Four a.m. Someone, something throws water on my face trying to wrestle me back into consciousness. It stings but I do not fully awaken, only enough to be aware of what is playing out. My body lies still, paralyzed in either fear or anticipation of what is to come. I watch in horror as my babies slip through my fingers into a rushing river, the love of my life disappears inside a savage tornado, a gun is pointed to my head and the trigger pulled over and over and over sending shock waves through each molecule in my being. The only thing I can register as reality is the sweat these scenes generate, soaking my bed sheets until I shiver under the weight of its dampness.
What is a dream? Why do we have them? I’ve heard they are our subconscious seeking ways to sort out our underlying fears and frustrations. The players in the dream simply represent part of ourselves that we are unable to come to terms with during waking hours. Reliving past hurts or joys under rapid eye movements. I have a cursory awareness of what Freud and Jung thought regarding them but after reading a few paragraphs, my head starts to spin. Some cultures believe dreams represent symbols to tell the future or our struggles in an altered plane of existence. Recent theorists now lean more toward their meaninglessness than anything else – random visions created by random stimuli before dozing off.
Mostly, they frustrate the fuck out of me.
The room is shadowed in late evening sun. There is a piano and smell of lilacs. We are dancing. Holding one another in a tender embrace that is of pure light. He sings a song gently in my ear, words I know I will recognize upon awakening when they are played on the radio. We laugh and touch as two old souls who chose to walk an ethereal plane while others merely close their doors. It is not sexual, it is a deep knowing closeness that we share. The light gets brighter. It always does. And the music turns into an electronic beeping ripping us away with barely the time to whisper goodbye until we can find each other again.
I want some of my dreams to have significance and true meaning for my awakened soul. Others, I want to forget and give into their nothingness. Can I have it both ways? Of course, I can do anything I want. The battle lies somewhere in between as my inner hall monitor waves her red flag, screaming “You have to chose! You have to chose!”
The history of me has been riddled with nightmares – true, baffling, body-thrashing, involuntary shrieking and a forceful cleaving into rapid consciousness. Images of dead relatives rising from their coffins as I try to bash their skulls back down with a sledgehammer. Desperate chases as someone has taken my child from me and I cannot rescue them before they are lost over a bridge into a flood. The worst are the dreams where I am dreaming of being in bed asleep only to be awakened in the dream by one of these horrors. Distinguishing the line between dream and reality becomes much too difficult for my brain to determine until it is too late and I am writhing in mental anguish, praying for the end to come quickly or the sun to wake me.
There are great dreams, too, where I fly through the skies and know I was meant to. I dream of reading my inauguration poem for the nation on a beautiful, crisp day in Washington DC. Riding whales and horses, holding very old hands with my husband and traveling to distant lands I might not ever get to see when I am awake. I have dreams with my familiar on journeys fantastical or snuggling comfort where the gentle purring echoes long passed awakening. Or the miracle life growing inside of an empty space where my uterus used to be.
The long studied, over analyzed and clearly undefinable classic human conflicts – accepting the desired good with the perceived bad, embracing the dark while living in the light, giving to receive, receiving to give, taking a risk in order to be safe, coke versus pepsi, if it’s okay to go, then it’s okay to stay, less filling or great taste, honoring the flag through civil disobedience, opposites attracting, “to be or not to be” and an entire universe fitting within the nucleus of a single atom.
All of these are in us as humanity – in me as part of that larger family.
Is this what I dream of?
Or am I dreaming right now?
I am driving down a dirt road and see him walking in a crowd of people. He is sobbing and lost. I pull over to talk to him and he tells me a story I cannot bear to hear. Or repeat. I fly into a rage and try to determine if I am awake or asleep. He turns into cake as I rip him apart yelling no, no, no. I lash out at the world trying to make sense of it all. My body rolls over and I see the clock. Four a.m.