And then indeed there are other days when, even though its quiet and peaceful and nothing is stressful, it is all too hard. I am waiting, again, for information, for appointments. I have resolved to take what action I can in such circumstances, and then appreciate the time, relax into it, because this moment now is not unbearable at all. But it would appear that this a day when suffering is what I am aware of. So I guess the thing is to just relax into that. No deep and meaningful analysis. Do some chi kung and meditate. See what happens. Things change.
Monthly Archives: January 2007
I had another short dream, related to the previous one I’ve written about. It continues on the ‘whose driving’ theme.
I am in a van, Kombi-sized, with a closed two-seater cabin. I am in the passenger seat. The van is moving, but there is no driver, as in the previous dream. This time I am not driving at all. I look at the empty seat, and notice we are moving along. And I think (without actually recalling the earlier dream), here we go again, no driver.
A voice says, into the cabin, ‘What do you mean, no driver? Of course there’s a driver. How do you think we got this far?’ The voice is strong and amused, rather than annoyed.
And it seems self-evident to me that what the voice says is true. Although I am puzzled that there appears to be no driver that I can see, I accept that, in fact, there is one, and everything is under control.
So what does this one mean? How does it relate to the last one, and my newly invigorated decision to be my own driver?
It seemed to me to be clearly about a higher, invisible force – about God, about an inner self, about Shiva, about the subconscious – about forces of the universe. And the feeling that it was all under control, even if I couldn’t see the way that it was.
This dream reflects a stronger state of faith than I’d say I’ve felt before. My agnostic mind finds itself surprised – although why it should be, I don’t know, considering the feelings and thoughts I’ve had for quite some time, and most particularly those on death and hope from yesterday. It is unusual to find myself reaching such a definite conclusion on such a topic.
Also, I don’t think the dream was implying that I couldn’t or shouldn’t drive. But maybe that I didn’t have to, no need for desperation, no matter what happens. This fits with how I was feeling yesterday, the sense of a calm hopefulness. And it hasn’t stopped me from doing a fair bit of driving my own car today. I’m having a scan on Wednesday to see whether the small fractures in the femur that were discovered today can be repaired with a steel pin. And more drugs etc are on their way. Today all went very smoothly, with sympathetic assistance from four doctors, coordinated by an inspirational one.
I am happy about the invisible driver.
The strangest thing happened tonight. The strangest thing, I’m a little scared of writing it. But it is not scary. It is the opposite of scary. So I will write it.
We moved all the furniture in the living rooms around today. It is most satisfactory, I can take pleasure in my house again. But the strange thing. I wasn’t doing anything strenuous, everyone else did that. But I was just putting books back on a shelf, when suddenly I was out of breath, my vision swimming. I had to sit down, and still, it was difficult to breathe, and my lips and hands started tingling.
And I felt, what if I’m dying now? What if the spread in my lungs has been like the bone, and I’m not going to be able to breathe? And the strange thing was, I felt peace. Peace and acceptance. Sorrow not to have said goodbye to loved ones – but a mild kind of sorrow. That might sound heartless. I can imagine if it was me reading that about someone I loved, I’d be angry. But it was a knowing that although they’d be sad, they’d also be okay in the end.
There was surprise too. Surprise – again, a mild kind of surprise, almost a wonder – that maybe I wasn’t going to suffer much after all (you can see by my other posts how geared I am for suffering!). And a sudden knowing that I haven’t ever suffered much at all, no matter how appalling I’ve felt. That basically everything has been all right, and, really, wonderful. I felt almost a disappointment – I could have handled much more than this! (what a weird thing to think).
And there was only a slight regret that I could have done much more. Not with regard to the past. There was not even the slightest feeling that I could have done more with the past; that was a feeling (another surprise), of complete and total satisfaction. The only regret was that I could have done more with the future.
But mainly there was peace and acceptance and calm. And a feeling that everything is all right, (not just okay, but all right), anyway, however it is. For me, for everyone.
So I don’t know how this fits in with the dream (below), and my navigation through the cancer. And my determination to never, never give up.
(I remembered today a Peanuts cartoon, with Lucy and Schroeder, which I have always found inspirational with regard to hope:
Schroeder: Lucy, I wouldn’t marry you unless you were the last girl on earth.
Lucy: Did you say ‘if’ or ‘unless’?
Schroeder: I admit, I said ‘unless’.
The cartoon reminds me of my determination to always have hope.
But somehow, this feeling – it was not giving up, it was not hopelessness. It was just acceptance. Acceptance of what is, whatever it is.
I hope this is encouraging, rather than depressing, to read. It is certainly encouraging to me. The fear and despair I have felt at other times, that one expects to feel, was suddenly absent. Of course if I were wiser, I suppose I’d accept the fear and despair equally with the calm and acceptance. And also if I were wiser, I suppose the calm and acceptance wouldn’t be replaced later by fear and despair again. But right now, I accept that the fear and despair are quite probably going to recur too, from time to time, but even that also, will be all right.
And tonight, anyway, obviously I am still here. I can breathe. How good is that? With very little pain, and with many people I love around me, and my house being home again for me. ‘
Maybe it would have been different if I really had been dying. But in my hopeful way, I think not.
This is my interpretation of the dream in yesterday’s post.
Overall, the feeling of the dream was that everything is okay. I’ve been managing with one hand, but in a dangerous situation. I felt that overall my priorities were right, that this was the way it had to be, even though I was doing too much at once. There was acceptance at all levels, except when I tried to ask someone else to drive.
Symbolically, I see the car as my body – frail, open, careering very fast, and out of control. But it is the thing that contains me, and all my time, represented by my oldest love (Granny) and my youngest love (my son). The past is no longer capable of managing, directing my body, and it never was (Granny didn’t ever learn to drive). The future is not yet ready to take over. So I have to keep directing it.
I was doing it distractedly, one-handedly, successfully too, even though it was difficult, a drag, and I was constantly nearly smashing into one obstacle after another – many potentially lethal moments.
The present (me) has been focussed on other prioritised business, and that was right – I see this as spiritual development, ‘living’, loving and being with people that I love, up until now.
However, now I am in the valley of the police. I don’t know why, but I see the police as the cancer cells. In a dark valley, apparently a threat, something to be frightened of, something that must be appeased. Perhaps I will lose my licence to drive this body at all! And there are multitudes of them, potentially very forceful.
But they are smiling, friendly, going about their business, nodding in passing. This I find puzzling. I think perhaps the dream source doesn’t see pain and suffering, even death, as unfriendly or aggressive, but as part of a system of protection? Also, their path is their own path – they are just incidentally blocking mine, not intentionally.
The most positive thing though is that I feel that if I concentrate, just for now, on navigating through them, I may be able to. And I have to. There is no other choice. This is now the priority. If I collide with them, there will be no more trip to be on. But I feel that I can do it.
Note, the dream itself doesn’t promise that I can do it. I woke up while still going through the multitudes of them, that were blocking the way very effectively. But I felt sure that I could. That I was, doing it. And it was okay.
When I woke up I had a plan of what to do next, with doctors and hospitals and phone calls and roles for different people. This was even before I remembered the dream. The main thing is to keep my mind on the driving, keep my hands on the wheel. I hope I can.
I had a dream that helps me with my current situation (described on the About page, and in the two posts below).
I was in a vehicle, like a Moke, a low vehicle with open sides. My grandmother and my youngest child are sitting in the back. For some reason, I can’t, or I don’t want to, drive – I have something more important to do, and this is right. I know the other thing is the priority. So I am not sitting in the driver’s seat. In fact, no-one is. The vehicle is careering wildly across country.
It is open country (no road), African hills, of the cropped-down, used up variety. There are lots of muddy pools, mud that has been churned up, like a motocross track. There are many rocks, streams, occasional people: many obstacles, twists and turns. Every now and then I reach over and twist the steering wheel so that the vehicle doesn’t overturn or smash into something. I wish somebody else would do this, because I’m busy!
I find myself saying, ‘Could one of you just give this wheel a twirl now and then, so we don’t crash.’
Then I think, how ridiculous, neither of them can, a crazy old lady who hasn’t really noticed where we are, and a little child who never has before, how could you make him responsible? So I keep doing it, successfully, even though it’s a drag and a distraction from the main business, which obviously must be done too.
Suddenly we are in a valley. It is dusk, and the valley is bivouacked, full of police, multitudes of them.
At first, I think it is some kind of massive road block. Guiltily I think it’s surely enough hours since I had that gin and tonic, I don’t feel any effect from it, I should be okay, I guess I’ll find out in a minute when I’m breathalysed, how long it takes to get through my system.
Then I think, perhaps I really ought to be in the driver’s seat, that might be a requirement.
The vehicle has slowed right down, and I see the police are smiling, going about their business. They are at some huge camp, not concerned with traffic at all. I smile back at them, thinking I’ll probably get through this okay as long as I don’t knock anybody over. Then they wouldn’t be so friendly. So my focus now is on steering the vehicle through. In peace. It is not so difficult. I am not trying to do anything else.
I have to go and do a taxi run now for my daughter, so I’ll post my analysis of how the dream relates to the current situation tomorrow. Anyone else’s ideas welcome.
Continuing further on the distinction between pain and suffering. On Monday, when I was feeling sure that the pain in my hips was arthritis, rather than metastatic bone cancer, I found that the physical pain itself lessened. I was much more able to walk. I also found myself being profoundly joyful about the possibility of crippling rheumatoid arthritis, which shows again how suffering is so relative.
However it has turned out to be, in fact, the bone mets that are causing the pain. But what the heck. That felt really bad yesterday, but today extra help with pain killers and crutches means I’ve had a pretty good day, and done what I wanted to do today. What could be better than that?
First, my definitions:
Pain – a physical or emotional condition that we perceive as ‘hurting’.
Suffering – a mental state, that often, but not always, accompanies pain.
I have tended to see the two as synonymous, but now I find they can be, and often are, separate.
Pain is a physical or emotional stimulus that is not pleasant. I hurt.
Suffering is much worse. Suffering is the thoughts: this is terrible. I can’t bear this. This is going to go on forever. This is wrong, this shouldn’t be happening. I want this to stop happening. I want to get out of this place I’m in, what’s happening to me.
Until recently, I’d say there’d been more emotional pain than physical in my life (and not buckets of either). I’ve always had more respect for physical pain. I suppose I’d always had some awareness that much of my emotional pain was predominantly composed of what I have defined here as ‘suffering’ – bemoaning my unfortunate state, reinforcing the emotion, spiralling it down and increasing it. But I’d seen physical pain as ‘real’. Something outside of me, that descends from elsewhere, beyond my control, except via painkillers.
My increasing familiarity with physical pain over the past 18 months had not, so far, led me to any too different conclusions. Apart from that noticing that even quite severe pain seemed to dissipate if I could reach a deeply meditative state.
My problem here, though, was first of all, reaching the deeply meditative state from the panicky suffering I incorporated into the ‘pain’ state, and then, maintaining this benefit after the meditation – although even temporary pain relief is a glorious welcome thing.
Just in the last few days, related to my meditations on the psychological effects of flies (see below: Meditation with Flies and Living with Flies), it has occurred to me that perhaps quite a large proportion of even my physical pain is ‘suffering’. Over the past few days, I have had increasing pain in my hips and lower back. To the point of experiencing difficulty walking, getting up, sitting down, and with little chance at all of picking something up from the floor. I was perceiving this as ‘constant pain’, at a reasonably high level. At hospitals, they ask you to rate pain on a scale of ten, with ten being the worst you’ve ever experienced, and 0 (surprisingly) being none.
I’d rate it at about a 6.
But when I thought of it in the way of the flies – it’s really only the present moments when I’m moving or sitting or standing for too long that there is actual pain. Lying down is not painful as long as I don’t inadvertently move my left hip too suddenly and strongly. Sitting down, there is only a dull ache – about a 3. Even when walking, the pain varies from about 4 or 5 on a flat surface, to sudden, rapid bursts of 7 or 8, moving on a slope or steps. And in those 7 or 8 moments – which are still fairly few – there is nothing but the pain and my response to it. The rest is the worry about the way I’m moving, how much it will hurt when I get to the steps, the way to go with the least slopes, whether I’d be better lying down (to see if it gets better), or to keep on going as much as I can (in case it gets worse, every day, whether I lie down or not.)
Also I’ve noticed my mind doing the ‘permanent and pervasive’ thing, rather than the ‘things change’ thing. When I have pain, I feel like this pain will be there forever and affect everything. That adds to my mind’s suffering. When I have no pain, thankfully (I think), I also feel like this is likely to continue and to affect everything. The reason I say ‘thankfully (I think)’ is because I suppose theoretically the ideal is to maintain ‘things change’ equally equably whether the cause is one that I perceive as suffering or as joy. But I’m not up to that yet.
I am trying to remember that things change when the suffering mind kicks in. I am trying to keep focussed on the moments (still most of them) where the pain is low or manageable. And when the pain is high, there is only the present to think about.
In the main. When the pain is high for a sustained time, rather than for a moment or two, the suffering mind does kick in with panic, fear, despair.
But I’m practising.
I hope to get as little practice as possible.