I dreamed last night that I had to see my doctor. I turned up to find about half a dozen people in the room, all doctors and specialists except for one. I was told solemnly that they had agreed that the only treatment for my (chest) condition was to put me away in a health spa for 6-9 months where I would receive daily treatment and the opportunity to rid myself finally of my ailment. I was shocked at the news: it was much more than I expected. I wondered how ill I was. I wondered how I could possibly take myself out of life for 6-9 months. I wondered at the future.
The doctor went on, his colleagues watching and nodding their heads. The odd man out was a man of about 60 dressed not as a doctor, but with the casual style of a self-made man. He had a craggy, handsome face, and a strong build. He seemed familiar to me, though I couldn’t place him. He listened intently as if the news imparted was of great relevance to him.
Finally they stopped talking and looked at me expectantly. I was flummoxed – it was a lot to take in. At this point the stranger spoke directly to the doctors without looking at me. He addressed the issue that had been floating in my head: how to pay for all of this. Very simply he told them that he was happy to cover all expenses related to my treatment.
I knew him now. He was a distant relation, the man my mum had known so well growing up but lost contact with after. He had gone on to create a small and profitable empire.
I was taken aback at his offer. At first my pride was pricked, and I was on the verge of opening my mouth to refuse it when I realised that I couldn’t. It was then I felt a kind of shame. My life seemed to flash before my eyes – now it has come to this. Was a failure that I couldn’t manage this myself? What did this make me? I felt this deeply, corroding like acid my sense of self. Finally, mingled amongst all of this, was relief – relief that there was someone there willing, and able to help.
I felt myself drawn to this man. He seemed everything I wanted to be: strong and decent, compassionate and reasonable, intelligent and forthright and honest. I realised that I lacked this sort of influence in my life. I realised how alone I felt battling the odds. This was the person, the presence, the wise mentor I needed to listen and understand, to quietly support and encourage, to give guidance when it was called for. I, the independent soul, the rugged individualist, needed someone to turn to occasionally, to help ease the burden. I could not go it alone, always.
It was a moment of truth. I was grateful to him, for his gesture, for the promise he suggested. I thought: I must go home and ask mum about him. And then I remembered that I couldn’t.
I woke from that and all sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. The dream resonated with me, seemingly so full of meaning, truth perhaps. I felt stripped and vulnerable, tired laying there awake as I had felt in the dream, of forever battling, like Sisyphus. I felt emotional, and at the recollection of mum melancholy once more at the realisation of all that I have lost.
It’s a true reflection that I feel largely alone these days. Something occurred to me while I was away. It seemed to me that we are born at the centre of a web. Emanating from us are threads linking us strongly to our parents, our siblings, grandparents and so on. The web extended further, to friends, to others who helped us in our environment. These threads keep us aloft.
As we go through life some of those threads will be inevitably break. People die. Others go out of our life. The good news is that as we go through life we make new connections, we knit new threads. For most we become enmeshed within our own family group, close around us and making for a healthy, dense web of meaningful connections.
This is where I have failed. I’ve made many connections over the years, and lots of them strong that remain to this day. What I haven’t done is build my own little web of my own family. I am at the centre of nothing anymore. The connections I have, no matter how strong, are mostly more distant from me. And those connections I took for granted have over the last 10 years been largely snipped away. I feel as if I am dangling loosely, hanging, literally, perilously, by just a few threads.
Those are the circumstances. The last 2 years have been one battle after another. I feel like Sisyphus as if I have been condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain, never able to cease from the effort to rest. My fear, rarely expressed, is that the boulder will conclusively put an end to me when my strength, or my will fails. It remains an uphill battle, and the stakes higher than they’ve ever been.
It would be nice to have that support available. I can take on a lot, but it is easier if I can take a break from it occasionally. Right now there is no-one – the family member of my dream does not exist in reality – and no relief, no shoulder to lean upon or wise counsel to enquire of.
One change in these last 2 years is that I’m becoming more open with my feelings, more capable of expressing my doubts and fears – though still at a level far below most. These challenges have battered me like storm seas upon a sea wall, gradually the wall that has separated me from the world crumble.