Last night I helped deliver three labrador puppies and made endless layout designs for new return-address labels–and I didn’t even wake up to do it.
I was dreaming, of course. In this instance, I know why. The labrador pups are pictured on the cover of a book I’m reading; the labels are something I’ve been planning for a week or so to replace the ones I just used up.
Sometimes, though, the origin of dreams defies explanation. I see crystal clear images of faces that belong to no one I’ve ever met; I find myself in situations where I’d never venture if I were awake; but there are also times I revisit moments and people I’d just as soon forget, and I wonder why my subconscious won’t let go.
When I was a little kid in Michigan, after an especially scary tornado season, I started dreaming about tornadoes at night, scary nightmares that wakened me in a panic. Through the years I continued to have tornado dreams, although they have gradually lost their fierceness and now appear only occasionally as old and toothless friends, viewed almost affectionately.
Most of my dreams as a kid were fun. I loved that so many real-world rules were suspended and I could enter a fairyland of adventures. I know I did, because I remembered so many of them. Bedtime became something to look forward to, the portal to a world more exciting than my waking world. Even now, when I tell George, “Have fun dreams” as we settle down for the night, I’m in earnest. Have a ball!
Some of my dreams are heavily plot-driven, maybe because I’m a writer and a voracious reader. Long, complicated scenarios spin themselves out and, if I should happen to awaken, they return once I’ve fallen asleep again and pick up where they left off. One morning after a particularly exciting sleep-story, I grabbed a pen and paper and started to write it down. Unfortunately, as with most dreams, the details began to fade, leaving blank spots and unexplained details in what had been a coherent story while I slept.
I’m proudest of my ability to talk myself out of nightmares. Just as the killer is about to stab me ruthlessly for what is undoubtedly no good reason, I begin to talk him out of it. And, even more remarkable, he begins to listen. Sometimes we even become friends–at least long enough for me to make a flawless escape. If that doesn’t work, I stop the action and remind my sleeping self that this is, after all, just a dream. I give myself permission either to wake up, or to change the ending. And I do.
Most frustrating are the ones that won’t allow me to do something I desperately want to do. No matter how close I come to accomplishing my mission, something happens to thwart me–over and over and over. I can almost see the psychology behind those, but I can’t relate them to anything real in my waking life. I’m just glad when those dreams are over.
Sometimes the dreams only seem to be over, especially the unpleasant ones. My eyes open, I look around the room, and feel relief that THAT–whatever it is–was just a dream. Only to discover that waking itself was just a dream and that I’m still sleeping–to awaken again to find THAT awakening a dream… That can happen several times, so that when I finally do actually wake up, I don’t know whether to believe it or not.
Almost disconcerting, however, are the times when the mood of a dream or the personality of my dream character carries over into my waking hours. Happy, sad, worried, capable, afraid–whatever I felt before I awakened sometimes colors my attitudes toward people and events, at least for a time. I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms and shake myself back to my own personality.
The most amusing aftermath of dreams is when I’ve dreamed about someone I know in my waking world, but forget that I had the dream. Later in the day, if I happen upon them at the store or at church or in my neighborhood, they “feel familiar.” I don’t know how else to describe it. I sense a shared experience, a “knowing” that I have to be careful not to act on because it can be sudden affection for someone I barely know or mistrust of someone I normally get along well with. That feeling wears off, thank goodness.
So you see, my life is never boring. If the waking hours ever become hum-drum, my nights more than make up for it!