Do you remember your dreams? Last night I had a wonderful dream. I’ll tell you about it shortly, but first I’ll tell you why I pay attention to my dreams. For about a year before my transplant surgery, my dreams became so vivid and had such staying power that I began to transcribe them in a dream journal each morning. By the time I was well into recuperation, I began collecting and reviewing all the artifacts of my journey: reminders of doctors’ appointments and phone calls I needed to return, lab results, get well cards, my ever-changing prescription schedules, daytime journal musings and that dream journal, which proved to be the most striking of the assembled memorabilia. In fact, it was the document that motivated me to write my book.
While trying to place my dreams in proper chronological order with the day-to-day records of survival, I made a startling discovery. It seems my inner self, as reflected in the dreams, knew how perilous my health was long before I consciously accepted that dire reality. And it had been trying to bring this ominous awareness to the surface. Since then, I pay attention to the content and mood of my dreams, listening to the voice within.
Last night I had several dreams, but the one I want to mention was not ominous at all. It’s the one that caused me to wake up smiling. Apparently, my essential self is still chugging along nightly, today working with equal vigor to influence me on the big decision that’s become kind of an obsession – what choices can I make now that will place me in the best living situation for comfort and security in my most senior years?
In the prophetic segment of last night’s dreams I saw myself leading an adult workshop on “decision-making.” In order to illustrate the self-help technique I was trying to teach, I spontaneously used my own persistent uncertainty about senior lifestyle options as an example. And here I have to give a shout out to my friend Marianne Kilkenny, because the technique my dream had me demonstrating came directly from her book, Your Quest For Home: A Guidebook to Find the Ideal Community for Your Later Years (Chapter 11, p. 53), “Getting to the Compelling Why?”
“So,” I asked myself in front of the dreamland group, “What do you see as the alternatives you’re trying to decide among?”
“I can stay where I am now, in a comfortable home on the ridge of a mountain among a close-knit group of wonderful neighbors, move locally to a soon-to-be-completed cottage community designed for seniors to age well independently on beautiful flat farmland, or move to a similar-sized residence within a larger community whose management provides dining and healthcare amenities that address the full range of life span needs.”
“And what is your priority, the key deciding factor that you seek?”
“What’s most important to me is that I live in a supportive community.”
Here’s where Marianne’s technique kicked in so obviously, “digging down to the compelling why.”
“Why is ‘community’ so important to you?”
“Because I watched my mother age in comfort in her own home, with a personal care aide attending to her physical needs, but in my view, she was sadly alone – without a community of peers.”
“Why is a community of peers so important to you?”
“Because in the last years, months, days of life, I want to feel the energy of my tribe around me – people with whom I’ve shared experiences, reciprocal support, and intimate thoughts and feelings.”
“Because although I know we all are going to die and we each die alone, I’m afraid of being isolated and therefore vulnerable to the whims of the complex and uncaring system as my personal power ebbs.”
Aha! Ten years ago a dream told me symbolically that the most valuable help I could get would come “from downstairs, below the surface.” Similarly, last night, I hadn’t been teaching anyone but myself. The dream gave voice to my deepest fear: being isolated and vulnerable towards the end of life and told me that what I see as a shield against this fear is being a valued member of a diverse, caring, mutually supportive community. Clarifying my desired outcome helps me picture what I want, but it also stirs me into thinking about the actions I must take myself before those desires can ever be manifested.
I woke up smiling, not because I’ve made my final decision, but because having this dream gives me confidence my angel guides are still close at hand, helping me clarify the path with heart. Yours are there “downstairs, below the surface” as well.
Wake each morning with a positive expectation to recall lingering images and moods from your dreams and they will begin to hang around longer, their details growing more vivid. Make friends with those inner guides for they are good markers along the way to your own authentic truth. Write down the snippets and anecdotes you remember in a journal (or go whole hog and buy Marianne’s book to uncover and record a treasure trove of raw data). In their entirety, those bits and pieces merge into a sharper picture of who you are, what you want, and the progress you’re making toward your senior life goals.
Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford