Last night I had a dream, and I was in it, and you were in it with me. And everyone that you know, and everyone that I know was in my dream. I saw a vampire, I saw a ghost, and everybody scared me, but you scared me the most. -- Randy Newman
I had a very disturbing dream last night. It doesn't really matter what it was about. It was one of those that seems like it goes on forever, and there are characters and a plot and all sorts of stuff happens. It was so clear in my mind when I awoke that it took me a minute or so to determine that it was, in fact, a dream. It took much longer to convince myself that this was the first time I had dreamed this, that it wasn't building on a series of previous episodes, and that the whole thing had probably taken less time then I thought.
When I was a small child, between the ages of about four and seven, I had a recurring nightmare. Unlike most of my dreams before or since, this one was as clear as watching TV. I could draw the setting from memory, even now. I know this, because I just did.
Somewhere between then and adulthood, my fears either subsided or submerged, because I have had only a handful of nightmares since, and this dream is the first to wake me in years. I'm a heavy sleeper and a slow waker, so I rarely remember dreaming at all, much less what I was dreaming about.
And when I do remember a dream? I tend to let it drift away with the fog that fills my head when I awaken. I will try to hang on to a sex dream every now and then, but that's really more about trying to stay asleep until it's over. Or hang onto the feeling of warmth and love that tends to ride along. Otherwise, dreams belong to the night, and I find that trying to remember the details just ends up sticking me with some emotion I didn't earn. I'm starting to think every dream is a manifestation of some emotion.
I used to believe that dreams were significant, a window into our deepest thoughts and feelings. And there is still probably a little of that. But the older I get, and the more I learn about how minds work, the more I think they are primarily the semi-random artifacts of nightly cleanup. Sort of like the pile of stuff you see at a garage sale. Some is significant, but most is just old crap that no one ever needed. Poor decisions, unbidden gifts, articles left behind by guests and family.
My first wife used to wake up mad at me for things I had done (or more often failed to do) in her dreams. I mean, she would be really angry. And it would sometimes take a day or two to get past it. I think I prefer forgetting, and starting every day with a clean slate. Maybe that's why I usually wake up happy.