I woke up sweating and sad and chagrined at 4am on Thursday morning. This is unusual, thankfully. My dreams usually include silly farces or nonsensical surreal madcap adventures, running through empty houses or city streets, rarely anything that effects me beyond waking up, and in a half-asleep mumble telling Joe about the shenanigans that our alter-egos were perpetrating in my dreams. But being shaken awake by the resonance of a dream so realistic and depressing that it most certainly qualified as a nightmare was kind of disconcerting. Not in the childhood fear of monsters in the closet or huge spiders slowing making their way up the bedspread from the foot of the bed type of nightmare, but in that adult nightmare way. That fear of loss and pain and grief that sometimes sweeps over you without your knowledge. I feel really good on a daily basis, let's make this clear up front. I'm happy, healthy, busy. But there's a lot of change going on at my work, lots of projects, and lots of change in my mind and my habits. Good changes, all. But change all the same and I suspect a combination of the stress of that change, the reading/editing of my draft of a novel that is somewhat autobiographical in nature, and several conversations with friends lately, put this nightmare into my head, and it was the very realistic nightmare that Joe and I were getting divorced.
I have a serious and deserved phobia about divorce. The idea of it shakes me to my core. When I hear my friends mention it or even hear of inane celebrities getting divorced I feel a strong sadness for them. My parents divorced when I was 13 and as I've written about here briefly in the past, it tore my family apart for more than five years. I think the repercussions of it, both good and bad, will always color the relationships within my immediate family. So dreams about divorce hurt. I don't like them. I don't like dreaming of walking in my front door and seeing the wall of photos covering our hallway simply gone. I think that's what resonated with me from the dream. We have an enormous long wall covered in black frames filled with pictures of our childhoods, our family and the life we've shared for the last twelve years. To see that in such a visual way, suddenly vanished and blank, with just the nail holes left, hurt me in the dream so much that I sank to my knees in front of it. I woke up just then.
Swimming in emotions and layers of grief and that immediate feeling of loss and sadness that only lasted a few minutes. But it took me back to being 13, hearing that my dad was moving out. But it was worse. Worse because I was an adult in this dream and I had that sudden drowning knowledge that the last twelve years of shared words and intimacy and dreams and travels and growth was suddenly swept away. Gone. But then I was fully awake. I felt the emotions dissipate like fog as the sun heats the day. I reached over and my husband, my very present, wonderful husband, was snoring away right next to me. I cozied up behind him, clinging to our happiness and letting the reassuring rhythm of our joint breath lull me back to a peaceful sleep.
It stuck with me a bit all day Thursday. But instead of negatively effecting my mood, it made me more conscious somehow. It made me more aware of how lucky and joyful I should be, how I should give Joe more of my undivided attention, and how I need to give more acknowledgment to the way change effects me. I need to journal more when stressful things are going on and maybe talk about it instead of keeping it in my head too much. And so that fleeting drowsy pain served a purpose. I think we dream for a reason sometimes. Working out our reactions to experiences or events in a safer place, where it's cushioned, and ephemeral and floaty, in there where we can't get hurt for long, in there where we can say things to ourselves that we would never say while awake. So I'm paying attention. I'm more aware and I'm ok. And I'm riding along with the change, the ebb and flow of it, and I'm not drowning. Not even in my dreams.