Day Twenty of lockdown and though I wished last night for sweeter dreams they didn’t come. Instead I awoke in the early morning in the grip of a death dream. The death dream comes in variations. In one I am being told I am going to die. In another I am in the process of dying, or, as happened this morning, the doctors are outlining a treatment plan. I was told this would entail the removal of a large chunk of me from under my arm in an operation that would last eighteen hours. ‘But I won’t survive under anaesthetic for that long,’ I cried. These concerns were airily dismissed by the surgeon who continued to patiently explain the time involved in reconnecting and sealing hundreds of blood vessels and sewing me back together again. ‘But I can’t agree to this for the operation will surely kill me,’ I insisted realising with a sinking feeling that either way I was going to die.
When I told my friend about the dreams of these past nights she gasped, ‘But I had the cancer dream last night too!’ You have to wonder whether nightmares are on the rise in the time of coronavirus, whether more people are dreaming of death? Given that this is something each of us will face and must try to come to terms with, the narrative running in the media in relation to the virus isn't helpful. There is little analysis here. Death is being conflated with danger, with fear, to be avoided at all costs. In Buddhist teachings contemplation of death during a meditation is central to the practice, helping us find the courage to accept the inevitable while encouraging us to live more fully in the present.
Today I derived some comfort from hearing my friend recount her dream. I decided I am not weird. Yet still the echoes of the dream, a general sense of powerlessness and unease, reverberated in my head and trailed me through the morning right up to the afternoon walk.
But oh what a walk, it lifted me out of my poor humour, for the wind was blowing strong as I went down to the sea. It shook the trees and sent leaves flying. Along the pavement it whisked yellow disks from a golden Robinia tree and swirled them into spirit forms. Then reaching the bay it caught at the swell and scuffed the waves into white wavelets, knocking boats rocking on their moorings. The seagulls were riding the wind gusts, tipping and tilting on wind eddies, performing pirouettes in the air. Standing there observing the action I suddenly heard my father’s mother saying to me, ‘what a corker day, Debbie!’ There she was in my memory on New Brighton beach fifty years ago, in her scarlet jacket, the wind in her hair, surrounded by a great flurry of feathers and a raucous screeching as the gulls caught the bread scraps she tossed in the air. ‘Look at that Debbie!’ I could hear her laughing …