The night my son graduated college I lay in my hotel room and dreamt I failed at my own assisted suicide. As I write this, I am happy to say, the dream had no real basis in my life and everything has been a success for my son. All efforts on my part to mold and help him have created a life of sorts for him, though of course it has been through his own applied effort that he has seen success: his graduation with honors, his happiness, his friends, his securing of a promising job, his blossoming relationship with another. It was all I have wanted for him. Then why in my dream did I die, or want to?
In the dream, I survived my own suicide attempt, an assisted operation by a company offering death to those who had reached a dead end. It was all most clean and clinical. Reasonable, really. Nothing messy or obscene. They shaved your head and you lay down in your medical gown and you ingested a dram guaranteed to bring an end. In a probably not so original turn, I changed my mind after swilling my portion. But I emerged, having labored through the effects.
On the long drive home from my son’s graduation, I encountered a cat at the hotel where I was staying. She was black and white. I don’t know why I assumed the cat was female. She was slight, so maybe that was it. I surmised she lived at the hotel where I was staying in Tallahassee where I stopped both on the way up to Alabama and on the way down to Orlando. The cat was scruffy and hung around the garbage cans. She was scrappy, a survivor. I was going to write a little story about her, about a prostitute who lived in that hotel and fed her, or about a child who stayed in that hotel and loved her. Maybe the child was kept there against her will and the cat represented her own little soul. Or maybe the child was the daughter of a preacher or hoodoo priest. She worked on her school lessons at the desk in her room and she soaked dreamily in the tub enclosed by the striped curtain while her daddy went out and healed people, sprinkling them with holy water, feeding them wine for sacrificial blood. Or simply grape juice for said blood. Maybe he cleansed people and their homes with Florida water, readying them for a spiritual encounter.
The hotel in Tallahassee seemed to attract human kinds of ghosts as well as cats, people who drifted around the property, including a man who gruffly approached me that night when I was on my way home. The man presumably hoped to get a light. I emitted a small shout of surprise when he started speaking. Passing semis on narrow highways all day can make you nervous. My son’s college town, campus, surrounding neighborhoods were shiny, beautiful, well kept. People walk with purpose, laugh a lot, smile. Likely in that place, people had their own lighters, if they smoked. Likely in that place, lighters were made of gold. When I left my Tallahassee hotel to hit the road for Orlando, the man was still in his car in the parking lot, a small beat up white number, a sporty vehicle popular in the eighties. Presumably, this was his overnight space.
On the road home, I wondered about the dream. I did survive cancer, so maybe this was it, the dream’s raison d’être. In a way, the treatment is voluntarily almost killing yourself in order to survive. I was not sure if that’s what the suicide dream was. I had also committed myself to surviving until my son’s graduation and Lord willing, without relapse. Mission accomplished. So maybe it was that ending point that triggered it.
Something else occurred to me regarding set purposes and deadlines – literal deadlines – and how such a dream as mine might have arisen in my subconscious. My preacher father recalled a story for all of us, all having dinner the night after my son’s big graduation day in Alabama. It was a story about his journey to the Dead Sea. He along with my mother regularly conducted a group to the Holy Land and on one occasion, at the shore of the Dead Sea, a group member told his wife: This has been the realization of my life. [Dad’s storytelling words were better, but this is the gist.] And then, on the spot, the man died! Such an incredible story had all of us reeling. It was a tale among many fabulous tales of the lives my parents have led and with which my father, when gently prompted, will regale us.
And also, what’s more, regarding my puzzling through the dream’s origins, there is this: I am bipolar. Suicidal ideation is an erstwhile friend, though never a realization, kept mostly at bay by effective meds and treatment. Surviving cancer treatment and bipolar together was no small feat. And I had, years before, learned my biological mother killed herself. When I passed the age at which she killed herself, I considered myself a victor. (As if you cannot tell, and can probably guess if you read my blog occasionally, a bipolar person can sometimes have an odd way of structuring her own reality.)
Furthermore, my own adopted parents – I consider them my only parents – having taken care of me since I was a baby, did so with considerable care and sacrifice. I do not feel myself identified with this foreign history. I am not the dream because it is my dark underbelly and fear, and that darkness is not me on the whole, though the dream suggests it is some part of me. I am a kind of cat, a black and white cat like my feline friend at the hotel.
At certain points, we are born into something we hadn’t anticipated and past histories fall away and we are left, blinking, having survived all self-destructive drams. We have rashly made promises to ourselves and set goals, not realizing that even lofty visions and hopes can be limiting. We become more more opaque as decades pass. We move on, hardly noticing one another, but we thankfully pick up the leftovers until we decide what to do, before we can clean up and start again.