So we’re going on day 3 or so of Stevie making fun of me for my latest sleepwalking episode. Well, there wasn’t so much walking this time. Instead, I was dreaming that Stevie and I and the kids were out somewhere together. It was some sort of performance or maybe even a church serve. The kids were getting a little restless and starting to make some noise so I caught Cadence’s attention and gave her the signal to quiet down.
That lasted all of a minute or two, and then the little boogers started to get loud again. There were two empty chairs between us, so I reached out, tapped the chair next to me and then snapped my fingers twice to get their attention and give them a very stern “quiet down or you’re going to be in trouble” sort of Mom look.
But at the sound of the snapping, I was suddenly awake, lying in bed, and Stevie was looking over at me asking what I was doing. Apparently I’d tapped him firmly on the chest and snapped my fingers in his face.
There’s seriously nothing more embarrassing than waking up the person next to you with your weird sleepwalking antics. I’m never going to live down the 4-5 consecutive nights in a row this past August when I woke Stevie by getting up out of bed and trying to lead tour groups around the house and speaking in my best game show host voice.
Hey, at least he can never say that life with me is dull, right?
When I can’t sleep, it’s usually because there’s something my brain just doesn’t want to let go of.
Isn’t that always the reason?
It might be some issues lodged in my mind from work, a running list of random to-do items that I’m afraid I’ll forget, or some random line of worry that revolves around the health and emotional development of my kids–like whether the coughing fit that just erupted in Cadence’s room is the natural byproduct of the dry winter air or the beginnings of a bout of bronchitis.
Most nights it’s a damn miracle my brain shuts down long enough to get any real sleep at all.
There was a time when I used to keep a dream journal. Nothing fancy, just a notebook and pen placed close enough to my bed that I could reach out and grab it easily in those moments I hung in that fuzzy space between my dreams and waking, those moments when I could still remember some of the details. It’s honestly an exercise I wish I’d kept up.
I learned a lot about myself by analyzing the patterns and paying attention to the things my dreaming mind bubbled to the surface. I learned that I dream of storms and tornadoes during times of high stress and upheaval in my life. In the dreams, I’m never afraid of the storms. Instead, there’s a heightened and palpable feeling of responsibility and focus. I find myself taking charge, ushering others to safety, and then always turning around at the last moment to stand up and face the storm (or maybe to stand up in spite of it) and get one last good look before it blows over.
Funny what your dreams can teach you about yourself if you just learn to pay attention.
I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, and I don’t mean the someday I dream of writing more bestsellers than Stephen King kind of dreams. I’m talking about the standing naked in front of the classroom, falling off a cliff, being chased by an invisible monster wearing cement shoes and a technicolor coat sort of dreams. I’m talking about the dreams that haunt us while we sleep, playing behind our eyelids in bursts of disjointed scenes and vaguely recognizable characters, dreams leave us confused and sometimes downright dizzy when we awaken. Sort of like the movies Cabin Fever or The Happening–you know there is something going on, maybe even something important, but you just can’t seem to unscramble the mess and figure out what it is.
My dream obsession likely stems from the fact that one of my earliest memories is a dream I had when I was just 4 years old, a dream that was so vivid that I somehow managed to sleepwalk out of my room, through the kitchen, down the stairs on the back porch to the back door. I remember standing at the back door, looking out into the moonlit darkness, watching a blondish woman walking near our garage, as though she was searching for something. In the dream, she was my mother, and I knew she was looking for me. Frantically, I unlocked the door and opened it. I had taken one step outside when my Mom caught me, woke me, and took me back to bed.
Yeah, that dream stuck with me. Eight years later, I found out I was adopted. And ten years after that,when I met my birthmother for the first time, I couldn’t help noticing that she looked an awful lot like the woman from my dream.
In high school, I studied different theories on sleep and dreams. I even kept a dream journal for several years, where I learned that I often dream of my teeth crumbling and falling out whenever I’m having trouble in my personal relationships, and I dream of tornadoes and tend to sleepwalk and sleeptalk when I am overly stressed.
When I taught high school English, I opened my unit on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with an introduction to dreams and a great little visualization exercise called “The Cube” to help my students better understand the power of dreams and symbolism. I had to smile at the way their eyes widened in shock and disbelief as we worked through the exercise. And I laughed as several of them called me “Miss Cleo” for weeks after.
For anyone who thinks that dreams and the symbols within are just a bunch of hokey garbage leftover from the events of the day, I dare you to keep a dream journal for a few months and keep notes about what is going on in your life at the same time. You just might be amazed at what your sleeping mind is trying to tell you.
That being said, I find myself wondering, just what is it that my dog, Electra, dreams about?
In this case, she may have dreamt that she landed in Lilliput and was being terrorized by the mini-citizens driving their motor cars up and down her spine, thanks to Cadence deciding that our dozing hound made a perfect racetrack for her little purple car.
But what about all the other dreams? I mean, I’ve owned and been around dogs all my life and I’ve never known a dog that dreams as often or as dramatically as Electra. It starts with a huff and a puff and some twitching. Her tail begins to thump rhythmically. Her eyes roll around, and sometimes even open completely. She snorts and wheezes and whines. Sometimes she barks. Sometimes she growls. And, on several occasions, she has scared Steven and I out of a dead sleep by howling loudly and sounding almost human. One night, we both swore we heard her yell, “I need squirrel!” in frighteningly plain English.
Since then, she can pretty much sleep wherever she wants. Because if she knows how to speak coherent English, then we’re pretty sure she has the capacity to gather a canine army and take over the world if she ever gets motivated, and we want to make sure we stay on her good side. If that means occasionally waking up to find her droopy face sharing my pillow, that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.
I just wish could get a glimpse what she is seeing behind those tired doggy eyes.
Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to our dear dreaming Electra. Sleep well, my pet. May your dreams be filled with slow-moving bunnies and mountains of peanut butter treats.