I dreamed last night that my house burned down. At one point last night I woke up and heard my almost grown kitten walking across the control board on my oven. Beep…beep…beep… I knew I should get up and make sure the controls were locked, but I was so sleepy. I finally got up to check on it – this was my dream – and the stove had turned into a crockpot that was sitting on my sofa. Flames leaped up underneath the appliance on top of my charred sofa. Outside my front window I could see the flicker of flames on my front lawn. It wasn’t just the sofa on fire. It was my house.
I was stunned into stillness. What do I do? With an electrical fire, you don’t use water, but it appeared the rest of the house was on fire. That would require water. A voice said “Don’t stop to get anything. Get out”. I began to try to catch my animals who were by this time confused. I was able to grab all of them and put them outside but couldn’t find their carriers and wasn’t about to go up into the attic. I took Bella and Ashok to my car, but Luna was gone. That is so like Luna. Just when you need him to cooperate, he burns the house down and then runs away. That damned cat….
I got into the car, and the fire department was already arriving. A fireman loaded me and my animals in his truck and we drove away. He said it was better for people not to see it. I was confused. I sort of wanted to see it, but I sort of didn’t. I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything that I owned. I felt …. relieved? It was the same confusing relief I felt when I got laid off from a bad job when I had nowhere to land. There was a freedom to it that shocked me. Relief? Really?
Yesterday was a particularly hard day at work. It is very different than a hard day at work in my corporate life. It felt different in my body. For one thing, I was physically exhausted, and I even cut my hand while bringing some shoes down for a customer. I am accustomed to the mental exhaustion when stressed at work and the lingering questions about my decision-making and my worth. This was not the same. I was tired and exhausted and even bleeding. But we got through the day and actually had a great day for a Monday. But it made me ask myself “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
I think my dream helped me answer that question. My old world has burned down around me. I am left with a much simpler set of responsibilities. And while there is loss from everything that changed, there is a sense of relief that I can sleep better at night. Now when I wake up at 3 AM, I fall back to sleep. When I feel tired and stressed, a good night’s sleep revives me, and I actually know I’m valued at work. Relief is what I feel even thought there’s a lot for me to learn and adjust to. I just have to get through the fire and save what is important.
I woke up truly grateful it was a dream. I sat down with some coffee to watch The Late Show. Stephen Colbert was back in the Ed Sullivan theater for the first time in 460 days. I was moved to tears when he walked out into the audience and danced with an audience member. The world is returning to a new normal with smatterings of the old normal mixed in. I had no idea how I missed that during the last 15-16 months. I’ve cried unexpectedly several times as I witnessed affection, excitement on friend’s faces that I haven’t seen in a very long time and faces without masks. My tenderness was as unexpected as the relief I felt in my dream last night.
In a universal sense, my dream reminded me that the world we are re-approaching has changed a lot. There will be elements of “home”, but it has a whole new structure that will be filled with loss and maybe even relief. We have to be gentle with ourselves and others as we assimilate. If you are left standing, you survived a pandemic. Nobody was left unscathed in some fashion, but we survived. This is the stuff of history books, and it was a true extinction event. Agree with the methods or not, a great many of us survived because of the speed of the vaccine development, mask-wearing and social distancing. Without vaccines, we would still be hiding from this virus just as they are in other countries that are not so fortunate. There is much to be grateful for in this new world.
What burned down for you during the pandemic? Do you feel relieved? Or a great sense of loss? Are your dreams talking to you about it? Are you listening?