It’s OK to Rehearse Life’s Calamities


In my dream we are in a small bedroom near the top of a very tall building. And the building itself is floating, and bobbing in a slow ponderous way. While outside the window, the winds are howling and a storm is raging. We are adrift in a gigantic building in a typhoon, and the building is slowly, softly sinking below the waves. I’m with our children, and they are scared, yet alert and ready. Not panicked, but looking at me for direction.

In my dream we are sinking in this titanic building and the water is rising up to our daughter’s waist. While outside the dark water is inching up the window.

I think the window will eventually burst with the pressure. It’s a hunch, a premonition. I’m not certain but I think it won’t hold long. And when the window breaks we will be swept by the torrent into the hallways and be lost, entombed and adrift inside the building.

But maybe, I think, if we close the bedroom doors in this little room and allow it to fill with the ocean water rushing in, the pressure will equalize and allow us to swim out the window. In my mind’s eye I’m certain this will work.

In my dream I am confident and assertive. Deliberate, but not hurried. I speak clearly and slowly, and direct the kids to hold hands. I tell them we must never let go of each other, whatever happens. I explain the plan. We will open the window and let the room fill with water. Once it rises, we will all take a deep breath, and swim outside to the rooftop. Mom is waiting I tell them. She is safe and waiting for us anxiously. We will do this together and go find her and assure her we are OK. My voice is unwavering, my eyes clear and connecting with each child. I convey no sense of doubt. I am certain, and I see no sense of doubt in their eyes.

In my dream we are holding hands when I crack open the window and allow the water in. And surely, it rises to swallow us. And at the moment when our noses are nearly pressed to the ceiling in the vanishing air, we all take a breath.

At this point in the dream I detach. I see omnisciently, as if floating like a movie camera above the unfolding scene. Annie has my hand, and she has Will’s hand, and finally our oldest Charlie is swimming in the dark warm water as we all escape through the window and swim to the surface.

In my dream, once we break the water together the sun is shining, the storm is drifting away, and the waters are calm. We are together, just a short swim from a beautiful beach. And there my wife is waiting, happy and relieved. There is no sinking building. There is only our calm, surprised faces.

Years ago, my father once gave me a small piece of advice I’ve managed to remember. He told me it’s often those who don’t mentally and emotionally rehearse the calamities, difficulties and losses of life, are sometimes the ones most unprepared and shocked into paralysis and despair. He was telling me it’s OK when we are visited with terrifying visions. It makes us stronger and more able to deal with the unexpected calamities, which will surely come at some point in life.

Embrace the terrifying movie in your mind. It’s just a rehearsal, a metaphor. It allows us to be more emotionally and psychologically prepared when real life emerges unexpectedly.