deny myself the thoughts of everything good I had just to give myself an easier life now? I was lucky. I had it good for a long time and that was because of Gail. Because I’m devastated by her loss and suffering badly through it, I don’t see the point in denying everything I had just to make things easier from here on till my end.

Nope, you can keep your box. I’ll take the anguish. It makes me remember, keeps me tethered and, in a wonderful juxtapose, gives me some happiness.