What Dreams May Come

Last night I had a dream about my grandfather. This isn’t the first time he’s appeared in my dreams and I have written about his influence on my professional life many times before.

But this dream was different. It was late at night, we were both in our pyjamas, and he told me that he was going to die that night, that he wouldn’t be alive in the morning.

People I know who’ve lost loved ones in traumatic ways report similar dreams, but say they always wake up before they have a chance to intervene; an experience which only serves to reinforce the original trauma.

I didn’t wake up. Instead, in the dream, I took the opportunity to hug him, to tell him I loved him, and to thank him for everything he did for me. All the things I didn’t get to do before he died peacefully in his sleep a decade ago. All the things I have been trying to do through my work ever since.

Dreams are strange things. Scientists, artists, and philosophers have been grappling with their meaning and purpose for centuries. But whether you believe them to be prophecies or simply the brain’s way of processing events, there’s no denying the effect a dream can have on your waking life.

I woke up from my dream feeling calm and peaceful. I am currently preparing to relocate for a new job. Objectively this is a stressful time – what psychologists would call a ‘major life event’ – that heralds significant personal and professional change. Although I don’t feel stressed, I do have fears about how this will all unfold: I’m worried that I may be tempted to sacrifice self-care in order to prove myself in the new role; I wonder how I will cope when I feel lonely or isolated; and I’m scared that the move will set me back financially. But the dream reassured me.

When I’m at a crossroads in my life I often think: what would my grandfather have said about this? And usually the answer is: nothing. A deeply thoughtful man, he didn’t believe in filling the silence and only spoke if there was something meaningful to be said. With this move, however, I hadn’t asked that question, too busy with packing and visa applications and all the practicalities of relocating. But the dream provided the answer anyway: that it’s okay to be scared; that it’s possible to move forward without forgetting; and that any debt I might have owed my grandfather has been paid in full.

So now I stand on the edge of my old life, ready to step into my new one. I still have fears and concerns, but I’m confident that I can handle whatever comes my way. Whether I’m dreaming or wide awake.

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