Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?
Nearly twenty years ago, I followed my dreams to a better life. Not the pasty pink, bedazzled “dreams” that are aspirations, but the gritty movies that play on the screen of the sleeping brain. Living far from my family in a city where I could afford to do nothing more than pay for rent and food, working for a rapidly decompensating crazy person, and finally aware that The One was not, I was miserable. One April night I dreamed that my father had died, a dream so vivid that I spent the following workday somber and shaken. Two nights later, I dreamed that my brother died in an accident. Half awake, struggling up from sleep, away from the dream that seemed to be pulling me deeper into despair and isolation, I heard a voice. “Go home,” it said. Go home. Whatever it was, my subconscious, a glass of red wine, or some supernatural force, it pointed its finger like the ghost of Christmas Present to the place where I belonged. I did go home, where I opened like a flower kept too long in the cooler; I prospered and bloomed.
The death dreams have been with me all my life, and I have learned to be attentive, to give a gentle shove to the images and emotions that hang dense around me as I awaken and look for the real message. Almost always there is an Error Message somewhere in my life, and although I continually reboot and develop work-arounds, the problem really requires serious attention. I am a rational person who believes in objective evidence kinds of things, but I also believe in the awesome powers of the spiritual world to move, unbidden and elusive, through our lives. Dreams may be nothing more than the repurposed scraps of our busy brains, they may be coded Freudian signs of pathology or Jungian clues to what we have suppressed during waking hours. They may, as the Chinese believed for centuries, be spirit guides.
I have other recurring dreams, one in which I am taking a test and know none of the subject matter, one where I am about to go on stage to perform in a play and do not know my lines, and one in which I am in a serious setting and discover, suddenly, that I am missing my clothes. Classic anxiety dreams, these have changed from my childhood dream of being left alone in a car that slid into the river near our house. I also dreamed that a vampire was trying to get to my neck, after which I slept for years with a large teddy bear (named Edward) between my neck and my pillow as a safety measure. These all seem ordinary to me, dreams that I think most of us have in one form or another. They are common as dirt, those dreams, and seem to require little in the way of analysis.
The dreams that perplex, that defy easy interpretation, are dreams of longing. The miraculous reunion with the long-dead friend, the birth of a baby long after such a thing is biologically impossible, these are the dreams that color our waking hours with melancholy and a sense of loss that can’t be conquered easily by brisk activity or a mental promise to address the issue with a twelve-point plan. Standing on the beach beneath the scorching, cleansing sun of Rational Thought, we hurl something into the darkest, coldest depths of the ocean. Days, months, years later it washes up on the sand at our feet, a small, perfect shell filled with loss, regret and a searing tantalizing hint of sweetness. I cannot believe that some spirit guide is pointing us back to a place impossible to reach; it must just be some sort of psychic flotsam that lies hidden beneath the gently waving seaweed until it’s released by some shift in the current.
In dreams, all guards lowered, all channels open, nothing is ever really gone.