I had a nightmare last night, that was not in fact, a nightmare. (At least, not by conventional standards.) It was the kind of nightmare where nothing really seemed all that scary, until the very end when this feeling started to creep in, a feeling that took over my whole body and began to force my lungs to work double-time to perform their usual function of handling air. I have had nightmares before, but for some reason, this one takes the cake.
Let’s take a step back, for a moment…
I’ve always dreamed vividly. I don’t know statistically if I remember more or less of my dreams than the average person. I don’t know if in the actual scheme of dreaming, mine are any more amazing than someone else’s. I just know that there are people that never remember their dreams pretty much… ever. Case in point? My boyfriend. In the two years we’ve been dating, he’s only actually recalled three dreams. Three! This to me is as much a sad story as it is fascinating. Seven nights a week, I wake up pondering what had just happened in my head, and he wakes up having nothing more to chew than what he laid his head down with. Seven nights a week, I wake up having just lived adventures more exciting than my real life could ever actually provide. He goes to sleep to actually sleep; I go to sleep to dream. The latter is much more satisfying, I think.
Let’s put it this way, I’m pretty sure if my dreams were a movie, millions of people would line in droves for the premiere and then watch them over and over afterwards. Everyone would dress as the main characters, cheer for the protagonist (yours truly) and some of the recurring supporting personalities while booing mercilessly at the antagonists and demons that occasionally make their way into my mind’s motion picture. Siskel and Ebert would give 4 thumbs up, and critics everywhere would be in awe of the action-packed adventure and realistic qualities of the special effects. Mouths would drop and gasp at the surprising plot twists. Popcorn would fly out of rage for the immorality of some of the decisions. Laughs would pour hysterically at the one-liners that my mind personally wrote for all performers on my stage. Girls would coo at the utter sweetness that the leading men bestowed upon me. Men would come equipped with tissues and a bottle of lotion for the utter raunchiness I bestowed upon the leading men. Every single person’s taste would be met. My brain leaves no stone unturned.
I also have this strange ability to alter my dreams. This meaning, I’m always in my dreams as two people: the actual main character who we are all watching and then as a big, booming God-like entity who is commentating and sometimes changing the course. My dreams can resemble those ‘choose your own adventure’ books in the way that God-me can force dream-me to do things. (To make out with the handsome man sitting at the ferris wheel, turn to page 147. To turn around and fly on a skateboard to a waterfall housing magical crickets, turn to page 43.) This is an interesting concept because it indicates my conscious and subconscious selves are both in flux and conflict constantly, and although this is true for many, mine make it blatantly obvious. They agree out in the open fields on my mind and they argue just the same.
Every once and a while however, my subconscious wins fully, and I have no control whatsoever on what happens. This is what happened last night, and although rarely I try and analyze my dreams (I’d rather just enjoy them than pick them apart), when my subconscious wins, I can’t help but take notice. I can’t help but dissect. So upon awakening this morning, I was a slave to logical deduction and analysis of a nightmare, that was in fact, not a nightmare…
I was living at the house I lived in throughout high school. My mom’s place, by a lake in East Dorset, Vermont. I would assume this makes sense, because this is the house where I began the real-life journey of figuring out who the hell I am. (I’ve had first kisses there. I’ve made some very dumb decisions there. I’ve cried in angst more there than anywhere else in the world.) The house for the most part looked very much the same as it did when I lived there aside from my bedroom. The floor to my bedroom was actually see-through glass and underneath was a slightly murky, blueish-green water. There were no fish or water vegetation, but there was a man. (He looked kind of like one of those twisted rednecks from ‘Wrong Turn.’ His face was far from attractive, almost as if he had a slight case of elephant’s disease.)
This man was no stranger to me, although I am unsure where I knew him from. He just laid there dormant, eyes closed, hands folded, right beneath the glass. He didn’t scare me. In fact, I took my foot and attempted to break the glass to let him out, but not necessarily to save him. His life was not in danger. I simply wanted to let him out… period.
The glass began to crack and shatter and a spot just big enough for him to crawl out opened up while the rest of the floor stayed in tact. His eyes popped open and he began to stir. He just stared at me. I still wasn’t scared. Eventually, he began to pull himself up and I said “be careful not to cut yourself.” He said nothing.
(At this point, conscious me would think ‘how is this glass not breaking anymore? Wait, should I make out with this creep?’ I had yet to figure out conscious me was not in control this time.)
We just stood there staring at each other, for what seemed like forever, before he finally spoke. His voice was smooth and handsome and seemed completely foreign to his rough and ill-favored appearance, and all he said was “I’d rather be wearing overalls.” As if he was disappointed in the outfit my mind had picked out from my mental closet for him.
At this point, we began arguing. I wish for both your sake and mine, I could remember everything that was said, but I can’t. I can say however, I do not think we were arguing about overalls, but I also can’t be sure, (because occasionally the subconscious likes to take snippets of your dreams and hog those pieces all to themselves). We argued for a while and then out of the blue… he hit me.
This is where my conscious, God-like entity self begins to realize I’m just a spectator to my own mind. With the crack of that first fist, I began to think ‘whoa, whoa! This is getting a little out of hand here. Let’s do something different. Let’s get out of here. Let’s go to an ice cream shop.’
But I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I was forced to fight this man. My frets were eased slightly when I realized there was something different about this fight scene though. It wasn’t one of those dreams you have where you can’t hit back, no matter how hard you try. No, I was strong. I was hitting him and I was hitting him hard. In fact, I was winning. I was defending myself and I was doing it well. I felt powerful. I felt unstoppable. I felt good. I was a winner.
Finally, he slumped to the floor, and although he had no mark on him, he raised a hand, smiled, and again, he spoke…
“I’m going to tell everyone what you did to me. I’m going to tell them you hit me and hit me again. Everyone will hate you. You can’t win. No matter how powerful you feel, you’re powerless. You lose. You lose.”
And this is when the dream turned from not really that scary to a nightmare. It was the feeling that welled up inside of me with those words, not the actual setting or actions. Powerless. Trapped. Defeated. Hopeless. The feeling was so overwhelming, it felt as if I was having an anxiety attack inside my own head. I couldn’t breathe.
I begged with him. I pleaded with him. He just laughed.
I had lost. I lost even though I felt I had won. Check mate. There was no move I could make to win, to fix the outcome, to get out of the corner he had me backed into.
I couldn’t change my surroundings. I couldn’t mentally change anything, so I did the next best thing; I forced my eyes open and brought myself back to real life. As I struggled to catch my breath, and my boyfriend shouted “hey! hey! are you alright?,” my mind began to calm and my breathing became more regular. I shrugged his question off with the typical “I had a bad dream” phrase that everyone uses to avoid an explanation, but that awful feeling stayed. It lingered in my mind like a bad dream can be known to do.
I realized that was the first dream I had ever had that made it hard to breathe in real-life.
But I realized something bigger as well…
Feeling powerless is scarier to me than any monster. Feeling as if I have been defeated will suffocate me more than any ghost. Feeling as if there is no option, no hope, to change a trap that I am stuck in is the most terrifying beast I have ever seen in the night.
People often say “dreams come true.” The problem with this statement is that what people are actually referring to are aspirations, not dreams. (I want a yacht. I want a dream job where I make a lot of money, and everyone loves me, but I don’t have to work. I want a wife that will simultaneously cook me dinner, vacuum, and suck my penis. I want millions of dollars to grow from trees. I want a prince who will sweep me off my feet and never think of another woman in bed. Blah. Blah.) The fact of the matter is, dreams don’t come true. I will never be courted by Robin Hood at a water park while he cuddles a bengal tiger. That will just never happen.
But sometimes, if you listen, dreams will explain to you something about yourself, which in turn will help you achieve your aspirations.
And now I know… next time, I will never let the man underneath the glass out just so he can back me into a corner, just so he can remove all of my options. Next time, I will simply wave and then make my way to the handsome guy sitting by the ferris wheel, waiting to make out. Or maybe, I’ll fly on a skateboard to a waterfall housing magical crickets. Regardless, no matter what adventure I choose, I will make sure I have options.