Remembering to forget our dreams

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In swimming under water to make a circle

Mostly I don’t remember my dreams.

I feel as though I have gone months, maybe years without dreaming. Certainly without remembering having dreamt anything.

I’ve wondered if I’m odd in my dreamlessness. If I’m alone in this world with a quiet head full of nothingness in my sleep.

And then there are nights like the movies. Nights without a break in the action. Nights where the dreams come like waves, ceaseless and relentless.

Where you wake up with your head underwater and you gasp for air between the troughs only to be submerged again.

Like opening your eyes in the depths to the sting of salt water, the disorienting dark and the shapes like monsters in the deep.

The dreams returned lately, and I’m left wondering if they ever really left at all.

The day and the night are as different to me as I age as they were when I was young and full of fear.

The nights are unsettling as I drift in and out of the dreams. The wakeful moments are not clear to me, but the dreams are high definition, and I re-enter them at precisely the moment I left, so there is no cinematic reprieve from whatever monsters are chasing me.

But daylight and morning are safe harbors where exist no memories of the night’s terrors.

In those wakeful moments in the night, when I can remember every detail and my heart pounds down in the reality of my bed and my wife laying next to me and the familiarity of the air coming in at the window at the head of our bed and the pile of clothes in the corner and the closet door slightly opened and my nightstand and the red-numbered digital display of the alarm clock, and I know everything is okay. I can tell the dream from my life.

It’s there in my head, the details. For a few minutes I want to wake her to tell her the dream to see if she can help me understand its meaning, but I know the wrath of waking her from the sweet sleep she loves.

In a moment, I’m inside again. I don’t know how much time elapsed, but I closed my eyes, and the monster is there in all its gory detail, and wakefulness is the dream.

This is the pattern of the night for me.

In the earliest hours of the dawn, when the dreams seem most intense, when resolution seems near at hand, I am nearly drowned from trying to keep my head above water.

And this time, in the faint light, wakefulness is welcomed, but I feel weary all over from the battles.

This is different. The dream recedes quickly, as if it is forbidden in this place and time. It pulls back like the tides before a tsunami, and I’m left with the barren landscape of a battlefield with no memory of the epic that just occurred.

As the shadow monsters disappear when the curtains are opened, the dream’s complex levels, the characters I was or wished to be are dissolved, and for a few minutes, I miss them, even their terror.

I miss them because they are strong and surely they must mean something. But I do not know what they mean. And as the colors appear from the harbors of morning and daylight, I lose the last dregs of the dream, washed down, as they are by the water in the glass on my night stand.

I’ve long wondered why we dream. Why we don’t dream. Why we remember to forget our dreams.

I think maybe our dreams are not for us. Not wholly for us.

They are ours simply because our brains or our spirits are tethered to these fleshy bone bags, which they animate in the light of day.

But at night, they are free to soar, unencumbered by the weight of human existence.

Perhaps dreams are just the glimpses into the revenge games and the psychological stress of the day job of the mind or the spirit.

Or maybe dreams are like cave paintings on the inside walls of our minds, leftover images from a different state of being.

Whatever they are, we are meant to forget them, if we are ever meant to remember them in the first place.


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