In your dreams

My mom was telling me yesterday that as she gets older, she has begun having amazing dreams — not the usual your-car-turns-into-a-coffee-cup fare, but coherent linear experiences of beautiful places and great conversations with people she loves (dead or alive). All of it vivid. All of it feeling completely real, without that sense of wacky slow-time or quick-time that so often comes with the dreamscape. And she says that even frightening moments aren’t scary anymore: they’re just… interesting.

She tells me that going to sleep these days is like going to the movies. Although to me it sounds like more than that — it sounds like living another layer of life.

How cool is that?

I love the few dreams I’ve had with clarity and heft beyond the usual vapor of random brain-sparks. With conversations that felt real even after I woke; with feelings that carried me smiling or wondering through my day. I’ve tried to learn lucid dreaming without much success so far. I’d love to learn to fly in dreams, or to recognize when something scary is happening and change it for the better — but really what I want more than anything is to have experiences in dreams that are as meaningful and real to me as the waking moments of my “real” life. I think it would be astonishing to have those wandering, wondering conversations with people I miss because they are dead, or on the other side of the world, or because I never met them. I might learn so much. I might mend so many fences, or build so many bridges, or discover new territory inside another person to explore. I might see beautiful things. I might return to the Grand Canyon or walk the beaches of Musha Cay, dance at Burning Man, talk with my great-grandmother again, check in on my best friend Shirley from 8th grade whom I still miss, make movies with all my favorite actors and have those late-night dinners on set where people show themselves in ways the camera never sees. I might stand in the front row of the best U2 concert ever, in the intimacy of a venue of 300 people where the band plays all night and none of us ever gets tired. I’d start all those conversations I was too shy or scared or polite to ever begin. I’d finish some conversations differently…

I suppose it all sounds like a great big Wish List, but somehow it feels like more. It feels as though there’s another layer of life waiting — wanting — to be lived. If I wake with the feeling of someone’s hand on my arm or the smell of the sea still strong in my nose, if it feels that real to the brain — if it feels lived — then you know, for me, that’s real enough. I don’t need to be able to touch it with my eyes open if I can feel it so strongly with my eyes closed.

I told my mum that although I’m a fairly reasonable person (especially for an artist), I’m definitely not most “adult” people’s idea of “rational” (wow, my “quote” key is getting worn out…). Mum, this is part of what I meant. My reality is relative. If it’s real to me, that’s “real” enough. I’ve found some of my strongest and most unexpected disagreements with people spring from their assertion that if something’s not real for them, it can’t be real for me either. But, you know, that’s their reality. It seems limiting to me.

I really do not want to hear the details of dreams other people have had. Blanket exception for Nicola and my parents — it was especially cool to hear my mum talk about her conversation with my Nana and my Aunt Mae. But in general I’m with Nicola on this one; dreams aren’t as interesting to hear about as they are to experience (they work much better in the movies, or in fiction, than over coffee the next morning).

But I’d love to hear what you would choose in the dreamscape if you could. What would you do, feel, be in the privacy of your mind if it could be as real as — even if not real in — your waking world?

15 thoughts on “In your dreams”

  1. I usually don’t remember my dreams, but I do remember sometimes being aware in a dream that I am actually dreaming. I believe they usually involve someone i want to see. And pretty soon after I realize that I am dreaming I think, ‘oh, this is not real, but please don’t wake up yet’. Sometimes I can hold off a little while, but usually once I realize that it’s not ‘real’, I wake right up — especially if I try to control/direct what is happening. Maybe that’s not a true lucid dream.

    I never even knew there was a name or so much info about this – lucid dreaming.

    When I have those kinds of dreams, I feel glad in a way, but also a pretty profound sadness. I miss the person even more, and it can be a tough start to the day. Or a long night if it’s not morning yet.

    Maybe that has something to do with why I don’t remember my dreams more. Huh. Interesting.

    I agree with you in theory (for myself, of course, not denying your reality) that what we imagine to be reality is reality, but it just is not the same as being real for me. I wake up feeling the loss. Maybe my imagination is just not vivid enough. Mostly I don’t remember my dreams well enough to know. I don’t remember/feel the wind on my face, the touch on my skin, or that satisfying feeling of muscles well used.

    Maybe I just need to work at adjusting my thinking to see it as a gift rather than a form of torture – my mind teasing me with something I can’t have (in the case of dead people). Certainly I believe that we create our own realities.

    I’ll have to think about this some more.

  2. “Now it’s time for you to become accessible to power, and you are going to begin by tackling dreaming.”

    The tone of voice he used when he said “dreaming” made me think that he was using the word in a very particular fashion. I was pondering about a proper question when he began to talk again. […]

    “You call them dreams because you have no power. A warrior, being a man who seeks power, doesn’t call them dreams, he calls them real.”

    “You mean he takes his dreams as being reality?”

    “He doesn’t take anything as being anything else. What you call dreams are real for a warrior. You must understand that a warrior is not a fool. A warrior is an immaculate hunter who hunts power; he’s not drunk, or crazed, and he has neither the time nor the disposition to bluff, or to lie to himself, or to make the wrong move. The stakes are too high for that. The stakes are his trimmed orderly life which he has taken so long to tighten and perfect. He is not going to throw that away by making some stupid miscalculation, by taking something for being something else.

    Dreaming is real for a warrior because in it he can act deliberately, he can choose and reject, he can select from a variety of items those which lead to power, and then he can manipulate them and use them, while in an ordinary dream he cannot act deliberately.”

    “Do you mean then, don Juan, that dreaming is real?”

    “Of course it is real.”

    “As real as what we are doing now?”

    “If you want to compare things, I can say that it is perhaps more real. In dreaming you have power; you can change things; you may find out countless concealed facts; you can control whatever you want.”

    —from Journey To Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda

    1. karina (#2), thank you for this quote. I know the Castaneda books are not “real” (funny how that word keeps coming up), but I believe them nonetheless, and love them, and find much in them that speaks to parts of me that are largely inarticulate.

      “In dreaming we have power.” Yep, that’s how it feels. Power in its many manifestations is something I think about a lot, and is one of the less obvious concerns (“themes” if you will, although I dislike the word) that runs through my writing.

  3. I’ve died in dreams twice. The feeling of slipping out of one lifetime and into the next was exhilarating. I couldn’t wait to see what came next. So that’s the dreamscape I’d pick – sliding from a known portal into a realm of infinite possibilities.

    1. Zack (#3), this sounds awesome. I have my periodic struggles against death (just another lesson in power/powerlessness); not so much that I am afraid in those times, but that I am angry at the idea of leaving this life that I love, or of being left by people who go one before me; because in so many ways I feel like I’m just getting started for real, just finding my way into the center of myself.

      But I also sometimes consider the adventure of it. It’s my hope to get to “exhilarating” before I actually have to get there, if you see what I mean.

      In my spiritual wanderings, one idea that I’ve embraced is that of the “deathscape” — a step in the journey of death that allows one to create any experience as part of the transition. I’ve heard about people revisiting old friends, finishing a conversation, spending days in their favorite places, having a giant party… I’ve also heard it said that souls with a deep need to believe in a heaven or hell may choose to experience these things as part of their deathscape before moving on. I love this idea (although I’m happy that I won’t be taking the heaven/hell trip). It’s been suggested to me that it’s possible to plan the deathscape experience, to make specific choices and then find oneself honoring them… It’s a notion that fascinates me.

  4. I read this post and filed it away. My subconscious must have worked on me, because I woke this morning dreaming that you (Kelley), Nicola and another woman I know were in your “family jet” flying somewhere.

    I dream a lot. Have remembered and worked with my dreams since I was young. Many years ago, my Grandpa taught me an Edgar Cayce technique in which you can ask your dreams for information: you put paper and a pen next to your bed and a glass of water. When you’re ready to turn off the light, you articulate the question in your mind and drink the water. Not sure why it works, but it has for me anyway. :]

    1. Huh, Sarah (#4), this is a cool idea. I’ve also heard of asking for information or new perspective through dreams, but have never encountered such a specific technique before. I just may try it…

      I wish I had a family jet! Someday…

  5. Jennifer (#1), sometimes I have dreams that make me sad too, that are more about not having something/someone in the waking world. But mostly I find the dreams leave me feeling good, if the person/thing has felt… hmm, felt true, felt like themselves/itself, but giving me a new conversation, new perspective, new joy. My most recent grief is our beloved cat Zack (no relation to commenter #3 unless the cosmos is even more interesting than I have imagined…). I have two kinds of dreams about him: one set where he is sick or dying again, and one set where he’s just healthy and being himself with me, but we’re in a new place or we’re having a moment that I know is not a memory, but rather something new. And those dreams make me feel good, because I feel like I’ve just had another chance to spend time with him. There’s a kind of clarity about those dreams — I won’t call them lucid, but they are very real — that I treasure.

  6. I don’t dream a lot at least not that I remember but I was having this one dream over and over last year where I was living at Rosemary Clooney’s house and there were all these people wandering around but I was in bed with her. I was really enjoying myself. No it wasn’t pornographic but rather sweet like we were long time lovers who liked being together we talked and felt and touched but it never got to the actual sex if there ever was any. Though I’m sure I would have liked that. I do remember not wanting to leave the bedroom she was quite fetching and really nice. The world outside of the bedroom went on as though we weren’t there or maybe that they weren’t there although I could hear them a little bit. She sang to me and I think I swooned and kissed her I can’t remember now. Weird…

  7. I’ll regret leaving this life when the time comes, there is little doubt in my mind about that. I’ve had some good times here and I’d go through the bad sh*t again to relive them, any day. But hey, I know that day is going to come, so I might as well look forward to it. And really, I’ve never yet in life lost anything without gaining something greater and even more delightful in return, even if it took that something awhile to arrive.

    My deathscape is a college cafeteria :P. In it, I’d have time to catch up with old friends (especially my beloved, who moved on last year) and share a meal (ok, a gourmet college cafeteria) before moving on tou our next phase of learning. Cheers :).

  8. Zack — Hah, a gourmet college cafeteria. Now there’s a dream.

    I really love/admire your attitude towards death. Thanks for sharing it. I’m not there yet, but it’s where I’d like to be.

  9. Well, admittedly it’s taken a long 38 years and a really weirdly winding road to get here :P. But it’s all good in the end.

  10. Some sleep experts and psychiatrists say that if we don’t sleep, we don’t dream. If we don’t dream, our minds break down. I know that when I was in a manic phase I couldn’t sleep. My mind wouldn’t shut off or go elsewhere, and finally I just wanted to die because I wanted it to stop. Luckily, with the help of family and friends I got the right dope; I got some sleep; I started dreaming again, and while I wouldn’t claim to be entirely sane, it’s good to be back.

  11. I was just reading what Jennifer wrote on July 27th (it’s now September 27th), and your response to her. I dreamt of Quin, dead at 13 in 2001. My mighty Quin bumped against me and licked the side of my face. I was on all fours in a grassy high meadow. It was night and the grass was wet. He began to run and I followed. I caught up to him and his tongue was showing outside a lovely grin. We ran together for a very long time, bellies wet from the grass … I was cat sized but not “cat.” Quin was distilled to his finest. Cat dreams are the best. Zack’s best venue are your dreams and often they will be wild and strangely, new experiences, not memories.

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