Monday, February 28, 2011

"And oh, my dreams, it's never quite as it seems"*

Dreams—both sleeping and waking—are funny things. I’ve always been a very vivid sleep dreamer. As a young child, I had a reoccurring nightmare that I was being chased by wolves. Eventually those nightmares gave way to ones in which I was stalked by dinosaurs. Then I had a period in which most of my nightmares were end-of-the-world scenarios.

Most recently I’ve been having dreams in which I am running late for some type of engagement (sometimes I’ve reverted back to my school days, other times I’m late for work) and I just can’t seem to get where I need to go. These don’t invoke the same fear as my wolf, dinosaur, or apocalyptic dreams, but a great deal of anxiety goes along with them.

I think these reoccurring dreams are a manifestation of anxieties or fears I am having in real life. The real-life fears have nothing to do with wolves or the end of the world, but this is how my brain interprets the fears and anxieties of my waking life in the dream world.

The nightmares, though, aren’t the hardest dreams. I wake up from nightmare with my heart racing and my body chilled from a cold sweat, but pretty soon I realize It was all just a dream. The hardest dreams are the ones about my dead little sister, Kylene (and forgive me here for displaying a little emotion…something I hate to do in any kind of public forum).

It’s not that these are scary dreams in which she’s coming back from the dead to haunt me or anything. No, they’re usually quite pleasant. Often we’re kids again, but sometimes I’m an adult (she was 16 when she died, so she is never really older than that in my dreams). We may be off on some adventure, but often we’re just hanging out.

(Here I am reading to Kylene when we were kids...I know, my hair is terrible and she's cute as a button!)

While I’m having these dreams, there’s always that little something niggling me in the back of my mind. That voice that’s saying Something isn’t right here. You know when you’re dreaming and you’re in a place you know in real life, like your house, but it doesn’t look like your real-life house, yet somehow you just know that it is your house. That’s the feeling I’m talking about.

Sometimes the revelation of what’s wrong comes to me while I’m dreaming, but the full meaning of it doesn’t hit me until I’m awake. And that something is that my sister is dead, and even if the dream felt completely real to me, I know it wasn’t because people don’t come back from the dead.

And that’s the hard part of these dreams: that moment when I realize It was all just a dream, that my sister really is dead, and she’s never coming back. For a split second, the raw emotions are all too real and even though it’s been almost nine years since she died, I feel like it’s only been minutes and I’m losing her all over again.

But it isn’t all bad because maybe sleep is a place where you can bridge the gap between life and death. Maybe she can come back to life, even if it’s only for a little while in my subconscious. Or maybe she really is coming to visit me in some spiritual form (a little far-fetched for my logical mind, but I suppose it’s possible). And you know what? Even if it was just a dream, I got to see my sister again and that’s worth all the pain of remembering she’s gone.

That’s the beauty of dreams: they open up a world of possibilities. Like black holes, we don’t know all that much about them. They’re one of life’s great mysteries. And I think that these dreams we have in sleep help fuel our dreams in life. I dream in sleep and I feel my sister is alive again. And I dream in the waking world to become a published writer, so that my sister can live again in a fictional world.
But waking dreams are a discussion for another post. What have you been dreaming of lately?

*The Cranberries