Do you ever feel like you’re living in a dream? Like, what actually makes our dreams less real than our “real life”?
When I was a teenager, I would get a kick out of going wide-eyed and saying to my best friend, “What if our dreams are real life and right now we’re just dreaming??”
Sometimes I was sure I would finally “wake up”, and my true love—Leonardo DiCaprio of course—would be sitting by my bedside holding my hand, crying tears of joy as my eyes flutter open.
Pema Chodron says, “Every situation is a passing memory.” Think about it. Everything we do, every moment, every thought is always swiftly becoming a memory. Every second that passes becomes a memory.
And you are a part of my memories, a part of what I identify to be my self. Walker Bob, Tom Weis, Maria, Alice, John Gray, Bhakta Priya, Govardhana, Chiara. The list goes on.
Bob read a poem I wrote the other day, and we cried together, hundreds of miles apart.
Tom Weis, in a dream, has his bicycles and a small trailer attached to the back of our future school-bus home.
I talked to Maria on the phone while we were on tour last week, and she was organizing multi-colored fabrics and decomposing bison masks and boxes of feathers and bones and skulls while we talked. “Do you know what is relieving and depressing all at the same time?” I said to her. “According to the Buddha the only thing we get to take with us when we die is our mind-stream. In other words, the things that I think all of the time that I find so annoying, don’t necessarily just go away after I die. Actually, the real way to let go of my negative patterns is by meditating and doing the work.” “That’s kind of terrifying to think,” she sighed.
Just before we left on tour, Bhakta Priya called me (the childhood best friend who I would contemplate concepts like dreaming vs. real life with). “I think I know why you’re calling,” I said. We hadn’t spoken in months. “Yeah,” she sighed. Govardhana had died suddenly that morning. We recalled sledding on snowy Vermont hills with him, and how he would say things to us in Italian and we couldn’t understand him.
Govardhana was diagnosed with stage four melanoma just a few months ago. I created many memories of him in these last few months, even though I haven’t seen him in 15 years. I tried to get a hold of him, called his mother and left a message, considered driving to his house with soup or flowers or… I didn’t know what I would do. I just wanted to help somehow.
I created a memory of sitting with him, sick in bed. I held his hand and he smiled, even though he felt so ill. His eyelashes were still incredibly long. I told him everything was going to be okay, no matter what.
We drove all over Colorado and played music for hundreds of different people last week, and all the while I knew that Govardhana was being grieved by his parents, his children, his friends. And it was like this heavy secret I was carrying. Anyone who I confided in had to watch me melt down into an onslaught of tears.
With only 2 days of the tour left, we found out a friend in Vermont had committed suicide.
I held that, along with everything else. A crushing weight, like the whole world was sitting on my chest.
My friend Alice shared her day with me that night. Her dad’s death anniversary had just passed and she had spent it journaling, crying, just being with him.
We got home from tour the other day. I opened an email from my old friend, Chiara, and she told me the story of being 15 years old, her dad coming home from work and going to bed, and how it felt to discover the next day that he was never going to wake up again.
“I feel crushed,” I told Addison. “I don’t know how else to describe it.”
But here I have the quiet spaces, the time in between, to contemplate, to unpack, to consider all that has come to pass in these last two weeks.
Death is a dream, as is life. How could we be expected to continue functioning after the death of a loved one if it were really truly real?
Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we die, it’s not as if we leave a blank space behind. We can’t “subtract” ourselves from the universe. Everything that makes up our essence, our continuation, is all there. It just changes form.
The Bhagavad Gita says, “Never has there been a time when you or I did not exist.”
The Buddha says there is no “you” or “I”. But there is also NOT no “you” or “I”. We are not separate, but we are not the same.
When I think about my daughter Chickadee, and her tiny body buried in Texas, I wonder. Is there any of her essence still left there? The chickadees here in Colorado flock outside of my window, chirping and eating bugs and bringing me the memory of my child. There are chickadees all over the world who bring my daughter’s memory to anyone who has heard of her.
Wherever she is now, she is also my memory. And she is your memory. And you are my memory, as I am your memory.
May you and I continue to make more memories together for a good long while.