Only but a Dream

I’m a vivid dreamer. I have been for as long as I can remember. It can be amazing – find new ideas for stories, suddenly discover magical abilities, get to fly, see loved ones who have passed on. There’s nothing better than a dream where you get to sit down and have a chat with a friend or family member who is no longer with us. I think of those dreams as them visiting me. It’s the best. Although flying is pretty awesome too.

But sometimes, it’s not as fun. You know what I’m talking about. Nightmares.

I hate them. I am a fitful sleeper at best, and for some reason now clench my jaw and frown in my sleep on any given night, so to add in a pulse-pounding fear-laced situation and not only do I wake with a headache but also muscle tension and lingering sense of ugh. These days most of my nightmares are anxiety based, which is fun. I get to experience things like revisiting my days as a waiter where all the customers are horrible and none of the food is ready.

Side note: I wrote and performed a one woman show back in the day about how stressful being a server is in the US . It’s ranked up there with ambulance driver and neurosurgeon – not joking, look it up. For those of you who don’t know, US servers are almost always paid a ridiculously small “salary” circa $2.15 an hour, because it’s thought that they will “make the rest up” in tips. That’s already stressful. Then, as the server is the only point person for the customer, they get blamed for any and everything that goes wrong – food coming out slow (kitchen), don’t like the table (host), cocktail not up to par (bartender) – whatever goes wrong is bounced back to the server and generally that is reflected in the tip. I know, sometimes a waiter can be bad, but even slow service might be because they don’t have enough people scheduled (manager) and they were sat too many tables at once (host), and it isn’t physically possible to give every single table the perfect experience. And, yes, I realize that this is a crazy practice to expect the customer to make up the pay of the restaurant’s employees. If I owned a restaurant, I wouldn’t allow tipping and I would pay my workers an excellent wage. Why do people do it then? Because you can make bank. Sometimes everything goes well enough that you can squirrel away a nice dent in your grad school fees over a summer.

Back to (other) nightmares.

Right now, I’m on a roll. I’ve had a week of nightmares so far. Mostly, again, are anxiety based. Having to deal with people who betrayed me, somehow inadvertently betraying another, and one restaurant based one (where I wasn’t the waiter). Also, a non-anxiety freakshow try-to-survive one involving dinosaurs. I have not seen the new Jurassic Park or any of those movies recently. Nor do I harbor any dino fears that I am aware of. That’s mainly reserved for cockroaches.

(shudders) (shudders again)

It’s the betrayal dreams that are getting to me. In the past in the “real world,” the people in these dreams did morally questionable (or simply way effed up) things that affected me, but in each case, we moved past them to some degree. One was in high school the other in college. The high school friendship did not end immediately with what happened. It was battered, but I forgave… Or so I thought. Many (ahem) years later I manage to spend a dream with this person in which they do morally questionable things that affect me. It isn’t even as if we’re in contact anymore. Same with the college friend. And these things happened so long ago, I can’t imagine that my brain has held onto any piece of these situations. I suppose that these were learning situations for me. I’d never put up with 90% of the crap I did in the past or ever choose to hang out with these kinds of people again because I learned not to by having to go through painful on-the-job-friend training.

In the dream where I was the betrayer – or so it seemed – it wasn’t my fault. No, really. I was trying to make everything right that someone else had started. At the end I was blamed and basically dropped because I was no longer trustworthy. I was so angry and extremely hurt in the dream, but there was also a part of me that thought I could have done more and maybe I did deserve the beratement. (I’m sure any therapist would have a field day with this.) That one woke me straight up in the middle of the night. I texted that friend immediately.

I remember in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader, they rescue one of the lords from The Island Where Dreams Come True. It’s an island (or a dark mass) that manifests dreams – not the ones of true love or winning the lottery but nightmares. They talk about the relief that comes from waking up from a nightmare and realizing that that it was only a dream, but in that place, the nightmares were real and you could never wake up. Scared me a lot as a kid. And now.

I hope that my nightmare streak is coming to an end. I would like to officially welcome lovely dreams back to my slumber time – come on now, you’ve been missed! I’ve heard that dreams are meant to be your brain sorting out and filing info from the day. I don’t know what I’m doing in the daytime that needs to get filed like this. I think of dreams as escapes, maybe a way to make progress on a problem, talk to an old friend, or to remember why I should never to go into food service again.

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