Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Reset Button: Ultimate Relief

You're hurtling down some unknown highway at night. The headlights of oncoming traffic, mottled and blurred by the ferocious rain, streak past you with a callous indifference to your situation. You're being chased by something unidentified. You haven't seen it's face, but you know it's there, racing along behind you, ready to strike at any lapse in your concentration. You try desperately to focus on the road, to keep control of the vehicle that seems to get faster and more unwieldy every moment. The car slides on the slick pavement. You're terrified, surrounded in front and behind by certain death. You make one last vain attempt to keep the car on the road, crossing into oncoming traffic, and then beyond, jettisoning through the guardrail and out into space. A horrible menacing space you'd hoped you'd never have to face. You brace yourself for impact with the ground rushing up below.

And then you wake up.

This sort of massive relief is something we've all experienced many times in our lives. The scene above is straight from a dream I had a few years ago. The experience was so intense it stuck with me all this time. I can still see the headlights and feel the fear as if I'd just had the dream last night. But then you awaken from whatever misery or terror you're experiencing and the horror is replaced with relief. A palpable sort of relief, both in its stark contrast to your previous emotional state, and its familiarity from previous dream experiences.

Of course the feeling itself is positive. It's wonderful when you discover that a particular hell is just an illusion and that your world isn't actually crumbling around you. When that fear gives way to relief, the planet shifts for you, and you feel like you've been given a second chance. It can be a very potent experience.

But there's another positive tangled into all this. Thankfully most of the the really awful things that happen to us have a reset button, because nearly all of life's terrors occur in dreams. At least in the developed nations of the world. Nations not consumed by war, disease or civil unrest. We should remember that some people's waking lives are the nightmare. But for most of us living in peaceful societies, our night terrors are the worst things that happen to us. I've never had the experience of wishing I could awaken, in vain, from a real-life situation because nothing unpleasant enough has ever happened to me. I'd be willing to bet a lot of people would say the same thing. That's something to be thankful for. That every really awful thing that's ever happened to you has come with a reset button.

I hope that situation continues, for me and everyone I love. It'd be nice if everyone on the planet could share that experience, too.

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