I am a horrendously bad sleeper.
I can collect books, collect cats, but when it comes to collecting zzz’s, I’m a mess. You see, I come from a long line of bad sleepers whose nightmares after often so vivid that it takes a strong cup of tea and call home to chase out the sleep demons from the night before.
My grandma and I joke that “we’re good at so many things but we’re really bad at sleeping.” Ironically, it’s not that we don’t try to sleep well. We try the tea, we go to bed early, we turn off the TV and meditate, but nearly every night, I have nightmares that range from losing my eyesight (my most recurring) to fighting vampires for my mom’s teeth.
I started to really take notice to my active dreaming when I was in college. In the midst of my uncle’s murder trial, I wasn’t dealing with my pain. I wanted to be a normal college student, and I was. I enjoyed my classes, was making new friends, began publishing my first articles; but in refusing to make space to deal with losing a loved one to extreme violence, my brain and heart were forced to find solace in my dreams. For years my nightmares were awful and at times, they’re still wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-you’re-afraid-to-close-your-eyes-again memorable. I frequently got sleep paralysis and felt like I was drowning. And in a way I was. I didn’t like therapy and still worried about upsetting my parents by talking openly about the trial, so I wasn’t talking or questioning the pain I was bottling up. It just festered like that one forgotten sandwich in the back corner of your fridge that no one wants to take the time to properly deal with.
Nine years and thousands of nightmares later, I’ve learned to listen to my dreams and actively deal with my internal dialogues. When I’m stressed or upset, my dreams are the first ones to tell me and now, I take action to qualm the unease. It can be as little as acknowledging that something scares me, even if I have no way of changing it, or talking openly with my loved ones about current moments of stress. My mum and I will have similar nightmares on the same night, which is always a little trippy, and usually leaves us brainstorming if its tied to an anniversary or a shared experience.
In a way, I’m grateful for my dreams (not the one from last night, but some of the others). In some, I have control over the story which is very cool, or I’m visited by my uncle. A couple years after he was killed, I had this dream that my family was all in my grandma’s kitchen talking over each other. In the corner he was leaning against the washing machine with ankles crossed, the laces of his white leather boat shoes untied. His eyes locked with mine and put his finger in front of his lips telling me not to tell the others he was there. Then he smiled.
I love that dream, even now I can feel my heart gurgling with gratitude as I think back to it. Because as I grow farther away from my beloved giant and his sharp details grow dull with time, I find solace in the fact that my brain is locking away his memories for safe keeping. Good looking out to my internal dream catcher, and to the many dreams to come, lets at least try to stop involving trains and trolls.