What Do I Dream?
In this section I will describe some of the dreams I remember having at various times in my life and show how they represent the different categories I have established. Anyone wishing to read beyond this point is cautioned to the fact that these are very personal (most dreams are) and probably will hold little interest to anyone but me. When an individual is mentioned in a dream I will explain who that person is in my own life, though often their appearance in the said dream will have no meaning either to the reader or even sometimes to me.
I have always dreamed, and always in color (for whatever that may mean). Perhaps that is why I have been so fascinated by them most of my life. Some people tell me they rarely or never dream, though I tend to think that is not entirely true. I believe all people dream, but not all remember dreaming once they awake. It is a rare night that I am not conscious of having dreamed, even if I can remember nothing about the dream the following morning. On very rare occasions in my life I have gone to sleep and awakened the next morning after what seemed only a split second, and I believe that on those nights I did not dream at all. Other people have told me of similar experiences. But I can only remember having this happen two or three times in my entire life, so I do think that on most nights we all have dreams, which give us a better sense of the passage of time.
The earliest dream I can recall is one that must have occurred when I was about 5 years old. I remember only a brief fragment of it, but I vividly remember dreaming one night about the cartoon characters Heckle and Jeckyll, two magpies who were characters in a television program I used to watch back then. All I remember is seeing them flying, but that fragment of the dream has remained with me my entire life.
Another early dream that has stayed with me occurred around the age of 9 or 10. Again only fragments remain. I was with my mother someplace in the country, sitting with her beside a birdbath outside a country home. Some boys strolled by along a nearby dirt road, and they were chatting and carrying baseball gloves and bats as they strode by, obviously on their way to or from playing a game. I remember my mother finding a bird that had drunk from the birdbath but had drowned in the process. My mother touched it gently and said something with a tear in her eye, being saddened over the death of the bird. Thatís all I remember, but those images have stayed with me all this time. Iíve no idea what they might mean, but I do know that at that age I used to play baseball with neighborhood boys similar to those in the dream and that my mother was always a tender-hearted individual who loved birds.
For the rest I will list them under the various classifications.
As these are so rare for me, I will list these first. Only two genuine nightmares come to mind. The first occurred around the age of 6 or 7 and is rather silly by adult standards. I was standing over the sink in our bathroom, and in the sink were several earthworms. While I was looking at them, one of them suddenly jumped up and wrapped itself around my wrist. I cried out, ďPop!Ē calling for my father and immediately awoke. I donít know for sure, but I believe I actually cried out verbally in my sleep and that is what woke me.
The other happened sometime in my 40s. But I will need to set some groundwork for it to be understood. Although I had a happy childhood, I did have one bad experience in third grade that caused me to be terrified of going to school. Whatever happened was truly traumatic for an 8-year-old boy, but my mind has completely blocked out what exactly it was. Whatever it was seems to have been centered on my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Doss. I have never known what she might have done that caused my difficulties back then, but I have often wondered about it and wished I could remember. My best guess is that I may have caught her doing something she shouldnít have been doing and in her shock of being discovered said something like, ďIf you ever tell anyone, Iíll kill you.Ē I do not know if this is really what happened, but itís the only scenario I can think of that makes any sense.
At any rate, I frequently try to remember what the event was and must have been contemplating it a lot at the time this nightmare occurred. In the dream I was my real age (in my 40s) but was back at Saks Elementary School in my third-grade class. School wasnít in session, but I was simply there revisiting the scene. I was in my third-grade classroom and remember something about looking into a corner when I awoke from the dream completely terrified. I was in a cold sweat, palpitating, and breathing heavily. Being relieved it was just a dream, I soon went back to sleep. When I did I went back into the same dream (this is the only time I can ever remember doing this). I recall nothing at all about the second sequence, but I did awake again terrified as before. Once more I went back to sleep and for the third time I went back into the same dream. This time I was with someone else (Iíve no idea who, though I think it may have been a representation of a former classmate) and we were in the boysí restroom which was across the hall from my class. It was dimly lit and one could not make out many details. Suddenly someone said in a loud whisper, ďShe is in here!Ē At that I awoke once more, totally mortified and full of dread. As it was nearing time to get up anyway, I chose not to try to go back to sleep but got up to start the day. (As an aside, what happened after the dream was almost as terrifying but was purely coincidental. As I left my bedroom and went into the den, still visibly shaken by the nightmare, by pure chance a stack of papers on a nearby table suddenly fell to the floor. This nearly frightened me out of my skin, but after realizing what it was I found the humor in it and managed to overcome the dread I had experienced in my sleep.)
Over the years I have had a number of dreams that fit this category, but mercifully most have been quickly forgotten. Some include the classical dream nearly everyone has of being naked or scantily clad in a public place. Several times I remember dreaming that I had killed someone and would never be able to change it, debating whether to turn myself in or run from the law the rest of my life. On rare occasions I have dreamed that a loved one has died, and I remember once in particular while in high school dreaming that my father had died and we were weeping around his bier. A few years ago I recall dreaming that my youngest son had died and we left the window in his room slightly open so his spirit could ascend to heaven. Because such dreams do, as their classification implies, disturb me, I try not to remember them in any detail. Thus I cannot recite many specifics about these occurrences. Fortunately these dreams do not occur very frequently, and most times when I have experienced them have been times when I did not feel particularly well, most commonly from various degrees of indigestion. I personally believe they are physically related. Most fortunately, Iíve never had one of these dreams come true. But they have bothered me enough that at times after having them I have gotten up to check on my sons to be sure they are all right and to reassure myself that these were only dreams.
While not necessarily disturbing, I will include here dreams about people who have actually died. Curiously, I rarely dream about anyone who has passed away. While certain people may inhabit my dreams frequently during their lifetime, once they die they rarely appear again. Iím not sure why this is, because I do think about them often and remember fondly the times we had together. Nevertheless, there have been a few instances of my dreaming about dead loved ones, and often I find these dreams more comforting than disturbing. I can recall having dreamed about my deceased grandmother on a few occasions but without any details. One of the earliest dreams in which a departed person appeared was about my childhood friend Bobby Wideman. I remember almost nothing about it other than that we were looking for something in a ditch when Bobby suddenly was there looking just as I remember him from high school ó the same smile, even the same shirt I remember him wearing on many occasions. He said nothing in the dream, only smiled, but it was nice to see him again.
Another high-school colleague who appeared one night was Diane Lee, a girl on whom I once had a serious crush. She died from a drug overdose shortly after I moved to Bedford, and one night I remember her coming into a dream that I think took place in my old high school. She and several other former colleagues were there and we were talking about past times while looking through a photo scrapbook. In the dream we all knew Diane had died but were glad to see her again and happy that she had joined us. She looked as she did in high school, also smiling and very jovial.
Not long ago I remember dreaming about my departed father. Sadly I cannot recall anything about the dream, but it was wonderful seeing him again even if only in a dream. I find it odd that someone who was such an influential person in my life has so rarely appeared to me in my dreams since his passing, but that seems to be the pattern for me.
These types of dreams I do not find particularly disturbing and are often pleasant in their own right, though they do cause me to miss the people involved all the more upon awakening. That would be the only reason I would classify them under disturbing dreams. Never has the appearance of anyone who has formerly died caused me any fear or distress in the dream itself.
As these are so commonplace and uneventful (for the most part) I rarely remember many details about them. In fact, none come immediately to mind with any specificity. They usually are just about things happening around the house or in my work and, while sometimes a bit bizarre, are just the ordinary run-of-the-mill dreams. A few samples have been posted from my high-school dream diary (Dream Diary 1969).
I have experienced many of these but, as with most dreams, I often cannot recall enough details to relate them here. Most often they involve being with friends I havenít seen for many years. For instance, one fairly recent dream I remember saw me visiting with Melissa Matlock, a girl with whom I was madly in love in college. She looked just as I remember her from 1972, but when we were reunited in the dream there was no romance, just two old friends talking of past times. It was how I imagine it might be if indeed we ever did get a chance to meet again. As she occupied so prominent a place in my heart back then, it was good to see her and to recognize that we still cared for each other, if only as dear friends and not as lovers.
I have from time to time dreamed of being with several of my past girlfriends, but rarely in these dreams are we still in love, just being friends. Likewise I sometimes see male friends from my college days and always enjoy the visitation.
Sometimes pleasant dreams are pure fantasy but are so enjoyable that they stay with me for some time, and I wish I could revisit the dream or have the events happen in real life. One took place somewhere in a bucolic area with an extraterrestrial alien girl names Nila. She was a gentle soul who had somehow been left behind when her fellow aliens departed earth. I remember befriending her and enjoying her company immensely. Again, there was no romance, but that I could help take care of her and protect her was a great joy to me. I have wanted to meet her again in my dreams many times, but she appeared to me only once. I recorded the dream in my Dream Diary 1984 in more detail.
I would say that many if not most of the dreams I experience are lucid dreams in the sense that I know, at least on some level, that what I am experiencing is within a dream context. Sometimes when something exceptionally bizarre or troubling occurs I will even tell myself verbally, ďItís just a dream.Ē There are times that I am not aware that Iím in a dream (see below), but usually I am cognizant of this fact, even during the dream itself. Less often am I able to consciously control the actions of the dream, but I know that has happened on a number of occasions as well. Whether the frequency of lucid dreams in my case makes me abnormal I cannot say, but I personally do not find them particularly rare.
I know that I have had such dreams several times in my life, but oddly I cannot remember any of them specifically. I know there have been times I have dreamed I was back in college and believed I was really there, only to awake to reality; I recall at least one dream when something terribly tragic had occurred and it took several minutes even after waking to convince myself it had all been a dream (as I lay awake I kept wondering what I was going to do now that this event had transpired), but I cannot now recall what had happened in the dream despite its seeming so real at the time. What strikes me about such dreams, in addition to how real they can seem (especially seeing as I more often know that when I am dreaming I am well aware of the fact that it is a dream), is how something so seemingly authentic can be so easily forgotten. The nature of the dream (its seemeing reality) remains while the details quickly fade.
Erotic dreams occurred with me more often when I was younger (not surprising as sex is nearly always on the mind of an adolescent), but they can occur at any age. Like most of my other dreams I do not remember many details from these dreams, only that I sometimes have them. Many do not involve sex per se but are instead more romantic encounters. Most of the time when erotic dreams occur, the object of my attention is a character in the dream and not a real person. In most I am not married, but sometimes I will dream of such encounters while struggling with the realization that I am betraying my marriage vows and feel very torn and often quite guilty, even on awakening. Sometimes I will dream of being engaged in sex, but again in almost all cases I am unmarried and the object of my affection is a fictional person not known in real life. In the few cases where the person has been someone I know in real life, most frequently it is my wife. I can remember only three times I have dreamed of being engaged in sex with someone I actually knew, and in all cases they were with people I would not have shown an interest in in reality. Two occurred during my undergrad years, and one in particular was very disturbing. In the first I dreamed that a girl who was in fact a casual friend of mine but to whom I was not in any way romantically inclined had performed oral sex on me, and I was very troubled by the fact that I now felt she might think I was in love with her when I knew I was not. Thatís really all I remember about that one. The other was even more disturbing. I dreamed I was in bed in my dorm room and a man I knew from some of my classes had come in and performed sex on me. This was troubling indeed because it is the only time I ever dreamed about a homosexual encounter (a type of relationship that, as a confirmed straight individual, utterly appals me), and even were I of that orientation I could not possibly have had any interest in this fellow at all. In the dream I did not enjoy the encounter and felt as though he had raped me (I believe I had been asleep in the dream when he took advantage of me). As I have never had any homosexual leanings, I believe the dream resulted from hearing a rumor (possibly the same day) that this particular student was gay. The rumor was untrue, but I do remember hearing it said and being troubled by it.
The third dream occurred while I was an audiologist with the hospital in Bedford. One night I dreamed I was having passionate sex with a woman who worked at the hospital (whose name I donít even remember). She was a real person, but she was not someone who would have appealed to me, even if in real life I were single. Why I dreamed about her in such a way is a mystery.
The dreams involving my wife are usually quite vivid and intense, but the details I would prefer to share only with her, so I will not describe them here. Suffice to say they are most welcome as there are no feelings of guilt involved, either within the dream or upon awakening.
I have never had a dream that would fit this category. I have experienced a few dreams that I felt may have been prophetic or precognitive, but none ever came true. This is a category that remains an open question for me as the only such dreams I know about were those related by other people. Whether they are true or are mere wish-fulfillments I cannot say.
As a youngster I had a recurring dream that was quite silly. I would dream my Mom and I were in the toy department of the old Roseís department store (which was in the basement) and an alligator was loose in the store. We werenít afraid, and I never recall anything in particular happening, just that the alligator was there and we were trying to avoid it. I had this dream at least two or three times, and as far as I can remember they were identical in all the pertinent details. I have not had this dream since I was probably 10 or 11.
I cannot recall any other recurring dream, though I think I may have had one or two others that occurred on a couple of occasions (in addition to the one described above under Nightmares). I have, however, had several dreams over the years where I was in the same place I had been in other dreams, though what happened in the dreams was different. One in particular that stands out is being someplace in an upstairs room of a large house with floor-to-ceiling windows facing west. It is late afternoon in the fall, and I can look out and see the autumn leaves on the tress outside. The setting sun shines through the window, casting long shadows on the hardwood floor. It seems as though this is a place Iíve actually been at some time or other, but I never have been able to determine where it was or when I might have been there. Nothing happens in the dream to give me any hints, but the place seems quite real to me, though possibly only because I have dreamed it several times and find it a lovely place, very peaceful and quiet. Someone is with me in the room, but I do not know who nor what is spoken between us.
While not occurring often with me, this type of dream nevertheless happens too often. Although I could not cite a particular dream in this category, I have had many over the years. Often they involve trying to write music and continually working on the same few bars over and over, never quite getting it right. I had such a dream just a few weeks ago, and they are quite annoying and usually contribute to a poor nightís rest. Sometimes they involve trying to do things around the house or even something quite fantastical, but they never come to completion, the action just being repeated time and again. Sometimes a given action may be repeated ad infinitum in an otherwise ďnormalĒ dream, so I suppose this could be considered a subclass of dream.
I experience these most often when I am dozing in front of the television, though I have had them on other occasions as well. They occur when I am in a state that borders somewhere between being asleep and being awake as I am conscious of external stimuli around me (for example, I can still hear the television but may not be able to recount exactly what is being said) but also am somewhat asleep. While in this state I often will have very fleeting images or scenes pass before me that obviously are dreams of some type, but they are so brief as to defy other classification. I cannot recall having such dreams while fully asleep, but they occur principally when I am just on the verge of falling into a true sleep. While drifting off in front of the television is the most common time I have these dreams, I also have had them when listening to a lecture or while attending a concert when I am very tired. Sometimes the external events will incorporate themselves into the dreams so that I am aware of the context on both a conscious and subconscious level. As I have read so little about these, I would be curious to know if others experience the same kinds of dreams on such occasions.
Generally with me this kind of dream involves music. Since I am a composer I suppose that only makes sense. Not infrequently when I am working on a large score, such as an opera, I will continue composing in my sleep. Occasionally I actually will have a good idea come to me in a dream and, when I can adequately remember it the next morning, I will include that idea in the score the next day. What I find very irritating, however, is to have such a dream, resolving to write the music the next day, and then not being able to recall any of it upon awakening. Usually when I do have successful recollections they are only enough for a short motif, but that often is sufficient for my purposes. A few times I can remember hearing entire movements in my dreams but of course cannot remember much at all about them the next day except that I really liked what I heard while asleep. One time in particular (I think it was while I was still in high school) I dreamed of being at a concert of some new orchestral music that was most impressive. As the final movement reached the concluding section a man sitting next to me, who appeared quintessentially 19th-century French down to his finely trimmed goatee, leaned over and told me that from this point on the timpani did not stop reverberating. As I listened I found that he was correct, and the fiery conclusion was phenomenally grand. But alas! I could not remember any details about the music itself the next morning or since. I would love to write what I heard someday, but I think it was a singular performance heard only by me in my dream.
Sometimes a dream may inspire me to other things, such as doing something nice for my wife or working on something around the house. I suppose these too would be considered inspirational inasmuch as they move me to action of some sort upon awakening.