We live in a tumultuous world full of many truly sad and frightful things. The past few weeks have been pretty brutal, both internationally and closer to home. I’ve heard it said that our dreams are how our minds process what we have observed during the day. I’ve either been observing some very unusual things, or dreams are made from something completely different. I have also heard that those of us with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (and other chronic pain conditions, for that matter), are more prone to vivid and disturbing dreams because we don’t reach the same levels of sleep as people who are not in constant pain. Whatever the cause, my dreams are notoriously bizarre. This example, one of the five dreams I remember from my different intervals of broken sleep last night, doesn’t disappoint in the weird category.
I am attending a cocktail party. I do not know how i got there, and I have just realized I am wearing a large, ruffled red dress. Everyone else is wearing more subltly-colored cocktail dresses or stylish suits. I have an enormous coral hibiscus flower in my hair, which has been styled in enormous cascading curls. I feel very embarrassed, and I can’t breathe. I trip over a very large fluffy cat – possibly a Pallas cat – and fall into the smoky glass coffee table. Into, as in it is like jumping into a lake with dark, brackish water that is freezing mc-effing cold.
For a brief instant, I am sitting on a stony shore in the dark, looking at the moon reflect on a lake, and watching the ripples the chilly breeze makes on the water. I hear sirens in the distance, and I shiver, trying to wrap myself up in the skirts of my dress, only to find that I am wearing a threadbare tank top and some ratty old cargo shorts. I have no shoes, and my hair is extremely short. I hear footfalls on the rocks behind me, and I turn to see who is there.
And I’m sitting in a sunny living room at a pot-luck wearing tailored khakis and a pink cashmere cardigan set. My friend Lisa there, and is dressed similarly, but her cardigan is red. She looks like she is 20 years older than she is today. She is handing me some napkins. I realize i have spilled red wine all over myself and her nice, cream-colored couch. I take the napkins and apologize for ruining her couch. She says “Eh, no worries! The kids make a mess of it whenever they have friends over. That’s why it’s stain-resistant!” My friend Shelly shouts from the other room “You two quit staining the furniture out there!” and we laugh. I look down at the napkins, and they change in consistency, turning hard like very fine ceramic blades, and slice my fingers open. The spilled wine stings the cuts. I get up and rush to the kitchen, trying to rinse the wounds in the sink. I notice my husband is in a room playing poker with some guys – several we know, and some we don’t. He looks older, too. He sees me and asks if I’m being clumsy again. I laugh and nod. He shakes his head. The warm water running over my hands becomes cold.
I am laying on my back, being dragged by the feet through shallow pools of water along the shore of the same dark lake as before. The person dragging me is difficult to see, and I am having a hard time concentrating. I feel dizzy and wonder if I am drunk, or if I have hit my head. My face feels sticky, and I guess the latter must be the case just as my head bangs against a rock as I am yanked up the shore. I try to scream, but my mouth is so dry I am even struggling to breathe. I just manage to mack a pitiful clacking noise, and I think to myself “I am a useless chicken, clucking in silence!” I try to grab at the rocks as I drag over them, hoping to get one to throw. I seem unable to use my right arm at all, but I get a baseball-sized stone in my left hand and give it a throw at the person? Figure? Malevolent shadow? I don’t know, I can’t see well enough. I can’t get leverage to throw. I manage to drop the rock on my face.
I am standing outside in the sunshine, wearing a very pretty dress. It is teal and a perfect, flattering tea-length for an afternoon event. I have on a big, fancy hat. I see my friends and wave, smiling. They beckon me over and fuss over me, asking if I am nervous, if I am ready for the big day. I nod absently, wondering what they are talking about. A tall young man walks up to me, grinning. He has curly light red hair and grey eyes, but looks similar to my husband. I realize that this is my son, and that something important is happening for him today. I don’t remember his hair turning from blonde to red, but mine did when I was in my early teens. I give him a hug, trying not to cry. I see a little girl who looks just like my daughter at age 5 run past, and a lovely woman I recognize as my daughter laughing in the background. My husband is across the way, and appears to be talking to his youngest sister, though she is older, too. Everything seems so happy, and I am suddenly elated. Then a very large animal – I think it is a dog of some sort – runs past and bites my leg.
I am staring up at the sky. The stars don’t seem to twinkle. They are just blurs of light in the blackness. I cannot move. I cannot blink. I hope someone will come and fix this predicament soon.
The perspective changes. I see a bridge over a creek. There is a field on the other side that has been freshly mowed. The field is only slightly lit by a big yellow billboard that is angled toward the highway higher up. This here is a small, local access road. A container truck is pulled onto the grass of the field. Two cars slowly cross the bridge. The first car is a stereotypical undercover cop car like one would see on TV. Out of the car steps joel McHale, who was driving, wearing a blazer with jeans and cowboy boots, Rupert Penry-Jones in a tuxedo, and Peter Dinklage in a green dress shirt and black slacks with a shoulder holster. They walk to the left of the road by the field. Out of the other vehicle, which is in the shade of the billboard and can’t be seen, step three people with black trenchcoats and black brimmed hats. Their faces can’t be seen. Peter Dinklage rolls his eyes and says “What have you asshats done this time?” One of the figures, in a SUPER deep voice, says “Behold!” and gestures to the container truck.
Suddenly, men wearing NY Giants football helmets burst forth from the truck. They are not wearing uniforms, though. They are wearing giant turkey carcasses. More likely, ostrich, but nevertheless, these are men wearing huge cooked birds for clothing. They begin singing and dancing. They throw their helmets in the air and are smiling like happy drunk people. The dance number looks like something out of an elaborate musical production from the 1930’s. The gist of the song was that they loved to dance and sing on turkey day. They ended by kneeling on one leg and yelling “Aren’t weeee Greeeattt!!!??” At which point Rush Limbaugh walks out smoking a cigar and starts giving fistfuls of money to the guys wearing turkeys. Joel McHale turns to his two companions and says “What the ever-living Hell was that nonsense?!” and Rupert Penry-Jones just shakes his head and walks back to the undercover car. Peter Dinklage says “I say we arrest them all for indecent use of bird carcass,” and Joel McHale pulls out a little gray cube and sets it on the ground. The cube makes a whooshing sound, and the guys in turkeys all disappear, the cube getting slightly larger each time, as if it is somehow containing them.
Suddenly, I am wearing a full Tudor-era gown, and standing at court with Lisa and Shelly, also similarly dressed. We are teenagers, no older than 18 at best. We are giggling happily as a plastic rainbow slinky goes down a winding grand staircase. Lisa says “We will never see a thing as silly as this sight!” and Shelly looks directly at me and says “You need to wake up now, Jen.”
And I did. A full ten minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off.
I don’t believe in dream dictionaries. Every person has unique definitions for the things encountered in life. no one description works for everyone. While we might all dream, at some point, that we are flying, or unprepared for school, or losing our teeth, what that means may be different for each individual person. Just as some people may see pigs in dreams as a sign of good luck, I see them as an ill portent, because I am terrified of pigs and allergic to pork. Likewise, red may mean something for one person that it does not mean for another. There is no universal symbolism for dreams. We may, within our own collective cultures, have some cultural symbolism that would apply to many (such as the connection between turkey and football for people in the United States), but many things are truly connected to the individual. At a guess, I would say that my pain was flaring during the frightening parts of the dream, and that i was also expressing a subconscious fear of missing out on important life experiences. I don’t know where the weird dance number came from, but the very end was likely due to the fact that I wrote my senior thesis on the Tudor era, and I have been trying to find ancestral links between myself, Lisa and Shelly (and Shelly and I are tenth cousins once removed, with common ancestors in the Tudor era).