I have always dreamed with some serious lag time. Dreams are my great processor, doing all the work as I sleep away. If I’m really upset or excited about something in real time, I tend to sleep fitfully. Even if I do dream about that terrible worry or the imminent vacation, I startle myself awake the minute my dream latches on.
No, my dreams follow months, sometimes years later. That recurring dream of taking an exam for which I hadn’t studied dogged me for years after I graduated. A year after Marc and I married, I finally started dreaming that we were engaged. Our parents have been gone for many years, but I dream of them often, somehow knowing in the dreams that they are gone and savoring the moments with them all the more.
In my dreams I am still fat. I am still inferior to everyone else; I am still in pain all the time. I have trouble walking and I get short of breath. At least, all this was true until last week. My dream started with a trip to the orthopedic surgeon to get a knee replacement. I was using a walker. Then an amazing thing happened: I looked down at myself, at my fat, bulbous legs and said “This isn’t right!” I flexed my right quadriceps muscle as hard as I could and saw it bulge out, felt its strength.
“I don’t need a walker,” I said to myself. “I don’t need surgery. I am strong.”
Oh! The emotional pain from my fat self just stripped away and I felt that new burst of joy as if it were the first time!
I woke up so invigorated, because the dream is my reality, and I can experience it every single day. I can remember how different I felt as I gradually got stronger, as I stripped away the negative emotions, as I became slender. In the dream, though, the transformation was instantaneous and stunning, slamming into all my senses.
There were two things that really stood out to me, that I have thought about over the past week. The first was that this mostly plotless dream morphed because I decided it was wrong; I decided there was a new reality and my mind (and my right leg) proved that. That, just that, was exactly right. Oh, magic wands were not involved. There was a lot of sweat equity, choice-making and thought exploration. But, in the end, I decided. Once I was on this journey, I was never on the fence about it. I decided and I committed. I continue to decide and commit. My mantra has changed little. I began by saying “I am following a path to a healthy lifestyle.” Now I say “I am following a healthy lifestyle.”
The other interesting thing about the dream was that its focus was on being strong. I didn’t have a sense of suddenly dropping all the weight; I had a sense of my muscles. This, too, was exactly right. Embarking on an exercise regime, when I had never done so before, when I believed I never would—what a game-changer! I always thought of people who exercised as being fundamentally different from me. My DNA, I thought, simply didn’t allow me to do what they were doing. I learned the lie of that. I learned that I could become strong, that I could radically change my entire life.
Our dreams are so important, so basic in helping us deal with loss or joy, stress or complex issues. They can reveal so much to us. My dreams now have no hint of a pandemic, or of being confined to home, of being separated from those I love. I expect our minds will start the work of processing all that is currently happening and try to make sense of it for us.
In the meantime, perhaps it would be a good idea to pay more attention to your dreams. What do they reveal about yourself? And, perhaps more importantly: what could you decide to do differently as a result?