I have always dreamed vividly. In color, lucid episodes, recurring plot lines, and many, many memorable details.
I’ve long tried to derive meaning and order of my REM-cycle storytelling, using my dreams to solve problems, make decisions, and even prevent me from making poor choices.
I’ve had a certain recurring dream that I was one class shy of graduating college. In every installment, I’d stand in line to speak to the woman behind the registration desk to find out if I was graduating that semester. She’s hand me a piece of paper that told me that I was missing a class that I needed to graduate. In each dream, I found myself lacking.
A series of obstacles stood in my way of completing this course:
- The class wasn’t offered that semester
- I couldn’t find/meet with my advisor to approve my class schedule
- I couldn’t pay the tuition for class
- I had to live in a tiny, crowded dorm room with strangers who didn’t understand my Cystic Fibrosis
- I lived off-campus and had to drive very far each way to school
- I couldn’t find the class building
- I overslept and didn’t realize it until class was over (even classes in the afternoon)
- I was sick and missed too many classes to catch up
As you can tell, I have a very vivid imagination, and a whole lot of fears. They aren’t just fears. In fact, most of these things actually happened on some level, at some point.
I have several recurring dreams, but this one really bothered me. What was it trying to tell me? I finished school – graduating with honors. It took longer than most people, because I had to take breaks (financial constraints) and carry smaller course loads (health crises). Several semesters, I even had to finish my classes over the winter or summer break, to catch up after hospitalizations.
Taking a Breath
Last week, I was in the pool in our backyard, floating around after doing water exercises. I had a bit of anxiety, and had a lot of stuff on my mind. I started trying to distract my mind. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The temperature was around 85, and the water was a mild 80 degrees. The water felt really good on my muscles, which were tense thanks to days of coughing.
I thought to myself, what, really, do I have to feel badly about at this very moment? Sure, I’m coughing loudly enough for half my neighborhood to hear me, and the pool needed to be vacuumed, but otherwise, it was a perfect moment for – well, not thinking.
And so I began to list all of the wonderful things in my life. Half-prayer, half-pep talk, I spoke out loud. I listed every blessing that I could think of – I’m alive. I am safe. I have food, water, shelter, and a reliable car. I am married to a good, honest man. I listed every family member. I talked about our pets, and relived each of their adoption stories. I reflected on all that I’ve accomplished. I recalled skills I’ve mastered and experiences I’ve stumbled upon…adventures pursued, friends who have come into my life, opportunities I’ve grabbed onto, and all of the simple and amazing things I’ve seen, read, heard and tasted.
My mind. My creativity. People who gave me chances. People who’ve challenged me. People who have encouraged me. The tree in our front yard, that Ken and I planted together, that we saved from a freak Halloween blizzard that split its trunk in two.
My faith. Ken’s faith. Our faith together. Our faith in one another and in ourselves together.
I visualized each person, place and moment.
I’ve often heard the phrase “my life flashed before my eyes” – and this was as close to that experience as I had ever felt.
Catching My Breath
At some point, I heard the back door open, and Ken stepped outside. I had been out there for more than an hour and a half in total. I decided to come inside and dry off, and I didn’t think about my experience the rest of the day.
And then something crazy happened. That night, I dreamt that I was in college, and moving out of my dorm room. I took a break in between scavenging for boxes to visit the registration office to find out about my credits. I stood in line at the registration office, in the queue that read “L-Z”, and asked the woman for a printout of my transcript.
“Do I have the enough classes?” I asked her.
She nodded, yes.
I didn’t attend a ceremony, or see my degree scrawled out in calligraphy on a piece of paper. I just walked out of that office, knowing that I. Was. Done.
The saga that plagued me for so many nights over so many years ended, simply.
I don’t know if my experience in the pool was simply catharsis, or perhaps I finally realized that I’m not lacking.
I’m not lacking.