I hate dreams.
Oh, not the inspirational "I have a dream" goal-and-aspiration kind of dreams--I'm a big fan of those. No, the ones I despise are the ones that come when you sleep, when you're most vulnerable and defenseless. I've hated those as long as I can remember.
I have good reason, too: They've never been kind to me. As a child, I would wake with night terrors--those middle of the night awakenings that are filled with unexplainable fear, the remnant of nightmares that you don't remember even as you wake up. Sometimes I would remember the gist of the nightmare (it had "something" to do with vampires, or with demons, or with evil people trying to hurt my little brother--who actually was littler than me at the time--and only I was there to protect him; but I had no specifics, just the general awareness of who the bad guys had been). On very rare occasions I would remember more details, at least for a few minutes, until I was fully awake. Most often I didn't remember anything at all about the dream. Once my father told me that it would help if I talked about my nightmares, but I was ashamed to admit that I was still so terrified and didn't even remember what I was afraid of, so I made up a nightmare to tell him. I developed my own little mantra-like prayer that I would repeat over and over every night until I fell asleep--and every time I awoke in the night. "Jesus, help me. Let me fall asleep quickly and sleep all night. Don't let me have any bad dreams. Don't let me be afraid. Please help me, Jesus." I said it well into my 20s.
The blessing for me is that I don't remember my dreams. As I've gotten older, there have been times when one of my friends would tell me about the wonderful dream she had. I assume that there is no way all of my dreams could be bad, and from time to time I became determined to remember a good one. So I'd be sure not to set an alarm clock, and as I slowly woke up, I would focus on remembering. Without exception, every time, the dream I remembered would be scary or sad. Eventually I just thanked God for removing the memories of my nighttime fears and sorrows, and I stopped trying to remember. For me, there is no such thing as a good dream.
When I became pregnant and started researching what to expect, it didn't take long for me to find the little tidbit about dreams becoming more vivid. "Ha!" I thought. "Not a problem, I don't remember them anyway, and that's the way I like it." Famous last words.
So far I've remembered three: the gist of one of them and some details of the other two.
The first two weren't really that bad. They were both early on in the pregnancy, either the same night or within a few nights of each other. For the first, in the dream, I was very close to my due date, still here in Egypt (although that won't be the case in real life), when Jeff told me that he was going on a sailing trip with a friend. (No, Jeff doesn't sail, but in the dream he did, and the friend desperately needed him to go for some reason that was not explained to me.) I cried and begged him not to go, sure that something would happen and he wouldn't come back. He went anyway. In my dream, it was like one of those movies, where you see the person sitting still and time passing all around her--I sat on the sofa and did absolutely nothing the whole time he was gone, which I think was several days, possibly weeks; I didn't even eat. I just sat there, numb and abandoned. Then he came back and asked me what I had done while he was gone. I couldn't tell him; for me, it was like he had just walked out the door. I had shut down and I couldn't explain where the time had gone. He was very concerned. Then I woke up. This dream was miserable while I was in it, but as soon as I woke up, I was fine. I decided that apparently I had a fear of being abandoned, but even my subconscious knew that Jeff would never abandon me, so I shrugged it off.
The second dream is the one I only remember the gist of. In this dream, I left. I didn't want to but I had to. I was completely alone and afraid, hiding in some abandoned area from something bad that was following me. But in the dream I prayed and somehow knew it would all turn out okay. Then I woke up. I chose to interpret this dream in a reassuring way as well--I know that no matter how I feel or what my situation, God is there and will take care of me. Not so bad for me. Downright pleasant, considering my usual nighttime horrors.
Then there was the dream I had last night. It was, without a doubt, the worst dream I have ever had. And I remember way too many details. Way too many. In the dream, I was with my husband and my mother when my mother told me that my sister had committed suicide. (In real life, there is no indication at all that she would ever do such a thing--she isn't even depressed.) I remember feeling the numbness that can be such a blessing in times of horrific news, the numbness that shields the mind from having to take it all in at once. And then I had to say something. My mind skittered across the questions that I knew I eventually would want--or need--to have answered. Why? How? As soon as I thought of a question, I recoiled from it, knowing that I couldn't handle the answer. Finally I settled on a question I could handle: When is the funeral? But as soon as I opened my mouth to ask, I lost control. I started sobbing and buried my face in my hands, trying to hold the emotion in until I could stuff it away somewhere. Then suddenly I was somewhere else, with someone else, who I don't know, other than that she was female. We were walking along a wide asphalt path with manicured lawns on either side. She was chattering on about some inane topic like people do when they don't know what to say about the thing that really matters, but I wasn't paying attention to what she was saying. I felt a burning need to know when my sister's funeral was, and I knew that this other person could tell me. But again, when I opened my mouth to ask, I lost control. That time, when I covered my face with my hands, I woke up.
I woke up gasping for air. I looked around my room, realized it was only a dream, and burst into tears. That's never happened to me before. I've woken up crying and even yelling before, but as soon as I realize it's only a dream, I'm able to let it go. Always--that's a skill I've spent a lot of time learning, and I've gotten really good at it. But this time I couldn't. I was struggling so hard to hold it all in, to stay quiet and not wake up Jeff, that it physically hurt. I got up and went into the bathroom, where I just cried for a good ten minutes. When I thought I was okay again, I went back to bed, but before I even lay down, I started crying again. Back into the bathroom I went. Eventually I calmed down enough to go back to sleep, but when I woke up again this morning, it was still there--which is very unusual; even if I do remember when I wake up at night, I don't remember the next morning, not more than the gist of it. But this one, I still remembered so clearly. I started to tell Jeff about it but started crying again and decided that maybe if I just didn't think about it, it would go away. It hasn't. It's lingered all day, making me tired and teary-eyed. I took a nap this morning, because I know that the more tired I am, the more emotional I get. It didn't help.
So now I'm writing about it, hoping that if I express it in this way, I'll be able to release it. I don't understand why this one is hanging on so tightly. There is no truth in this dream that I can discover. There is no reason to fear that my sister is suicidal. There is no reason for me to remember this dream. This dream has been haunting me all day--and on Easter, for crying out loud! It needs to go away already.
Which leads me back to the beginning, with some modification.
I do not merely hate dreams. I utterly despise, abhor, and loathe them.