Last night, before bed, I found myself discussing with my boyfriend which film or TV show I want him to watch to better prepare him for the end of the world: The Last of Us? The Walking Dead? Station Eleven? Bird Box???
I settled on The Handmaid’s Tale because, as I explained to him, “it’s the one that seems closest to our current reality.” I’m not sure that’s true anymore, since I stopped watching The Handmaid’s Tale mid-way through last season. (I decided the graphic imagery didn’t support my efforts to heal my nervous system, nor my dream practice.) And I’m not even sure I really want him to use his time or energy to watch any dystopian television shows or films. (His work is much needed elsewhere as an acupuncturist and herbalist.)
I’m just frightened, and I want to feel less alone in my fear.
I think a lot of people are frightened lately. However, it can be hard to discern fear, since most of us respond to it with reactivity that desensitizes us or distracts us from the fear.
We are afraid, but we act angry. We blame.
We are afraid, but we numb our fear with substances, food, or fantasy. It feels so much better than the fear.
We are afraid, but we seek to control our fear by buying the on-sale prepper meal pack, “suitable for sustaining a family of five for 30 days!”
In a session with my dreamwork practitioner earlier this week, he asked me what feeling was beneath the anxiety that kept me so busy all the time. Together, we were working a dream in which I had the opportunity to spend meaningful time with my son (now 20) when he was little, cute, sweet, and innocently seeking connection with me through song.
Instead of stopping and singing with my son, as he invited me to do in the dream, I busied myself with collecting our things, preparing to leave, and driving around town looking for a public restroom.
I found the restroom, but never did manage to relieve my bladder. And it’s worth noting that if I was going to hold it in all that time, I could have sat for a few minutes first to sing with my son.
Anxiety as busy-ness shows up a lot in my dreams. My dreamwork practitioner suggests it’s covering up fear or pain, as a lot of reactivity is covering up fear or pain. I agree with him wholeheartedly, except I wasn’t able to identify the fear or pain I was feeling in the dream. All I could sense was the pressing urgency of needing to be responsible for others, for collecting “our things,” and for finding a clean bathroom so I could relieve my bladder.
Our work with this particular dream included imagining a different outcome; in this case, an outcome in which I stopped to sing with my son. This was my homework, and I’ve been practicing it since: reimagining the scene with me stopping to be with my son, singing, instead of rushing around collecting our things and preparing to leave.
Sitting with this alternative outcome has brought up a lot of feelings.
Sometimes, when I sit with it, I feel the almost unbearable heartache of missing that little boy. Sometimes, when I sit with it, I feel the mutual affection that still exists between us, even now, even though my son is no longer a little boy, and even though his growing up means he is moving farther away from me, as a young man is meant to do.
A world is ending, in a way. A world in which my son lives at home with me. A world in which his one desire is for his mother to stop what she’s doing to sing with him.
As this relates to preparing for the end of the world, I invite you to consider– if you, like I am, are afraid the world is ending — what is that you will miss most if and when the world ends?
And what if you were super prepared for the end of the world — stocked with food and water, in possession of the most sophisticated generator, fit and strong enough to take on any zombie, any hater, any oppressor — but the world ended anyway?
What would you have wished you had spent your time doing instead of preparing for the world’s end?
I ask myself these same questions; for I am afraid of both. I am afraid of the world ending, and also I am afraid that I will have spent so much time preparing for the end of the world that I will have missed out on that which I was most afraid of missing should the world end.
In a way, every time we wake up from a dream, we get to experience the end of the world.
You likely have woken up from a dream grateful that the world in which the dream existed was gone. (A nightmare, for instance.)
You likely have woken up from a dream you wished you could have adventured in longer.
Our willingness to engage with our dreams through dreamwork is a way to practice being with the end of the world.
What would we have done differently if we hadn’t been so reactive in a dream? What could I have experienced if I had accepted an invitation to slow down and connect with my son, as opposed to busying myself with what I was certain needed my urgent attention?
Our dreams call us to consider these questions. Answering them is sometimes easy. Acting upon the answers is not.
As of late, my own biggest pain point is trying to balance that which feels like it needs my urgent attention with that which truly does.
A world in which we still have time, energy, and freedom to worry about “the end” is a world in which we still have time for singing, loving, and healing.
Dreamwork helps remind us of that which we deem precious enough to prepare for, and lovingly offers us an alternative to being alone with our fear, through moments of connection, in waking life and in dreams.