Dreams last for so long, even after you're gone... that's a Jewel song, folks, just in case you weren't aware. Which has absolutely nothing to do with me writing down my dreams except that the word "dreams" was in the title, so here we are. The other day, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, Big Magic (if you haven't heard of Elizabeth Gilbert, allow me to jog your memory: she's the famous author of Eat, Pray, Love, which was a decent book but a terrible movie (yeah, I said it!) and she described a situation where she fell asleep on a train, dreamed the most incredible dream, woke up, and wrote the best short story of her life, feeling completely inspired from her sleep.
Even though she admitted that only once in her life has such an experience happened to her, where she dreamed something so bizarrely out of this world that she called it divine inspiration, I was super jealous. I want to be in touch with my inner wisdom and intuition! I want to dream big, meaningful dreams and then wake up, probably without even so much as bad breath, on a train and write the shit out of some short story!
And dreams have always fascinated me, in a way. They say our brains are more active when we're dreaming than when we're awake, so who knows what's really going on in those little minds of ours when we REM. According to TheOdysseyOnline.com, writing down your dreams can cause you to have lucid dreams, which means you'll have more control over what you're dreaming, which means that maybe you'll dream closer to reality (and thus, make it easier on yourself to make those dreams come true).
All this got me thinking: Maybe we all just need to shut up and pay attention to our dreams a little bit more to tap into some of our own divine inspiration. Then I wondered, maybe I need to shut up and pay attention to my dreams a little bit more. So I decided to give it a try and find out what my dreams were trying to tell me about my deepest, darkest truths, secrets, and desires.
I wrote my dreams down every night for a week and kept track of what was happening in the real world and in dream world. Spoiler alert: Things got weird.
The Dream: I'm in a makeshift hospital outside, where people are rushing all around. We are on a paved street, lined with sick and injured people and staff in scrubs sprinting everywhere. Suddenly, a stretcher is thrust into my hands and I am given charge of a young boy who has drowned because I'm a nurse. His little body is crumpled on my stretcher, covered in a bright white sheet. He is motionless. There is no one to help me.
All at once, I am on a mission to get somewhere with him. I don't really know where, but I am running, guiding the stretcher down over the sidewalk curb with a large jolt, then up the next sidewalk with another lump, his body bouncing up and down with every obstacle I navigate. I go into the hospital, which is actually a converted school and try to get someone to help me, but everyone is busy. I push the stretcher, still running, down a long hallway that is so hilly it seems we are sledding down a hill. I turn right and in through a door into the CT room, which is actually just a space under the stairwell. The entire room slopes down and the only medical equipment in there is two staff with a laptop and a white sheet for the CT "machine." I try shouting and running through other doors for more equipment and his chart.
What Did It Mean?: The first night I began chronicling my dreams unfortunately happened close to the time when I'd spent the better part of the day reading and hearing about refugee children who'd be lost at sea and drowned. I tried to avoid seeing his poor body because stuff like that just tears me apart. I fixate on horrible losses like those and they settle deep into my soul where I can't seem to shake them or do anything productive to help either, so in general, I avoid horrible news stories the same way I avoid scary movies or crime shows or anything involving the bodily harm of children because real life sucks.
Despite my best efforts not to, I finally saw a few graphic images and then of course had to read everything about them, and, like I knew it would, I couldn't get each of their stories out of my mind. The worst part for me was how helpless I felt about the whole situation. If governments all over are clueless on how to best help these refugees, what on earth am I going to do?
It doesn't take a genius to realize that this dream was pretty ripe with meaning. The lack of staff and resources, my inadequacies as a nurse (a job I haven't done in a few years), all of the literal bumps in the road, and the number of hills I had to navigate in the dream all point to my feelings of helpless and desolation about the real-life refugee children. DreamingTheDream.com says that descending a hill or an elevation in a dream represents losses, which definitely makes a lot of sense. I realized that my dream was trying to force me to face what I’d been trying to avoid, and for a few days, I let myself feel all that horrible pain of seeing that poor little boy. I did some research and read a few helpful posts, like this one and this one, that helped me translate my sadness and grief into meaningful actions I could take to actually help. And it helping felt good.
The Dream: I'm looking at my phone when I get a too-casual text from my friend's husband, who recently just welcome a baby. He was sorry to tell us all, the text read, that the baby "had gone to heaven" only days old. I am horrified, devastated, and shocked to ultimately discover that the baby had passed away from SIDS. The more I found out, however, it comes to light that the baby passing was attributed to the fact that the baby had been swaddled tightly and sleeping on a bottom bunk bed with her 2-year-old brother, the father, and the baby's nanny. I see a clear vision of the baby, swaddled in a creamy cloth, the evening before she died. I am, quite frankly, angry that everyone had been so negligent and casual about the whole situation.
What Did It Mean?: This dream brought me face-to-face with a few of my mixed feelings about having another baby. On one hand, I was so envious of this perfect family’s gorgeous new baby, but on the other, it’s one of my biggest fears that because we’ve been so lucky so far — our kids are healthy, happy, and perfectly safe — it won’t stop something horrible from happening. A baby close to our family died from SIDS this time two years ago, and he’s never far from my mind either.
The Dream: Despite my best efforts to recall any kind of dream I had while I slept, nothing came to mind. I didn't dream anything this night.
What Did It Mean?: Night three consisted of approximately two hours of broken sleep, thanks to four children 7 and under who happen to live under my roof, which equals no dreaming for me. Or, at least, no dreaming I could remember. Even though I dragged through my day that day, I wondered what I had missed from my subconscious the night before. It was almost like I missed a chat with my BFF.
The Dream: I am hanging out with an old high school friend, who has heaps of people swarming him, hanging off his literal shoulders, all congratulating him. There are balloons and streamers behind his head and a woman is kissing his cheeks. It turns out he has just had a baby. I'm happy for him but also confused why I am here, because honestly, I barely know the guy.
What Did It Mean?: I'm going to have to chalk this dream up to pure Facebook stalking, because I had been looking at his sister's profile before I went to bed. She’s a flight attendant and literally travels the world posting pictures of exotic adventures including but not limited to: Paris, India, and selfies on elephant rides. We used to talk about escaping the small town we went to high school and traveling the world together, except she actually did it, and I married my high school sweetheart and had four babies (which, for the record, also awesome).
I wondered if maybe the baby in my dream represented some of those unbirthed dreams of traveling the world that I have from long ago.
The Dream: All day, I have been wondering if it will happen, but when it does, I am still surprised. I feel no pain, but a strange shudder, like my body is throwing up in reverse. Into my hands falls a perfectly formed baby, red like a fresh cherry. The baby is upside down, hanging like a bat in repose, a teardrop shaped sac like jelly in my palm. I am standing in the bathroom and even though I somehow knew I was having a miscarriage, I am still devastated, sobbing wet, silent tears. I feel like I have joined a secret club I didn't want to be a part of and I wonder what on earth I am supposed to now. I have an image of flushing away my baby, like a goldfish down the toilet.
What Did It Mean? I haven't had a miscarriage, nor am I pregnant right now, but this dream represents one of my biggest fears: losing a baby, and not having any clue where to go from there. It's been in the back of my mind at all times during each of my pregnancies (as I'm sure it is for many women), so dreaming this really struck me to the core.
I also realized that all of my dreams this week came at a particularly tough time in my life. I had just weaned my youngest daughter and was going through some kind of weaning depression (it’s a thing, guys, for real). My hormones were all over the place and I was struggling with a lot of sad news personally and in the world, so even though it was tough to recognize all the sadness that was literally on my mind, even in sleep, it comforted me in a way to know that my subconscious was dealing with those feelings even when I was denying them.
The Dream: With a torch that's something straight out of Braveheart, he lights a field on fire and it ignites quickly, effortless, like a tidal wave of water, taking down rows and rows of corn into nothingness. Zac Efron sprints through the fiery field, shirtless of course, as flaming corn stalks seem to bow down to his biceps. Gunshots ring out around him and he dodges bullets, leaping and jumping like a nimble gazelle in the night. Bizarrely, I seem to be just standing there watching him and doing absolutely nothing helpful at all.
Later, Zac is staying the night at our house. I am very much still a slightly overweight married mother of four, but I flirt with him, "accidentally" forgetting to change out of my sexiest pink babydoll nightgown while I whip up a batch of homemade apple cinnamon pancakes for everyone. When he comes downstairs and sits at the counter, I feign embarrassment, smoothing my sleep hair and serving up him up a fresh stack all while wondering how on earth someone could look so damn adorable so early in the morning.
What Did It Mean?: Yeah, that just happened. It was a dream and I'm still embarrassed. Even more tellingly, this dream happened to occur at the exact stage that my husband and I were going through an extremely rough week. We were basically not talking at that point, which may explain a lot about my apparent cougar tendencies in this dream. I realized that in some strange way, Zac helped me realize how much I was actually missing my husband and just being playful and fun with him. Our lives have become so stressful and our relationship whittled down to checking in about each other’s schedules and childcare arrangement and who needs what work done that it’s not always lighthearted or flirty anymore. So this dream actually explained a lot about what our marriage needed at that point and time. Or, OK, maybe it just explained this:
The Dream: My cousin, whose sister is pregnant, is pregnant too! I am so happy for both of them but also insanely jealous because they will get to be pregnant together and their kids will be close cousins.
What Did It Mean?: Honestly, this dream was pretty self-explanatory. I’ve always wished I could be pregnant with someone that closely. I had pregnancies with two of my close friends last year and now they’re both pregnant again, but I’m not, so that’s been really hard for me. And if you’re wondering, no, my cousin is not actually pregnant. I think.
Did Writing Down My Dreams End Up Teaching Me Anything?
Welp, other than my embarrassing fantasy about Zac Efron that I was actually not aware of until this moment that was also not helped at all by being forced to “research” images of a shirtless Zac Efron for this article (clear history; clear history), I learned a few key lessons:
- I think about pregnancy a lot. To be clear, I do not think about pregnancy and Zac Efron a lot, although I imagine the two could be related for one lucky gal out there. For me, I know that I’m struggling with whether or not if I should be “done” with the baby phase, even though I don’t really feel done. Sure, my body probably wouldn’t thank me for it, but I still have baby fever pretty badly, and there are a lot of unresolved issues there I need to explore before we make a final decision.
- Dreams can tell us a lot more than we realize. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d get much out of this little experiment, but it was a lot more helpful than I realized. There are some pretty weighty fears and issues going on in my dreams that I know I’m not dealing with on a daily basis, and as a result, they’re buried in my subconscious, resurfacing in my dreams. By giving them time to come to light and focusing on them, I’ve been forced to deal with some of my fears and struggles more. Our dreams tell us more about what we need, what we’re struggling with, and sometimes, what we fear than our active thoughts do and getting in the practice of writing down your dreams can help you remember them and decipher what the heck they mean.
Oh, and also: My husband and I did eventually get through that rough week, so no worries on the whole Zac Efron thing. There were no actual corn fields harmed in the making of this experiment, so it’s all good.