The Dream is the Escape

We hope lightning doesn’t strike. Thunder in the distance means there’s the possibility of lightning or a storm approaching. Sometimes we ignore the thunder and sometimes we listen. It’s trying to tell us something important, to get our attention, that there might be danger on the way. How do we know if we should listen to those warning signs?

After the suicide of my mom in 1987, I felt much like what I’d read about lightning strike victims. My body felt rigid, I couldn’t sleep, my brain was foggy and as the days, weeks and months went by I felt as if I was born into to a new body and suddenly a new life, even though my outer life hadn’t changed much. My home and my work was the same and the sun would still rise and set each day. The issue was how to integrate this unfamiliar inner terrain into my waking life.  I began to see a therapist and after some time we began a group together called, “Healing After Suicide.” The group met monthly for two years and I was shocked at the amount of people from our community that had experienced similar types of losses. For a time it was comforting to share with others who had experienced this specific kind of agony. But as time went on, I was still left with the same feeling. Talking about it had helped only a little. I was still left in a place of emptiness and isolation.

Of course to outsiders everything looked fine and I’d wanted it to appear that way. If you’ve been through a difficult event, you know what I’m talking about. How do you crawl out of an unfamiliar place into your changed life and feel okay? You want to escape this new feeling, and go back to where you were. You wake up in the morning and it’s not a dream. The dream is the escape.

When lightning strikes, it can snatch that innocent trust from inside of us forever. We say to ourselves, “Something did happen, can happen. Could it happen again?” How do we process this and make sure that lightning doesn’t strike twice? The truth is, we know we can’t, unless we are all tea leaf readers. So how can we move on from where we are?

Months later, when I looked at the dark, ominous paintings that I’d done in the painting workshop, I saw that I’d had those inner whispers. They had been there all along, buried deep down while I painted on that gorgeous day with the breathtaking view. They had somehow come to the surface while I was still unaware, consciously, what I would go on to experience several months later. On some level I must have known that there was trouble coming, that thunder clap of a premonition.  But honestly, how many of us believe our guts with absolute certainty?

The Void , watercolor and cut paper

The Void, watercolor and cut paper