Last night I dreamt of a man in a white lab coat. He wasn't a scientist, nor was he a doctor, per se. He was a medicine man.
Housed inside the mind of this medicine man was a room full of long, clean tables, fluorescent lights, microscopes, glass vials and slides and petri dishes. His thoughts were based on intuited fact, the result of careful scientific inquiry in the laboratory of his mind. He was a celebrated, highly regarded clairvoyant. A private audience with him was a great and rare privilege. And here he was, sitting down to talk to me about my fertility.
I was disconcerted by his appearance. It wasn't just the lab coat giving him an air of Harvard/MIT intensity, but also his black and silver-flecked hair trimmed tight to his head, his no-nonsense wire-framed glasses, and a matter-of-fact expression. He looked like he needed a shave, like facial hair was an issue for him, like he had shaved that morning and maybe again at midday, like if he didn't stay on top of it, he'd have a full beard before dinner. I felt lucky to be talking to him, but nervous around all that sharply focused intellect and hair-sprouting vitality, holding my breath for whatever he was about to say. He was already talking.
The medicine man told me that I would never again conceive a pregnancy. J~'s sperm were no longer viable. And then, with nonchalant ease, he brought me inside his mind-lab to explain about DNA and genetic recombination and what was getting in the way for my husband. All of it made perfect sense, though I don't recall the details now.
What I recall is a strange cocktail of emotion: sadness, but more than that, profound gratitude for the information, for the freedom to finally move on.
It hit me today that I am no longer swamped by the afternoon blues. Recently, for more than a month, I slogged through a daily bout of grieving. It felt like a new space were being carved into my interior. It hurt. I didn't understand it, but I accepted it.
And then I started applying to graduate schools.
In relating a dream from his youth that he credits with giving him the cure for a deeply infected burn wound, Ketut Liyer, the Balinese medicine man in Eat, Pray, Love, said that "sometimes dreams are just joking". But clearly, he also believes, sometimes they're not.
My own dream ended the way dreams often do – the way thoughts end, usually – in a fuzzy slide into something else. I simply drifted from the medicine man's magical laboratory into a vision of my childless future, as if wandering, mid-film, from one screening room to another inside one of those big movie multiplexes. Again, I don't recall the details of that second dream, only bits about the setting – there was a sidewalk and a brick wall – and the emotion: my own Harvard/MIT-ish intensity, a deep engagement in my work and the people I was trying to reach with it.
When I woke, it was like emerging from my own chest.
I may not have a shiny laboratory in there. But there is something.