I was talking to Diana, one of my teaching friends, when the bell rang. “I’ve got to get to the hallway,” I said, and my feet lifted off of the ground. The next thing I knew, Diana and I were floating above the students, our arms down by our sides, watching the throng of noisy teenagers below us. Flying felt effortless and while I seemed to be going so fast, I knew subconsciously, I was right on time. I didn’t say it, but I was thinking how great it was to be able to fly through the hallways. It seemed so natural.
When I woke up that morning I was elated! Finally, I had had a flying dream. I’ve always heard people say that they flew in their dreams, and now I was one too. Through the years I have had several life-changing dreams. Dreams that taught me a lesson, enlightened a dark place, and even a recurring dream that I had for several years.
Sleep studies show that our brainwaves are most active during the REM sleep cycle. Dreams occur when there is stimulation to the brain that brings thoughts to our awareness. But in just the same way I could fly instead of walk, I have had dreams that I was digging my own grave, but the shovel kept breaking. On the surface, dreams may seem obscure, even outlandish. But look a little deeper, and there might be a lesson to learn, or an answer to a question. Sometimes vivid dreams are a result of eating spicy food or binging on too much TV. Sometimes they are a direct result of stress or anxiety.
When my mother died in January of 1958, I was four years old. One of the only memories I have is of her funeral. My daddy had picked me up to look at her in her casket and then he leaned over and wanted me to kiss her goodbye. I distinctly remember kicking and crying, trying not to get that close. I clung to him like a second suit jacket, turning my head away from hers.
I am not here to judge my father, for right or wrong, he was doing the best he knew how. But the trauma of that incident caused me to have a dream that returned often to me over the course of several years. In fact, I still recall it perfectly.
It was night-time and I stood perfectly still inside my small, drafty, stucco house on Crockett Street. I could hear the howling winds and the icicles breaking off of the eaves from the roof. As a little girl of four, I knew I shouldn’t have been alone, but I was.
In the living room, the big picture window began to rattle, and I heard a scratching, clawing sound of something trying to get in. The scratching and rattling dared me to peek outside, and when I did, a gust of arctic air blew toward the window and froze everything with a sheet of snowy ice. I couldn’t tell where the ice came from, but it didn’t matter because soon the knocking and scratching was at another window. Again, and again, at each window I would peer out to find it frozen shut until that last window when I looked out into the face of a stern, frozen Jack Frost. His face was contorted and iced over, and he appeared angry and grimacing. His eyes looked right into mine and challenged me to look away first.
I was petrified and barely able to breathe, when suddenly there came a loud knock at the door. I stood completely still, heart pulsing in my ears, and my feet glued to the floor. This time someone or something was pounding on the front door. As if another force was pushing me toward the door, I felt my hand on the knob turning, turning until it opened and standing there was a coffin …open…empty and icy. It was standing upright, open all the way and although I didn’t see anyone, I knew Jack Frost was near, and I knew who had been in that coffin.
This was the recurring dream that I had over many years after my mother’s death. The same sequence of events, and the very same dream, year after year. I’m sure a psychologist would tell me the icy Jack Frost symbolizes the chill of death. It doesn’t take much to make that correlation, but what I’ve never understood, is why the dream returned to me year after year. At some point between the end of grade school and puberty, the dream stopped, as suddenly as it began. Perhaps it took that long for my mind to make sense of my harsh reality.
I have often dreamed of hosting a party at my home and the party gets out of control. More and more people start arriving, and the music gets too loud. I usually run out of food, and everyone is asking me questions all at once. I’m frantic and trying to make things turn out okay, and then a tall, dark, and handsome stranger appears.
Once, after a particularly stressful day at work, I dreamed that a giant Olive Oyl head was talking to me. (Olive Oyl, the girlfriend from the Popeye cartoons.) Her huge head was filling up my dream space and she was yelling at me. “Get a backbone! Speak up for yourself! Don’t let them get away with it!” When I woke up the next morning, I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to solve a problem with a co-worker.
I count myself blessed and lucky to be able to dream. I usually try to write them down as soon as I wake up. I love being able to look back at some of my dreams at certain times of my life. The more I remember and record my dreams, the more dreams I have. Silly, scary, frustrating, or fulfilling, my dreams are a window into my mind and soul. They are an extension of me.
After my father’s death, twelve years ago, I had three very distinct dreams of him. They were so real that I call them visitations. In my dreams we would sit very close together and hold hands. He looked so happy and healthy, a huge difference from his worn and fragile body before he died. On the first visit/dream, he told me not to worry about him. “I like it here,” he said. “I’m doing good.” That one dream has been a wonderful source of comfort to me.
I feel such gratitude for the messages, and insights I have received from my dreams, and I wish the same for you. As Cinderella encouraged her woodland friends, I encourage you to follow your dreams, listen to your dreams and thank yourself for the wisdom that comes from your heart.
A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you’re fast asleep.” — Song written and composed by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston for the Walt Disney film Cinderella (1950).