In my dream I am standing on the beach on the Oregon coast. In reality, I grew up less than an hour from here, a straight shot from my family’s farmhouse down the Sunset Highway, through spruce trees and western hemlocks. I came here often, with family and friends and on my own. Day trips and vacations. Planned and spontaneous. Sometimes, out of boredom or frustration or wanderlust, I would just get in the car and drive until I saw the ocean.
In my dream I am standing on the beach, looking out at the sea with familiar awe. But there is also a familiar anxiety, a nagging worry I always feel near the ocean in earthquake country: What if there’s a tsunami?
In my dream I comfort myself the way I always do in real life, with logic: What are the chances of that? Out of the thousands of days and millions of hours there hasn’t been a tsunami, the odds of it happening right here, right now, are miniscule.
I take a deep breath and try to relax.
But then in the hazy periphery of my dream awareness I hear someone yell, “The wave is coming!”
It’s happening. Holy fucking fuck it’s actually happening. My worst fear is coming true.
I start to run away, scanning the landscape for higher ground. There isn’t any. I am terrified. But bubbling up through my fear is rage. This isn’t fair, I’m thinking. Out of the thousands of days and millions of hours there hasn’t been a tsunami, what are the odds of it happening right here, right now? How unlucky am I? What did I do to deserve this?
I stop running. Something has shifted within me. My fear is gone. My rage has evaporated. The internal monologue is still running through my head, but it has changed very slightly: Out of the thousands of days and millions of hours there hasn’t been a tsunami, what are the odds of it happening right here, right now? There’s a reason I’m here, now.
In my dream I walk back to the beach. I am watching the wave approach. I am facing it head on. Just before it washes over me, I think, This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I keep thinking about how I felt on that beach in my dream a few nights ago, and the waves we’re all facing right now. The despair and uncertainty is unrelenting. Panic has become a familiar feeling, a spoonful of curdled cream I stir into my coffee; a home invader I sit next to on the couch. Sometimes I feel consumed with the urge to run, to find higher ground. Sometimes it’s painfully, horrifically clear that there’s nowhere to go.
And the waves keep coming. Pandemic. Fascism. Racism. Police brutality. Corruption. Climate change. Our heroes are dying when we need them most. Our worst fears are coming true.
I often catch myself thinking, What did we do to deserve this? What are the chances of our being here for this insane confluence of pain and fear and sorrow?
The chances are none. The odds are impossible.
For the past six months when friends call me crying, I tell them, “The only thing I know for sure is everyone who is here now is supposed to be here for this. And we are here together.”
And I want to say that to you, now. The factors that brought us to the edge of this ocean on this specific day and hour are complex and mysterious and overwhelming and enraging. Some of them we can (and should) fight like hell. Some of them we must accept.
But there is something powerful about not running from the wave. About walking back to the beach, sinking your toes into the sand and recognizing the truth of this moment.
I am here. You are here. We are here.
In my dream, the wave is a mile high. It is going to consume me. But just before the water swallows me, I wake up.