I am yearning to dream, the literal, not the rhetorical kind. Over the years, my sleep has been reduced to a physically essential function. I have taken a critical approach to sleep. I have monitored the number of minimum hours of sleep I need to function reasonably well and I try to get those many hours. That leaves me perpetually tired. Suffice to say that sleep has become a luxury. On days when I inadvertently get to sleep for 8-10 hours, I wake up with a mind that feels like a reformatted laptop, with empty folders and cache and no internet history. It feels like a fresh start. It is a kind of high that I wish I could chase every night.
I have woken up every morning for the past 6 years with the thought that I ‘should’ wake up. I hardly ever sleep in these days and I truly miss that. It is almost as if I have to prove my need for sleep. I believe that when I sleep, half my mind is awake. I can hear the sound of the television in the background. In fact, once, I had woken up in the middle of the night and rushed into my son’s room who was whimpering in his sleep. He was having a nightmare. Nowadays, I have to consciously give myself permission to sleep. Such harsh, dictatorial conditions are not conducive for dreams. So these days I have smatterings of dreams from the rationed pantry; and like a child, my mind wants to reach up to the shelf that is just about out of reach for the box of dreams that it can see peeping out of the shelf.
The comfort of ‘all knowledge is within you’
There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.Hamlet, William Shakespeare
I had stayed up the whole night trying to fathom the convoluted but deeply philosophical renderings of Michel Foucault. I was studying for a postgraduate class on social theory and although I had spent the entire week trying to sink my teeth into the Foucauldian psyche, it was left to the dregs of the last few hours before class for my mind to get a toehold on his ideas. I remember dozing off around 4 in the morning for a quick nap (the class was at 9am) and started dreaming almost instantaneously. I dreamed of a moving spiral floating in space. I woke up with a start but with a clarity that I had been trying to reach for a week. There have been numerous such instances when I have dreamed about something that my waking mind had been deeply engaged with. Then there was the weekend before my dreaded Micro Economics exam when I had dozed off in the afternoon heat and dreamed of a graph showing cost curves in different colours. I had been studying with a friend and she told me later that I had been using my hands to explain the graph to her.
My subconscious has also helped me solve less academic issues. My father had lovingly gifted me a ring with tiny diamonds etched in them. One fine morning I realized that one of the tiny diamonds was missing. I was inconsolably upset. I was distraught because I knew that it was well-nigh impossible to find the precious little thing because I had no idea when the rock had fallen off. I accepted the wisdom of a dear friend who said that ‘if it is yours it will return to you and if not, then it never was’. I genuinely let go of the thought of ever seeing the diamond again. I usually have very vivid dreams and one night I dreamed that I was brushing the carpet in my apartment and I saw something glistening in the sunlight in the thick pile. I woke up and did exactly like my dream-self had done and lo and behold, there it was, the tiny diamond; at exactly the same spot where I had seen in my dream! These dreams always give me some release from stress. I believe it is my subconscious taking care of me. They give me immense satisfaction because I think of them as signals that my subconscious mind is sending me. These kinds of dreams tell me that I had delved deep enough into a subject/thought/experience. I derive a lot of comfort in plumbing into the depths of my subconscious mind because after all, dreams are like chinks in the curtain through which the light comes through.
The relief of ‘anything is possible’
In dreams I can plunge into another world and emerge out of it unhurt, no matter how bad the dream. How many times have I died in my dream only to be relieved upon waking up? Nothing can truly go wrong if it is in a dream because the dreamer always has the option to wake up and everything will be back to how they are. Sometimes, I want to keep staying in that happy place where nothing can go wrong or where my fantasies can come true with a conviction which makes it more real than reality. I have recurring dreams of having conversations with Bollywood actors; of past mistakes which in my dream I rectify. Then there was the time when I dreamed of my bedroom I slept in and saw a balcony extending out, a box window with a chair and a table. It was a beautiful room and when I awoke, I remember being happy. These dreams tell me of the things I wish I could do and for those brief hours or minutes (who knows), I am happy.
The power of ‘apparent control’
Are you sure/That we are awake? It seems to me/That yet we sleep, we dream.A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare.
Then there are those most beautiful of all dream states—the land of lucid dreams. Sometimes I reach that place in my sleep when I am able to control my dreams, when I am aware that I am dreaming. Frederick Willem van Eeden, the Dutch Psychiatrist coined the term to describe the state where one is aware that they are dreaming. When I was younger I could wake up and go back to sleep and change the outcome of the dream. I very rarely have lucid dreams anymore where I have control over the outcome but I do have lucid dreams where I know that I am dreaming and am able to wake myself up from a nightmare or to keep dreaming a happy dream.
Once I had a dream within a dream within a dream. This was way before Inception, and possibly was the reason why I had found the movie fascinating. It spoke to me because I had experienced something similar years before the movie was released. The dream went something like this. My bed was next to a window and in my dream I saw that there were neon lights outside the window and I told myself, ‘I’m dreaming because there are no neon lights outside’. I woke up and sat up in bed, only to realise that I was dreaming of sitting up. So I told myself, ‘you’re still dreaming’ and woke up and sat up in bed. Again, I realised that I was dreaming of sitting up and the lights outside were still those bright neon signs. I told myself again that this was still a dream and I sat up in bed. This time around I looked outside to see the sunlight streaming in and there was the view of our backyard. I remember finally waking up and wondering if this was the dream and that had been the reality, or perhaps, I had stepped into an alternate universe? Who knows? Lucid dreams are the crème de la crème of the dream world.
The nostalgia of ‘if only’
All days are nights to see till I see thee, And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.William Shakespeare.
I still dream of my childhood home in sepia. My memories have a permanent residence in the old layout and not much about the new plan has successfully ‘made memories’ for me, even though version 2.0 has witnessed life events like two weddings and my son’s birth. Some realities never change and that can be quite a relief in this ever-changing world.
I believe when I dream, I visit a place/places in my head that I create with my unspoken thoughts/ideas/feelings. I return to a tungsten London in my dreams, walk along the Thames and take the bus or the Tube. Even in my dream, I can feel the London chill on my skin. I dream of people who have left an indelible impression on my mind. I dream of my grandparents. I see their smiles, I hear their voices, I feel their soft hands, and more often than not, they reassure me that everything will be alright. These are ‘if only’ dreams and though to a third person, they might sound sad, they give me solace because in my dreams, the places and people remain unchanged and whenever I return to them, they soothe my tired soul.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little lives are rounded with a sleep.The Tempest, William Shakespeare.
These days my dreams are all jumbled up, hotchpotch. Undoubtedly, like always, they are a reflection of my waking hours. One might brand me as an escapist because by yearning to dream, I am possibly trying to escape reality. Or perhaps I am simply craving the cosiness of the inexplicable, searching for a seeming order in chaos. Perhaps, only in dreams, am I truly free.