I miss dreaming. Pre-Ben, I had vivid dreams that I remembered for days. My mind was clearer and I slept well enough to let a bit of my unconscious in at night. I want to see Ben again, in my dreams, but it never seems to happen. There is so much research about our unconscious and dreaming, it's astonishing. I yearn to dream. I had to take a nap this morning after dropping the girls off at school. And finally...
It was a dream that liberated me in ways. Part of my survival mechanism is to build myself up through affirmations ("Everything is fine, we're good. We made it.") and other coping strategies -- running, time with close friends, family time, writing, therapy time with Harley -- so that I build up a wall. It is a tall, strong wall that keeps me from touching the deeper feelings that still remain. I go about "normal life" without feeling or crying or talking about anything from last year. But, once in awhile, cracks form in that wall, often when I am tired or have experienced emotionally trying times, such as the anniversary of his passing, the start of school in a new city, being homesick, etc. And, sometimes these cracks grow to allow a flood of emotion which is ultimately extremely healing. The past few weeks have led up to one such experience today.
It was a dream within a dream, making me feel like I'd finally found true reality. Kyle and I had been searching for a house to buy back in Connecticut. Beautiful, comforting houses that brought a sense of home to us again. We were camping with friends, then I was suddenly transported back to my old hometown in South Carolina...to my grandparents farm. My grandfather was keeping Ben, just like he and my grandmother had done for me years ago while my parents worked. They were playing, Ben was laughing, he was carrying him around the farm, showing him the world. The animals I'd played with, the stream through our land, the trees I'd climbed.
Then, I found myself awaking from a deep dream or slumber. My parents were with me. I had a gut feeling...that something was wrong. I felt it was all a dream, but I didn't believe it yet...that I was awakening to some kind of new reality. My anxiety began to grow, I started pacing, crying, asking questions. I raged against the possibility. I sped in a car to our old farm, but it wasn't there. It was a new house, not ours. Then, I was back in Connecticut. I raced to our old daycare. "He's in there playing, just wait!" I screamed. Kyle and I walked into the daycare...they didn't want to let us in because they all knew. But, we asked if we could just look in the door window to the toddler room. I'll see him there! But, he wasn't with his friends. There was no Ben. There were other toddlers, who had grown and were now around two years old, but no Ben.
I was immediately swept through space and time back to my home in South Carolina. "Does Ben have a twin? Maybe that's what I felt! I still have part of him here, right?!" I asked. They just looked at me, with tears.
My mind swept through all of these landscapes again and I finally let reality flow in. "Ben's dead isn't he. So is my grandfather. Our farm is gone too, isn't it. It's not real. They are all gone." Their expressions confirmed my conclusion.
Sometimes I still feel like I'm living in a dream within a dream. None of this can be real, right? In my dream, oh my, I could feel him, feel my grandfather too. I was more comforted than I have been since the day before Ben passed. I was back in my normal life, with our family of friends, love, comfort, life, no heartbreak. I've landed on a new shore and I'm crawling around to build our new life. Sometimes all of this, past and future, feels utterly impossible. And, from the very first moment that night of July 7th, I built a tall, strong, impenetrable wall because I had to survive. It is a wall of "don't think, don't feel reality, don't love, don't grieve, don't let others in, just breathe, eat, keep your heart beating and live." But, when does that wall become a prison? When I can't dream anymore, feel Ben, see him in my dreams, feel loss or the need to love again, let others in, when I avoid the simple act of allowing my heart to feel...reality or anything else? I believe my dream this morning taught me that I need to allow the broken moments to be filled with the simple act of sitting and feeling and missing Ben....to allow reality to heal itself so we can build anew. Walls have their purpose, but freedom, even if it involves intense emotions, is much more beautiful than a prison where nothing gets in and nothing escapes. That's not living at all, that's just surviving. And, I want to do more than just survive.
I just wonder...in this dream within a dream that is reality or Heaven...was my grandfather really walking Ben around our old farm today while I slept?