Thursday, June 27, 2013

Last night I dreamt I had cancer. Let the psychobabble begin.

Just to keep things light…. um…. last night I dreamt I had cancer.  The contours of my dream are slowly receding from my memory, the way they do, but I do remember this:  A distracted young female doctor gave me the news in a poorly lit office saying cruelly, “At this point I can usually reassure my patients, but I can’t do that for you today.”

I had some cancer below the belt and above the thighs in the pipes of my reproductive system.  It was something non-existent that my subconscious, drawing on distant memories of 8th grade biology, made up and probably called “cervical tube cancer.”  I remember crying a lot. I remember my parents crying a lot.  I remember them encouraging me to ask the doctor for more clarification, more specifics.  What was my prognosis?  What hope could she offer? What therapies?  When I did so, she gave me a book with the title “Dying: It’s Just Like Falling Asleep.” I hated that dream doctor.   She offered me no hope.  She only attempted to offhandedly soften the news of my impending death.

Then I woke up, the profound sadness from my dream lingering around in the pit of my belly.  Of course I was thankful for waking to my cancer-free reality, but the vestigial dream hurt clung on like a .....well… cancer, squeezing my heart.

I lay in bed feeling philosophical.  Why this dream?  Why now?  The panic from my dream led me to think that perhaps it was prescient. Perhaps my body was telling me that I did indeed have cancer.  But I dismissed that thought as too foofy, even for me, and anyway too fucking depressing to deal with before dawn.  So, I moved on to other theories.

Perhaps the dream was my “getting hit by a bus.” Isn’t that what people say? “Things are going so well, I’ll probably get hit by a bus.”  Maybe it was my subconscious bracing me for some impending disaster since my life was too precariously smooth for fate to tolerate.

Right now my life is in balance.  That’s not saying I’m ecstatic every day and don’t have frustrations and sadness.  But the truth about contentment is not that you walk around blissed out, but that you walk around in balance.  Bliss is what your 16 year old self hopes for, balance is what your adult self knows will truly bring you joy. 

Right now I have achieved that elusive equilibrium that so many modern people strive for.  I scratch my productive itch by working part time from home. I get intellectual and creative satisfaction through my writing. I spend a good part (but not the WHOLE part) of my day with my little loves.  I see friends every day. I practice yoga. I take Kiswahili lessons. I run. I cook. I enjoy my weekends exploring Kenya with friends. I have help. I’m continually learning.

None of it is too much, and none of it is not enough.  The trade-offs so many people have to make between all these facets of life, for me, are in balance. I probably shouldn’t say that out loud.

However, my inner harmony is subsidized by the fact that my husband is working more than full time at a very demanding job, and this means his life is currently out of whack. But.. um… let’s ignore that for the moment, and back to me...

So, my current theory is that my death doom dream is my neurotic sub-conscious’ way of telling me not get too comfortable in my comfortable life. But screw you subconscious: you just allowed me to spend half a day musing about how well balanced I am.  So, backfire! 

Unless of course I’m of over thinking the whole thing and it’s my body’s way of reminding me that I’m overdue for a pap smear.

Could be either...


  1. I've read that our dreams are much more likely to be negative than positive, which is part of the discharge process of REM sleep. We don't need to discharge positive emotion! So the dream could be nothing more than a collection of nameless fears about your body, your health, doctors, authority, losing control, hanging on to what's precious in your life right now, whatever.

    I also know, having participated in what my friends called a Dream Group, that our dreams tend to have very personal significance that isn't easily named by others. We had a specific process, but it's valuable to do on your own. Here it is honed down. Write out the dream and your feelings upon waking(which you did above). Then separate every possible noun and verb in a row and across from each word write a brief definition, which sounds irrelevant but it isn't, and then write your emotional impressions. For example, you mentioned "pit of my belly." So you'd include that phrase as well as the words "pit" and "belly." Then you'd define "pit" as, perhaps "center of a fruit" as well as your feelings/impressions about the word, perhaps, "pit, which reminds me of darkness as in dungeon but also a hidden seed, the way life is carried on." Once you do this for each word and phrase, rewrite the dream or dream meaning as symbol, as myth, as your unconscious talking. I promise it'll look different.

    As an aside. I had a dream that horrified me years ago, long before I did any of this dream guidance. In the dream I met up with my doctor, who diagnosed a particular cancer that was terminal. His face was deeply sad. I woke feeling it in my body. The horror stayed with me for days, alleviated only by the fact that my doctor in the dream appeared to be decades older than he currently was. I've since moved and haven't seen him again but those decades are nearly up and I still remember the dream. I'm not big on allopathic medicine, but I get checkups!

    1. Wow. this was such an insightful and helpful comment. I think you're right that dreams are more likely to be anxiety-fueled than fantasy-fueled. And that dream you had is probably a similar situation, though I could see how it might seem scarily prescient! I've also known a lot of people with cancer, so it could be on my mind. Anyway, we should both just keep getting those check ups. : )

  2. I am definitely not superstitious and don't think you have cancer (though I tend to worry a lot) but sometimes I do interpret dreams and wonder about their significance. For instance, I might think there is some area of my life I need to cut out - something unnecessary that's hurting me.

    1. I figure there has to be some significance - especially for those dreams which seem especially vivid adn which stay with you. The trick is figuring out what it is!