Sunday, May 24, 2009

Living the Dream

I’ve started remembering my dreams again. I don’t know if it it’s a good sign, a bad sign, or no sign. Does it mean anything when we remember our dreams? Does it mean anything when those dreams are about useless stuff like having a big, loud argument with someone I haven’t seen or spoken to since we spent grade 10 together laughing to the point of tears?

Dreams. A wide topic.

I slept solidly almost the entire time I was travelling, with nary a nuit blanche (unless by often reckless choice) or memory of my subconscious mind’s efforts in the morning. Since my return to Canada I’ve spent several fitful nights tossing and turning; a sadly familiar occurrence that reminds me way too much of my pre-travel state / former life. I suppose it’s normal, given the changes I’m dealing with and the thoughts trapped in my head. I spent months not worrying about anything more serious than where I was going to sleep the next night. I know maybe that sounds like a big worry, but trust me- it’s not.

In the past, a generally reliable trick for coaxing myself back to sleep was visualization. Time and time again I would conjure up the same image in my restless mind: a deserted tropical island somewhere. There I’d be, lazing in a hammock strung between two palm trees facing turquoise waters with crashing waves, the ocean’s breath wafting its salty tendrils across my face, into my lungs, through my soul. It was the most serene, peaceful, relaxing image I could conjure. Recently, during one particularly relentless toss-and-turn episode I remembered my old standby beach scene and gave it a try. But this time, instead of convincing my hyperactive brain to chill out, my trusty mental prop jolted me wide awake. My eyelids flew open in disbelief and confusion. What had changed? Why wasn’t my trick working anymore? I was beach-bummed.

The surprising answer came to me just before I dropped off into peaceful slumber: The “dream” was no longer a dream – I had made it reality. I’d just spent six weeks on an idyllic patch of paradise named Gili Air in Indonesia, living out the exact scenario that I had previously imagined to represent my ideal state of peace. I could no longer conjure the image without attaching to it all of the sights, sounds, smells, thoughts and feelings that combined to make up my time – my reality - on that tiny island. How astonishing! It’s time to find a new dream.

But as you’ve no doubt realized, I’m talking about two different kinds of dream here. The dictionary defines “dream” in the following (edited for blog) ways: “1) a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep; 2) an aspiration, goal or aim; 3) a wild or vain fancy; 4) something of an unreal beauty, charm, or excellence.” I’m not convinced there’s such a dividing line between the types. That unkempt, poor, perfect little island, which I now own a piece of, readily fits all of these descriptions.

While it’s true that one type of dream we wilfully create and control and the other we don’t, they’re more similar than one might think. Both kinds of dream take place in our minds. Both can be exhilarating, confusing, scary, fantastical, seemingly impossible, frustrating, inspiring, surreal, enduring. Both can spur us into action, or freeze us in our tracks. Sometimes we wish they’d leave us alone, and other times, we can’t wait to delve deeper into them. Often, components of them can be identical and interchangeable.

What happens when we don’t have dreams of either kind? It’s a dark place. While I’m busy with the sleep-kind of dreams these days, I’m a bit stalled when it comes to the other kind. Life is pretty different now, and I’m not sure where I’m headed or what I hope for, beyond continued peace and happiness and enough money to keep paying for gas and the stupid storage space that houses all my crap in Montreal.
But I do know how important it is to keep dreaming, and how extraordinary it is to find one of those dreams suddenly realized.

I hope that you remember your dreams. And if you can realize even one of them, smile and be proud. It is a gift from yourself.

“Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.” Anais Nin

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