The drowned world in dreams

I'm not sleeping well lately and I'm waking up tired. I'm dreaming a lot too. Most of the dreams are convoluted and detailed. They consume your mind sleeping and on waking linger disturbingly. You can't quite shake your mind of the strange worlds you have entered no matter how much you look to reality. This is characteristic of poor sleep in my experience, though I don't know what comes first: do I sleep poorly because I dream so much, or do I dream as much as I do because I can't settle into a deep sleep?

The night before last I had a particularly vivid dream. What I can recall still is the dramatic imagery. I am on an international flight out of Australia. We are flying north and are about 6 hours into the flight when I look out the window. To my great surprise we are close to the ground, scarily close. Even more surprising is what I see on the ground. At first I think it is one of the wonders of the world I never heard of before. Below the water is tumultuous, it gushes across the land and falls prettily down sheer drops to rival any of the great waterfalls. As I look I ralise this is not normal. What I am seeing is a city being consumed by a tsunami of raging, rising water. The water is high, near the tops of the sky-scrapers, and as I behold it I think no-one could survive this.

I am stunned. This is beyond comprehension. I am in the air above this, safe, yet there is a sense of peril. Perhaps the low flying plane will tumble into this water? Or perhaps the rushing water will rise up to engulf us too? Then I wonder what it means. If the water has risen so high here where has it done. I look ahead: will we find somewhere to land?

That's how it ends, but it is a troubling dream. Much of it is taken I think from recent events, though a wild extrapolation of them. In there as well I reckon there is a growing dread at the effects of climate change: where will it end? Will it? And what will we be left with?

Beyond all that there is surely something of me in this dream, though I am not expert enough to understand what it is.

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The meaning of dreams

I often wonder at the meaning of dreams. Perhaps I’m superstitious, but I can’t believe they mean nothing. I am frequently amazed at the level of detail in my dreams, and the occasional insight that is not available to me in my waking hours. It feels sometimes as if I am being led by my unconscious to view something already inside me, already known, but hidden from me, clouded. I wonder if we see too literally in our everyday life. If we are conditioned to consciously take in only part of the spectrum. Perhaps our dreams are like those old 3D movies, where the screen leaps out at you and a broader vision is apparent only after putting the 3D glasses on. We close our eyes and dream, and see what we could not see before.

Or so I sometimes believe.

I was given cause to ponder this again on my recent break. Vacations are always fertile periods for this kind of insight. The mind relaxes, you are transplanted into a different environment, and all that stuff you have absorbed but been too busy to notice slowly makes its way to the surface. It seems true to me even considering our waking hours. How many times on a vacation do you stop and consider things that come to you as if from nowhere? You have time for once, and distance, a different environment that leads to a different, perhaps more relaxed, perspective, and a different angle on things.

I think it is true too of our dreams. You fall into different patterns. You sleep deeper, longer. Your mind is free of the stuff that clutters it up week to week. And into that emerges things that were always there but even in sleep you were unable to see. Why then shouldn’t they mean something? They are a part of you these dreams, a dimly understood, dimly perceived part of you. But you all the same, and yours.

I dreamt while I was away. One night I dreamt perhaps twenty times a variation on a simple theme. In all the dreams Jennie had returned to Australia from London. As I discovered in the course of the dreams, which could be viewed as a serial, her return was only temporary, but that soon she would be returning for good. She said little of the reasons why, and nothing at all of what had happened in her native London. I did not ask.

I took her back quietly, bashfully almost, much as she treated me. Our reunion was quiet. She was gentle, shy, feeling her way tenderly back in the country, and with me. There was no reference at all to what had transpired between us previously. It was not something to discuss, though clearly it was not forgotten. Unspoken between us was this bond like a piece of elastic that had stretched when she had gone away but now brought us close again. We liked each other, knew each other, and though it was not something to be denied nor was it taken for granted. We came together tentatively, as no more than friends at this point. I understood that. It was enough for me to have her close again, and to believe that something more would come from this. And so I went delicately to her, careful not to make too sudden a movement, mindful of her sensitive state.

It was very believable simply because it rung true – that’s how it would run, I think – and because the scale throughout was small and personal. The only thing a little odd was that her hair was a darker shade from the honey blonde I remembered. Even so, that seemed real enough.

Throughout all the dreams I felt a kind of yearning that was almost conscious. By that I mean it was as if my waking self watched these developments with a rapt anticipation. I lived in the dreams, but in the dream my other self observed knowingly.

I woke in the morning with this feeling fresh in me. I could remember little but fragments of the actual dreams, but the contented knowledge I had in the dream permeated me as I lay awake in bed. For as long as I could I lay still letting it fill me, not wanting to disturb it. I remembered what she had meant to me, and why I had loved her. The Jennie in my dreams had seemed so true, and so close, that I felt as if I could reach out and touch her. She seemed so authentic, so her. And I wondered if this meant anything.

I have thought of her, but not dreamt of her for months. Now I dream of her again in a scenario that seems both feasible and real. I wonder why it is, or if there is any ‘why’ to it. I am superstitious like that, but it is probably nothing. In any case I felt the gentle glow of the dreams suffuse me throughout the morning; and I recognised the feeling I had for her and knew though it had been dormant it was not yet dead.

The next night I dreamt of Paige.

I wondered in the morning what to make of this. Would I be cycling through the women I have known, in my dreams? What did it mean that I could dream so simply but intimately of one women and then dream of another? For silly reasons no doubt I was little disturbed by it. It felt capricious, though I knew that is one thing I am not. I wondered if in fact the dreams were linked – that there was some insight to be had by viewing them as partner pieces, two halves of a whole. But what?

The dreams of Paige were much vaguer. Whereas Jennie was almost the sole character with me in all the dreams I had of her, Paige was one of several characters, and often on the edge of the action. None of the dreams featured her per se, but she was the only consistent feature of them. It was clear that the dreams were about her as the earlier dreams had been of Jennie, but fragmented, like a shattered mirror reflecting odd images.

Jennie had left me glowing; Paige left me wondering – so true to life! I could see how the dreams reflected our reality, or least threw out a different version of it. We are on the edges of each other’s lives, though clearly I feature very strongly in her thoughts, and she has yet to leave mine. The dreams then seemed to symbolise the odd relationship we share, neither together nor apart.

My feelings for her are dimmed these days. I understand there is still something there, but turned down low. It can be turned on high again should the occasion merit it, but equally there could come the time when it could easily be switched off altogether. That may have happened by now if not for her continued attention.

I sometimes wonder what I would do if Paige came back to me wanting to patch things up. I would forgive her, I know that, I would embrace her, wish her well, and let her know everything was okay. But could I be her friend again?

I don’t know if it’s possible to be the friends we were before: probably not. That probably means something less then, or something more. The problem I have is with her boyfriend. I know friendship should be unconditional, but I know I want nothing to do with her as long as she is with him. He is the lead weight she has tethered herself to for fear of hoping or expecting too much. I don’t want to be witness to that, don’t want to know it, don’t want to have to deal with it.

So that probably means nothing. And yet I sit here, feeling little about it really, but knowing full well that she has had a far greater impact on me than some women I’ve loved passionately. The right time maybe, the right circumstances, whatever the reason, hers was a seminal relationship in my life.

This has been coming to me slowly over the last few months. Not long before we parted ways I found myself opening up a part of myself that normally I kept hidden from view. I shared it with her, tentatively at first, but then happily as she responded to it. It felt good. It was something I needed to do. And all these months later as knowledge dawned upon me I realised that was the person I want to be. For a moment it was there, and then the earth opened up at my feet.

I had it and I lost it, and at the time It mattered a lot. These days I am inclined to believe it was good for me. Losing it made me realise how much I valued it. It hurt knowing it just as it was taken from me, but hurt passes. In the months later I often floundered with the different and unwelcome things happening in my life. It opened me up though, and I got through it. I hesitate to say things happen for a reason, but the legacy I have now – I think –  is of being more open, more forgiving, more sensitive to other peoples feelings. I feel myself much lighter in being, and as if I have subtly changed direction.

Would any of this have happened without Paige? Well, had we not had our blow-up when we did I’m sure things would have come to a head at some point. Things might have been different, we may have ended up going to rather than away from each other. Who’s to say? I doubt regardless that I would have experienced this clarity without that experience.

And so I feel benevolent towards her. Of course I forgive her, and in truth the awful things she did don’t amount to that much. I wish I could tell her that. I want her to feel good too. For a week or so before Christmas I pondered the situation with her. What should you do: the sensible thing, or the right thing? Well, the right thing of course, and the right thing in this instance was to tell her it was okay. And yet I haven’t, because I can’t believe yet that it will do any good.

So we get back to my dreams. I feel her eyes keenly set upon me. I can see them as I have seen them before, intense, hooded, worlds colliding in the mind behind the eyes. If I could, in dreams as in life, I would reach out my hand, come I would smile, it’s okay.

Jennie is the ideal, the thing that could have been but for a couple of things being different. My dream was of that ideal, and of that person I knew and loved. She is far away though and no matter how much I dream or she does we will only ever meet in our dreams now.

And I realise as I write this that I have to make things good with Paige. I need to reach out that hand sometime, somehow, when it it won’t be misinterpreted, when she is ready to come back into the fold.