I have not been sleeping well. My bedtime routine is now an hour long relaxation routine. A hot, steamy shower. Lotion. Clean panties and soft t-shirt. Stretch out on the bed and relax into a thirty minute body scan. And, last and as my nightly dessert – a chapter in Clarissa Pinkola Estes The Dangerous Old Woman on Audible read by the ultimate grandmother, the author herself.
And still, I wake every hour, heart pounding, a dream slipping below the surface. Last night the dream came close enough for me to scoop up into a net of consciousness. All night, every night since news of the pandemic began weeks ago, in this reoccurring dream, I have been scrolling through computer data, searching each highlighted red or blue link, searching for magic to save me from the slow, painful, horrifying death threatened by this virus. Every click leads to more and more branches of information, like a great tree whose limbs stretch ever upward into the night sky, or perhaps like the buried roots of the grandmother tree reaching deep underground into the muck and dirt, gathering rich nutrients and life-giving rain filtered through layers of rich humus.
In the dream I am not seated in my comfortable chair in front of my computer screen. No. None of that. I am physically caught up in this information tree, moving along each tiny hair root and living, stretching path. In the dream, I know the magic to save me is here. I know, just as clearly, that the wrong turn will lead to me to the virus itself and to death. If I stand still, do not move into any of the highlighted links, I have no hope of finding the magic. But if I follow the wrong link, I will die.
No wonder I wake each hour, chest tight, breath caught in my throat.
I think I know part of what the dream is telling me. Like all humans, I search for answers to make sense of my world. I seek control. And right now, this is an overwhelming, perhaps an impossible, task.
The quarantine itself is not a particular hardship to me. I enjoy my own company, I have a giant dog who is a better listener than either of my husbands generally were, and I have a good many precious and valued friends and family members with whom I touch bases each week. I am not alone. On-line courses, books, television, and puttering in the garden keep me from being bored. I live in an area where getting out and walking while following social distancing restrictions is entirely possible. If all else fails, and this is a last resort, I put on music and clean my tiny house. It’s just big enough that cleaning gives me something to do without ruining my back.
It’s not the quarantine that bothers me. It’s the fear of dying. And not just dying, but dying alone and painfully. This fear is good in that it makes me careful. But the dream tells me my imagination has embraced far too tightly this image of this horrible death.
So, tonight, instead of my nightly body scan, I will spend a half hour envisioning myself and my friends enjoying each other’s company over a meal, or walking at the beach or in the woods. I will imagine myself and those I love, well and whole and safe from this virus which will have been defeated by science and by love and by the goodness, the god, in my human family.