I’ve been shuffling around this morning feeling a bit fuzzy…lost in another place. I tend to be a vivid dreamer, and last night was one of those nights.
I’m not talking about nightmares…the unspeakable kind whose misery is like a cloak…the kind that have you waking gasping for breath and sobbing, clinging to the other person in the bed if there is one…the kind that leave a wet imprint on the bed from your sweaty body when you’ve rocketed from the mattress to rhythmically and repeatedly check each of the children. Those are the nightmares that you see again for days afterward when you let your mind drift and random events weeks (or years) later will bring a startling recollection of the dream…things that you know happen to real people - and none of us know how we would ever manage if we were one of those people.
I was exhausted when I woke up this morning for different reasons. I am a person with a detailed and intense memory. I have the curse/blessing (depending on the memory) of nearly total recall…not “as if I were there” but certainly as though it happened very recently.
Some of this is wonderful – I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on my childhood memories, the things I loved best, what brought me comfort and made me feel loved and special, my favorite games and foods, how I learned things academically and morally. It has shaped me as a parent, helping me to concentrate on how my children feel and how my response to them now can help build similar happy memories for them as adults.
Of course there is the flip-side of remembering clearly the things that frightened or hurt me, especially the angst of middle school and the embarrassment of poor choices I made as a teenager or suffering the betrayals that are a normal part of growing up that I never seemed to get over.
My recurring dream is senior year of high school. I’m always looking for the same person, who I sometimes find and sometimes don’t. I’m also always late, and have nothing to wear (that doesn’t look awful, a true high school crisis), and sometimes show up without the proper materials for whatever class or activity is happening. My Farmer remarked to me once, after an account of yet another one of these dreams, “You just can’t get away from that place, can you?”
And in some ways that is true. There were a few relationships for me that sum up all of the angst, betrayal, happiness, loyalty and morality a person spends their teenage years grappling with. Non of them turned out the way I would have wanted, and I am still haunted by many of my own choices, as well as the choices of those affecting me. Some of that time in my life is always following me.
I know – such an unoriginal story. Don’t we all look back with hurt and regret at things that happened in our young adult lives? Everybody feels like that in some way, right? And yet I think it is unusual that, for about a year, I was completely and utterly happy during high school. Even though I felt I didn’t really fit in well with my general group of peers and knew I would never really be ‘part of the gang.’ My dreams are always about the time immediately after that year, when the floor fell out from underneath me and I started to deal with life and human nature as they really are. Maybe that happens to everybody in high school, and maybe it’s just my tendency to view things idealistically (here’s another post that refers to it) that made the year I was roundly satisfied seem so lost.
I think the reason I go back again in my subconscious to that time is because I wish I could change the effect that loss had on me and the subsequent choices I made. I’ve had a similar pattern in my adult life, where I have six months or a year of bliss followed by learning the hard way that things never stay the same, that some friendships are temporary and sometimes people cannot do what they say or should. Sometimes I am one of those people myself, which is when coming down is the hardest. I handle it better than I did then, thank God for that, but I still look back on those time periods and wonder if it is a normal part of life’s ‘ups and downs’ or if I’m just taking it extra hard. Once again, maybe my expectations are unrealistic – of others, of myself, of life.
It occurred to me after thinking about the dream that those times of peak happiness are when I feel I am fitting best into my life. When feel like I have a handle on things, that I know what I am doing, that I am right where I am supposed to be, surrounded by the people I’m meant to be with. It feels like a months-long epiphany, where plenty of small things go wrong but they don’t rock the boat because the bigger problems are ‘worked out.’ I realize, truly I do, how juvenile it sounds when I say things like that – there are always bigger problems to come, things are never ‘worked out’ for good and happiness in life comes from hard work, from self examination, and from the desire and ability to change. None of us know what we are doing all of the time, and accepting that we are doing our best as best as we can has to be close enough. We can’t go back and change things, but we can learn from them and prepare for the next challenge. We can pray and trust, we can forgive and ask forgiveness. Maybe that is what we are meant to learn (the hard way) as we move along to bigger problems.
All I know is I looked for the same person all night, did find them, and did make it to prom but once there realized I was wearing a blue, quilted dress several sizes too large so I left to change clothes and ended up crying in my sister’s childhood room (original paint and eighties decor) asking if I could change my choices instead while my mother came in and out making the bed.
It’s all pretty obvious when you try to analyze the dream. My 15-year class reunion is coming up next month. And there was a conversation I had with my BFF about being without a group of friends in middle school a few days ago. Plus this last year was a difficult one - involving lots of changes and upheaval - that I’m happy to see gone. The big blue dress was because I lost weight this winter and recently discovered that my summer clothes don’t fit. My mother was one of the only people during high school who unfailingly had my back; so she was right there, tidying up, while I was crying over my choices. And of course, she was making the bed because then you have to lie in it…Oh, and I have an unusually dependable memory, that would be the other reason for these dreams.
There are people who look back at that time of their youth without the same dramatics as me, right? Who say ”it’s hard growing up” or “those were good times” or even “I don’t remember much about it” … And why can’t I be like that? Some times I am, but not today.
And yet, I don’t want to give up the richness of memories I have from my (almost) 33 years of life. Nor do I want to give up the memories of that golden year, even if it means having to remember the following one as well. I’d just prefer not to revisit things I can’t change while I’m sleeping, tyvm. Or at least that they be original enough to make a good novel.