Sunday, November 16, 2014

What Dreams(.)(?)(!)

“If men only felt about death as they do about sleep, all terrors would cease. . . Men sleep contentedly, assured that they will wake the following morning. They should feel the same about their lives.”
Richard Matheson, What Dreams May Come

What dreams....

The way that sentence ends could lead you to a thousand different conclusions.

What dreams? Is different from…

What dreams! Is different from…

What, dreams? Is different from

What dreams.

For me, it is an ever changing punctuation mark. Because of course, it depends on what dreams you’re referring to. My actual literal dreams that haunt my pshyche if and when I actually get to fall asleep? Or my metaphorical “dreams” that have been deferred and left to fester like a sore only to run away time and time again?

I used to have what dreams!

But lately it feels more like what dreams?

Perhaps this post got off on the wrong foot. I am currently at a gratitude yoga retreat (which I will blog specifically about at another time) and I realize how negative and ominous I am sounding.

So, let’s try this again, perhaps with a little more gratitude and optimism.

The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up. - Paul Valery

My dreams have changed. My life has changed. It is a daily struggle to accept both, but I am learning to be grateful for the insight it has given me. 

I have put a lot of thought into dreams and dreaming lately because my literal, physical dreams bully me on the playground of my pillow and because I’m playing a game of tug of war between my metaphorical dreams and my reality and I still don’t know who’s going to win.

My Literal Dreams:

“Na-na-na-na Boo boo!” Is what I hear when I wake up after a very vivid dream of holding my newborn child in my arms, or taking my kids to school. 

“Psych!” Echoes in my temples as I pull my hands up to my face in the dark and realize, that yes, I’m still missing a fingertip even though five seconds ago, in the dream world, my hands looked like they used to.

It is a slap to the face. It is sick butterflies floating around and rotting in the pit of your stomach. Realizing that you’re only dreaming while you’re dreaming is probably the worst part of it all.
I tell myself in my sleep “this is just a dream, this is just a dream” really believing that it will soften the blow when I wake up. But it never does.

I try not to interpret my dreams. I just let them happen. But I know what they mean. I know what my dreams are telling me. I understand that I am still in the process of accepting my reality. I know it’s not going to be easy, hell, it HASN’T BEEN easy. But I really don’t know who ever lead me to believe it would be.

My Metaphorical “Dreams”

I had dreams once. Big dreams. I still have them. But I don’t approach them or anticipate them with the same naïve hope as I did before. My dreams have lost their luster, their appeal, their magic. My dreams are tethered to my reality and I have yet to decide if this is the natural and wise progression of what happens to us as we mature and experience life, or if it is, at the end of the day just another one of the great tragedies of human existence. After all, don’t we tell children to “dream big,” and “reach for the moon?” Aren’t we supposed to want the most out of life? What does it say about us if we settle for mediocre dreams that only mimic our reality and don’t push us in new directions?

Books I've been published in....
Perhaps it is because, in retrospect, most of my dreams have come true. Getting published. Teaching. Finding love and getting married. Having a job I love. Performing at the Nuyorican. Acting professionally.  (Not very exciting dreams to have, but they are mine and I believe in them) Of course, I have  fantastical dreams also: win some great literary prize, be on Oprah, travel the world, own a bookstore, be remembered for my writing and talents. 

But I have always dreamed those with caution. Knowing I would be thrilled if they happened, but never investing enough time, energy or talent to actually see them through. If I don’t try, I can’t fail.

And yet, there are dreams “post sclero” that I dare to dream that I know I can and only WILL fail at:
Being “normal.”
Being “healthy.”
Being “whole.”

It is these dreams that I have to talk myself out of on a daily basis because I know what it feels like to have your dreams deferred. And I am here to tell you that not only does it stink, fester, dry up, rot and explode, it also implodes on itself and on you….leaving you all alone to gather the rubble with nothing but your bare hands and a prayer.
It is these metaphorical dreams that become literal nightmares, waking me up in the middle of the night, reminding me of all that is wrong with me, all that I can’t control.

But what am I getting at with all of this? In the context of my illness and in the recent transition into my 30s, why do my literal and metaphorical dreams matter?

On the one hand, because as I’ve mentioned before, my illness changed my dreams. Rocked me to the core and made me believe that nothing was possible anymore. (And on really bad days it still does that) But, when I finally began to see and understand how these new dreams could be more powerful, more amazing and more fulfilling than anything I ever dared to dream “pre sclero,” I accepted the loss of my former dreams and began to embrace the new journey I was on. It still isn’t easy, by any means. These new dreams scare the hell out of me. But I truly understand now (after several near death experiences) that I’ve already been through “the worse that could happen,” and I’ve got nothing to lose.

On the other hand, my physical, literal, put your head on a pillow and fall asleep dreams juxtapose my current life and realities with my former self and my “what could have been self.” They haunt me and taunt me because they feel so real. 

I see a pregnant me. And then I wake up. Hollow and childless.
I see 10 pretty fingers, shaking someone’s hand, writing a new poem, baking cupcakes. And then I wake up, still partially amputated, still not whole.
I feel joy at hearing a doctor say I don’t have PAH. And then I wake up. Out of breath. Unsure of what the future holds.

It’s like the movie Vanilla Sky had a baby with Inception, implanted itself in my brain and left me feeling like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Both my literal and metaphorical dreams change just as often as my reality changes, and I’m learning to accept that also. And acceptance, like gratitude and good health is a daily practice. 

Dreams are hard. Life is hard. But if and when you’re lucky enough to have them meet, count yourself lucky, hold on tight, and enjoy the bumpy, thrilling, unpredictable ride.

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