I am a dreamer – both literally and figuratively. I tend to wander off into my own head, imagining different realities for myself. I explore unknown places in my mind while I sit at my desk or am relaxing in the sun. And, when I close my eyes at night, I usually escape into a world where all my challenges and all the difficulties that would otherwise keep me lying awake are strewn out before me in landscapes and textures that are both real and tangible while also cryptic and complicated, offering me fodder to process and explore. Everything comes out in my dreams. So many issues are solved through the deeper meaning of my dreams. I usually remember them and they often stay with me for days weeks, months and even years.
So, when I woke up this morning, startled awake from a dream that was so real that all my senses were heightened, smelling the smells and seeing the sights in rich Technicolor, I knew I needed to pay attention. I knew there was something going on. I’ve been quietly and privately working through some issues in my mind for months and the disorientation I felt when I sat up in bed assured me that some headway was being made. I simply needed to navigate through it to figure out exactly what I was supposed to be paying attention to. There was no clear map. It was more like a scavenger hunt without the big X indicating the treasure. There were clues buried all throughout my dream and, as I revealed each one, more information would become available and the pieces would begin to fit together
Typically, I gently ease out of my dreams, resting in a transitional state nestling me between my dream and the light of day. I often fade in and out of dreams, sometimes returning to them and often finding myself intertwined between several different ones, all typically very real and seemingly literal. I do not dream about creatures with multiple heads, magical places or figurative symbols. My dreams include people, conversations and images that are all part of my everyday life. Because I believe that many of the people in my life appear in my life to help me sort through past challenges and to reinform me about lessons that might not have been absorbed earlier in life, I also believe that these individuals show up in my dreams as a representatives of others who have challenged me or pained me, serving as guides through my subconscious journey.
This morning I bolted from my bed after awaking from one of the most unusual dreams I have had in years and quickly started processing it. I needed to understand its meaning because it was so odd and so disturbing that I realized it had layers of complexity all lined up to provide me with a very important message. Even though it was still very early, I knew I had no chance of falling back asleep so I came downstairs and sat on the couch, beginning to piece together all the parts of the puzzle in an attempt to try to understand the deeper meaning.
My mother, dead for a year and a half, made an appearance in my dream and was as real and alive as she ever was. The color of her lipstick and the signature scent of her perfume permeated my senses, chilling me. I have not dreamt much of her since her death and, when I have, she was more of a faint figure in the background. I have had no interaction with her in my dreams. I might see her image or know she is around but she and I have not faced off in the time since her death. And, oddly, in this dream my husband and kids were non-existent. Often I will have dreams where they are not present but I know they exist. In this dream, they had no existence and, when I awoke, I was very disoriented. It took me a minute or two to get my bearings and realize the body next to me in my bed was, in fact, my husband and this was my house with my family. In my dream, I had been transported back to a time in my life before this family existed and, right there, was a critical piece of the story. There was only me, alone and trying to find a safe harbor. There were echoes of my life here in New Jersey (which, oddly, didn’t exist before my husband) but I was clearly on my own. The beginning of the dream, as I remember it, I had driven to Kansas City (which was apparently only a short 7 hour drive instead of the more realistic 18-20 hours) after attending what appeared to be either a Halloween or a Super Bowl party on a block in my town where several friends lived. (The actual location was quite significant to me after I thought about it because of the people I know who live there and what they represent in my life.) There was something bothering me at the party and I felt the need to escape so I got in the car, knowing there was only one place to go and that was to my friend in Kansas City. I felt confident that visiting him would alleviate my discomfort. As happens in dreams, the trip flew by and I was magically transported to his house, arriving midday on Sunday. It was summer and the sky was an odd midwestern color. There were no clouds and, as I have heard and even once seen, the sky had a tint of green which suggests that a major storm is nearing. My friend was pleasant, as was his partner, but he was surprised to see me and not sure what to make of my visit. I realized quickly that they were having a party which started with just a single friend sitting in their living room to, ultimately, having people streaming through the door by the dozens, all carrying trays of barbecue which I do not like. Rather than putting me at ease, everything about the setting was making me uncomfortable. I briefly talked with my friend to share some unpleasant news about another friend who had contracted a serious illness and noticed my lips quivering as I was talking to him, ready to cry. I was uneasy, feeling like I was again somewhere I did not belong. It was similar to the feeling that I had at the party earlier in the dream which prompted me to take the road trip in the first place. This overwhelming discomfort was underscored by the fact that I thought I was in a safe place – a place where I would otherwise feel very comfortable and secure. Instead, I felt out-of-place, unwilling to talk to the other party guests and quickly made my escape, saying over and over, “I really need to get back home.” Perhaps it was a Dorothy moment, trying to click my ruby slippers to return home and awake from the dream.
I left the house and proceeded to walk down the long front path, passing more and more guests as they made their way into the house. I remember feeling poorly dressed, looking shabby and embarrassed by my appearance. Perhaps that was one of the reasons I didn’t want to stay at their party. Seeing the endless streams of people flowing into the house added to the mounting tension. I was troubled for sure. I was conflicted. I desperately wanted to seek shelter in my friend’s home but I could not escape the feeling that I was an intruder – an interloper who was unwelcome and unwanted. I felt sad and scared. I got back into my car with my mind racing trying to figure out the best next move. I knew I should head home but I had a nagging feeling that it was not the right decision. I ultimately decided to head back hoping that the familiarity of my house would bring me some peace. On my way out of town, I stopped at a small grocery store to get some food and drink for the long drive but, all the while, my head was filled with thoughts, wondering why I had made such a long drive just to talk to my friend and why I was leaving just because he had other friends at his house. If it was so important that a call would not suffice, why wouldn’t I have just stayed? When I went into the store, I had a nagging sense that I had been there before and then found a set of car keys on a table in the small dining section of the store. I was perplexed why no one had cleared the table since it had to be at least hours since I was last there and I was curious as to whom the keys belonged. I focused in on that a bit and then swiftly moved around the store in search of sustenance.
Suddenly, my friend was there with me in the store and now it looked a bit more like a diner. There was a brick wall partitioning off the space with doorways at either end of the wall that opened into another section of the diner/shop. I wandered around the corner of the store into the section on the other side of the wall in order to see what other food items were available and there I first saw my mother sitting at a table, clearly enamored with a gentleman friend. The sight of her took my breath away and my already tense body became more rigid. I knew, in this moment, that I was a young adult. I could not have been more than 19 or 20. I was so alarmed to see her there, an odd juxtaposition of her unpleasantness in a location that typically makes me happy and peaceful. Besides, my mother never ventured far beyond New York City except to go to Florida so, to find her in Kansas City was highly out-of-order. Her presence there was dominating. What had been a very dull backdrop up to that point was now awash in color. Her bright red dyed hair glistened. Her makeup – always overdone and poorly applied – was as vibrant as ever with her lips bathed in a bright pink shimmer. I could not help but look at her because she stood out so boldly and I could feel the gravitational pull towards her.
I walked over to her table and stood before her, feeling very small. I had a familiar feeling from when I was a young girl, worried that I was in trouble. I realized instantly that much of my anxiety was rooted in my fear of her wrath after she realized I was gone, having dared to get in my car and drive all the way to Kansas City without first asking her permission. I was worried about the consequences of such a decision. I understood that my nagging feeling about having to get back was because I feared the consequences of my impulsive move. I felt trapped, without options. I knew my only course of action was to head home immediately so as to not get into any further trouble. But, at the same time, I couldn’t help but realize that the cat was out of the bag and the source of my angst was sitting right before me in this shop. She smugly looked at me and made several remarks which left me feeling nervous and tense. I went back around the corner of the store, grabbed my friend and asked him to come over to see my mother. I had the real-life consciousness to understand that he had never met my mother because I was estranged from her when we met and then she died so no opportunity presented itself. I wanted to capitalize on this because I needed him to see her in living color. I needed him to bear witness to the misery she put me through.
When I introduced him to her, she was cordial and pleasant as she often was when meeting strangers. She adeptly put on her show, smiling big, showing off her white teeth and pretending she was delighted to meet him. She introduced her gentleman friend to us who was busy adoring her and leaning across the table to press his head to her chest. It was an odd gesture but it was patent behavior for my mother’s suitors. Always insecure about her appearance, she surrounded herself with men who doted on her both emotionally and physically. My mother, not a great beauty, found men who desired her so she could feel better about herself and then withhold her affections from them – a strange game of cat and mouse that allowed her to always be in control.
I began to get emotional again and but mustered all the strength I had to not allow myself to cry in front of her. I was not willing to show any weakness for fear that the predator would strike and eat me alive. Throughout this, I continued to grow more fearful and felt even more alone. I held onto my friend’s arm as I needed someone to support me and comfort me and I looked to him to provide that. I wanted him to fight my mother alongside me but, of course, this was not his fight. And, while he might, in real life, capitalize on such a tantalizing opportunity, in my dream, he simply stood beside me, physically prepared to catch me should I collapse but merely acting as an observer. I glanced down at the table as I stood tall, trying to stand up to my bully and noticed that my mother and her friend had rented some adult movies. I was disgusted and embarrassed to see the DVDs and I found myself yelling at her, chastising her for her inappropriate behavior. Yet, throughout it all, I felt judged and small and this was simply an attempt to level the playing field.
As the tension heightened, ironically, I began to have clarity about the situation. I was awash with the realization that I did not have to accommodate my mother’s requests. I suddenly felt empowered and needing to escape her grip. I leaned in to my friend and said “I need to talk to you afterwards. I have something really important to tell you.”
And then I woke up.