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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Baraka 26 August 2008

Posted by Ayesha Mattu in BARAKA, Psychology.
Zhang Ziyi as Jen Yu

Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter for the way was barred to me. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca is a wonderful film, in which Laurence Olivier showed me what great acting could be. The opening words are haunting, and I felt them ring in my ears this morning upon waking from vivid dreams.

The strange thing about debilitation and paralysis is that, eventually, it starts affecting your dreams, which are otherwise the realm of the impossible, the imagined, the desired. The illness seeps its way into your subconscious and limits what your mind believes is possible.

As a child, I dreamt often and easily of flying through the air, leaping to the moon, running as fast as the wind. As an adult, my dreams became more realistic, with the occasional superhuman twist.

But when I was paralyzed from the waist down in May, I started dreaming about walking, that most mundane of daily acts for most people. Sometimes I would dream that I could run and would awaken with my heart pounding from the imagined exertion, and then filling with despair as I felt the weight of my immobile legs.

Then, one awful night, I dreamt that I could not walk, and no matter how I tried I stumbled and fell on paralyzed legs. I was shattered the next morning, throat burning with the tightness that heralds tears, for dreams were my last refuge, my only escape from the boundaries of these four walls, these failing limbs. Now it seemed that they, too, were inhabited by this voracious disease.

But last night, I dreamt that I could fly, float, leap, and flip like Jen Yu confronting Li Mu Bai among the trees. Ah, sweet freedom without painful limbs, damaged nerves, and numbed legs. What exquisite joy to not have to think about the painful how of getting from one room to the next with wheelchair and catheter in tow, but simply to desire movement and appear there instantaneously.

Now, hours later, I still feel so blessed by that nighttime visit to my lost Manderley. I lay awake long afterwards, relishing the sensations, replaying the motions, reminding myself to hoard and to remember how glorious it felt to be free, to be free of this body.

To have even brief respite from my new reality in dreams is a mercy.

‘Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you deny?’

Al-Qur’an, 55:13

Originally posted: Rickshaw Diaries, October 2005



1. m - 20 January 2009

how well you write

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