Monday, May 01, 2006

I Had a Dream... A Dream About Arms, Baby....

I awoke with the alarm this morning, and found I could not move. I was being pinned... by a one-and-a-half pound kitten, curled up and snoozing soundly under my hair, in the crook of my neck. It was her first night sleeping outside of the bathroom, with the rest of us -- in "Gen Pop" as we who watched Oz like to call it. Well, between the rhythm of her breath and her adorable fuzziness, I just lay there and promptly fell back to sleep. I had the weirdest dream....

I dreamt something was wrong with my arms (Note: When I awoke later, because my neck was in a kind of weird position, my fingertips were tingling and a little numb in my right hand). I couldn't extend my fingers all the way and closing them into a fist hurt. I went to see a doctor, who immediately launched an extensive battery of tests that took -- in "dream time" -- about fifteen minutes. He couldn't determine what was wrong with my arms, and further concluded that no one would be able to. Which left me with the dilemma that I had these annoying arms that weren't working right.

So he said, "Why don't we just cut them off. Prosthetics are so good these days, we'll fit you with new ones, and you'll learn to use them just like the originals in no time." And I said, "Sure. Why not?" And I was totally okay with this as a solution. So, the dream took on a fairly high degree of detail at this point, up to and including my calls to friends informing them that I was going to have my arms cut off -- they were puzzled, but were reassured that I had faith in the doctor (they didn't try to talk me out of it) -- and going to my GP for a pre-surgical work-up (as I actually did when I had gastric bypass).

So I'm sitting on the front step of my Dad's house, with my daughter and her boyfriend. I've been given a Xeroxed pre-surgical instruction sheet, reminding me of what to do prior to surgery -- don't eat or drink anything after ten o'clock the night before (an instruction I received from the oral surgeon before I had my tooth extracted two weeks ago), the prescriptions for post-surgical medications and painkillers had been phoned in to the pharmacy, and I should pick them up before I had the surgery (presumably because picking them up afterwards, with no arms and all, would be damn near impossible), and if I had any questions, I should call the surgical liaison -- Edema. (No, really. That was the name of the liaison printed on the sheet.) And all the while, I'm totally okay with the fact that they're going to cut off my arms in a couple of hours.

I'm explaining to my daughter that she shouldn't be concerned because, after all, this is the 21st Century and double amputation is like having a mole removed and what with the fabulous prosthetics, etc., etc., and she's looking at me oddly, but not saying anything, and as I'm talking to her, I'm gesticulating (which I do when I talk) and I catch sight of the scar on my hand that I got when I was seven years old and that reminds me to this day how, as fun as it was to play with the older kids, they could do thoughtless stuff that got you hurt if you weren't careful. I thought, "After tomorrow, I'll never see that scar again. Or my mole. Or my birthmark." I thought of all the hours of spreading lotion on my skin, of exfloliating my elbows, putting sunscreen on my forearms to keep them from aging prematurely -- all for nothing.

Then (and only then) did it occur to me that, whatever was wrong with my arms wasn't that bad. Surely there was a better, less drastic and invasive way to fix or at least manage the problems my arms are having. I decide at that point, sitting on my father's stoop, that I'm not having the surgery. The last thing I say in the dream is, "I don't care what it costs to cancel last minute, I can't let them make me a cripple."

Then I woke up.

As I'm writing about this, and laughing at the funny parts, puzzling over the weird, semi-sickening parts, the silt of the dream begins to settle and the actual issues rise to the top, like cream in a milk bottle. The most obvious message -- "they can't make me a cripple" -- undoubtedly goes to my last post -- about decisions in life that prove self-crippling. But the subtler issues -- the fact that my loved ones were dubious, but didn't try to stop me, and the fact that I was placidly fine with becoming a double amputee through a surgery that appears in the dream to have been completely elective -- didn't really arise until I turned the dream over and over in my head on the way into work.

Let me just say that, regarding the first issue -- having to do with my friends' and family's reactions -- this has nothing to do with real life. If I ever told my best friend, Deirdre, that I was having my arms hacked off in the morning, regardless of the skill of the surgeon, she'd have me committed to a locked mental health facility for my own good until I came to my senses. And my daughter would help her. The first issue ties in with the second issue -- my own passivity in the face of grave danger.

I believe the subtle message of the dream was that you can make yourself "okay" with anything that comes along, regardless of how not "okay" it actually is, so take care. If "they" (whoever "they" are) are conspiring to make you a cripple by convincing you that doing so is in your best interests, and you're not fighting for yourself, there is nothing on this earth that your loved ones can do to save you until you choose to save yourself.

But I'm still calling my oral surgeon's assistant tomorrow and asking her to change her name to Edema at her earliest convenience. Because, I really thought that was funny.

~C~

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