I read once that everyone has somewhere near to ten dreams every night, but most are lucky to remember one. If that is the case I am very lucky indeed because I almost always remember two or three dreams. There is, of course, an explanation for this. I have sleep apnea which forces me awake several times every night. Because I wake suddenly, and usually completely, I remember the dream I was having at the time. Because it’s the middle of the night and there is pretty much nothing else to do, I think about whatever dream I was having and, in so doing, handily move that dream from my subconscious to my conscious thoughts. So, lucky me. I remember my dreams.
I am lucky in another way with my dreams. I hardly ever have real nightmares. Oh, I have them now and again, but not as often as one might think. I had a real doozy once that involved diving into a sea filled with evil, animate, plastic baby dolls with glowing eyes. Okay, writing it out like that makes it sound like a parody of Toy Story gone horribly wrong, but believe me, it was scary at the time. I do have recurring themes that are completely disorienting and disturbing, but not the kind of things that would have you screaming in the night. I am the queen of the waking dream. I have, more times than I like to think, woke from a dream only to find that I’m in another dream, and then do the same thing over and over. I once called a friend in the middle of the night just to confirm that this was the real thing, that finally I had found reality. That worked, by the way, because in my dreams I can never use the telephone. I cannot call 911 or a friend. What happens is I try to call, but I only get some eerie, just barely recognizable as human voice saying something unclear on the other line.
I have my share of anxiety dreams, of course. We all have those. The classics show up once in awhile. I’m back in high school for some reason and I don’t know my locker combination or I’m late for a test I didn’t really know we were going to have. I once, in a dream, ran up twenty flights of stairs to find the only pencil sharpener in the building, only to realize that I was holding a pen. I’ve been naked in public places (In my dreams, folks, in my dreams. Well, except for that once, but that’s another blog.) and I have been lost in big cities and walked into very bad neighborhoods. I am a Preschool Teacher, so many of my anxiety dreams revolve around my profession. I often wake to find the children I was supposed to be taking care of standing around my bed just waiting for me to get up. Now and again, I find that I’ve slept the day away and I am now forced to call in to work at six in the evening, just before the school closes for the day, to explain why I’m so late.
Like most people I dream of flying, although often I run or swim instead. I take trains through tunnels. I lose teeth. I relive childhood events. I’ve been chased by zombies once or twice. I have in most ways a very usual dream life.
Or so I thought.
What makes my dreams unusual, or so I’ve been led to believe, is not only are they very vivid, with bright colors and great sound, and even mood lighting, but they are complete. They often tell stories; stories with recognizable beginnings, middles and ends. For me, going to sleep is kind of like going to the movies or turning on the television. Sadly, this often pans out quite literally as I find myself joining the Cosby or Rosanne families. A couple of times I’ve joined the family of the Fresh Prince and I’ve traveled through history to become a part of the Cartwrights or Ingels. One very memorable time, Rod Serling showed up. I’m pretty sure that was during the scuba attack of the evil baby dolls.
My more interesting dreams, at least to me, however, have nothing to do with my way too frequent television habits. These dreams seem to be little tidbits of someone’s life. Sometimes that person is undeniably me, and yet, not me. I think of them as my alternative self dreams. They can be as commonplace as me making breakfast with my family and sitting down and eating with them in our sunny eat-in kitchen. No underlying themes, no symbolic messages, just a family eating breakfast. I usually feel as though I’m spying on the me that isn’t me, and there is even a bit of thrilling guilt involved. And, in case you’re wondering, I have no family of my own, my birth family never ate breakfast together, I have only lived in two houses with eat-in kitchens and neither of them are the one in the dream, and, frankly, breakfast, for me, is the least important meal of the day. Sometimes the me in the dream is a me that somehow split from the timeline in which I grew up. That me lives in one of the houses I lived in at one time or another but has a very different life than the one the me in reality had. Sometimes the life is better, sometimes it is not. Most of the time they are just ordinary lives, just not the one I actually lived.
As much as I enjoy my alternate self dreams, and I do enjoy them very much, I like my story dreams the best. These dreams always have a central character, often a child or teenager, and usually take place in a fantastical dreamscape that could have housed The Prisoner, or a dystopia of some future generation. I know that I am, in some way, probably that central character, and probably all of the other characters as well, but as I dream, I watch the dream unfold just as if I were watching a movie or reading a book. Once I dreamt about a boy who traveled in a caravan with many other people, people who all had a unique talent just like he did, although this child was more powerful than anyone could imagine. In this dream they were all being hunted by their own fascist government that wanted to stop them from being publically known. I’d tell you more, but, in fact, this dream is slowly being transformed into a story/novel/series (maybe) that I will someday finish and hope to publish. I’ve dreamt of a family of three children who move in with their stodgy uncle only to find that his junkyard business hides the world’s most amazing amusement park. I’ve dreamt of being a young woman who inherits what is supposedly a haunted hotel, only to find that perhaps haunted takes on a different meaning if the hotel itself has a personality.
My doctor recently asked me if I wanted to try using a newer, less invasive c-pap machine. Sleep apnea, after all, is not considered all that healthy for your body. I told her no. I could never give up my dreams.