Today’s post is not entirely related to my usual writing but for probably the past year I’ve had a string of recurring dreams that I feel might be important to share. Dreams are not something I talk about too often and looking back I think there are only two entries where I’ve laid out what dreaming has been like for me after my first tour in Iraq. In December 2015, I decided to share the nightmares I had during the Fall 2015 semester of my first graduate program. In the other entry from June 2017 I decided to talk about the other dreams to include those I’ve experienced about losing teeth.
Dreams aren’t something I remember very often. As I mentioned in the past for several years I dreamt about losing a mouthful of teeth all at one time; these were the dreams I’d remember. I know people sometimes say dreams of losing teeth are related to fears about death, and maybe they are right. Occasionally, I might dream of seeing my mother or maternal grandmother–both deceased–but by and large, I didn’t recall any dream outside of those losing teeth until I started my first graduate program. The stress of school responsibilities triggered a series of dreams from the first semester through the last about something service connected (although not from my actual deployments) and/or close people in my life.
This issue made me exceptionally nervous to begin a second graduate program. I did not want to fall back into terrible dreams and I shared this concern with a dear friend of mine who encouraged me to not let that way of thinking prevent me from pursuing an educational goal. Thankfully, she was right that it wasn’t likely to be the same. Although I have dealt with some service related (again, not directly my military service) dreams, they do take a different form.
The self-care routine I started in late 2015 is paying off in that department. The dreams I’ve had, instead of being violent and exceptionally stressful, tend to be more confusing about choices before me. In one, I had to explain to a fellow Marine some of my triggers so I wasn’t unnecessarily startled. In another, I was completing physical fitness tests to see if I was qualified to serve as a Marine officer while (in the dream) expressing doubt about whether that’s what I wanted to do in life. The dream I had last night is not like either of those scenarios.
In last night’s dream I found myself in a home I realized my parents purchased and I was upstairs in a young woman’s bedroom; her possessions revealed she was maybe late teens to early twenties. While I cannot see it, I know the entire home is devoid of furniture save for this one room. What’s particularly odd is the two other similar versions of this dream I find I am in the same scenario but the room is switched. In one, it’s a playroom full of unused childhood toys and in the other, it’s a formal family living room complete with the usual furniture. In all three dreams, the other rooms are bare. Somehow, I’ve comprehended the original tenants sold the home this way to my parents and the furnished room–whether it’s the young woman’s bedroom, the living room, or the children’s playroom–signifies some sort of trauma to the other family. The room is left, shrine-like, for me to explore.
That’s what creeps me out.
As an adult, I am walking through this home with no real concept of where it is or why I am the only one there, but my task is to get through these spaces. It feels eerie in the dream. I’ve recognized many times I walk through other parts of the home intentionally avoiding these spaces. It is apparent each time that the rooms have been abandoned for years, but I’ve gone out of my way to not touch the furnishings and I don’t pick up the clutter I find in the children’s room or the woman’s bedroom. Until last night.
In this version of the dream, I notice a series of cupboards and some light shining into the room. The cupboards have been covering up a series of windows. While I take notice of this information, I make a mental note to remove them at a later time and look at the room in its current state. There are new objects that shouldn’t be there. My mind recognizes my daughter and my sister-in-law’s kids were playing here. I can’t remember everything new that I saw, but I do recall an open five gallon bucket of paint and I fear the kids will destroy something valuable in the room. Now I cannot avoid cleaning up the room because the kids have been here.
I start by assessing the room. The bed is made and carefully layers with sheets and what might be a crocheted blanket. The blanket is a warm almost mustard yellow color and one of the most noticeable items in the room. There are books everywhere dominating the room. Some are paperbacks and others hardbound. A collection of posters and hand drawn artwork line the walls. There honestly isn’t much for empty space anywhere, but it is not a hoarding situation. This room was a happy space.
The first thing I do is start removing the personal artwork from the walls. The pencil drawings are family portraits I’m guessing by the way the people look and the writing scribbled across them that I cannot read. I’m struck by the sensation of pulling the paper off the wall, the feel of the construction paper in my hands. (I had to look at Office Depot’s website to share with you the items securing the paper to the walls are silver T-pins like the kind teachers use in their classrooms.) As I start to disassemble this woman’s room by going through her personal effects, I am struck by how emotional this process is and I no longer focus on the new items in the space. I find a hardbound book with recent water damage to its dust cover. I am relieved upon removing the dust cover the book underneath is undamaged.
This is where the dream ends. I notice a flash of light and wake up.
I woke up because there is a thunderstorm in progress. The lightning was real and it is quickly followed by thunder. As hard as I try to go back to sleep–while I don’t want to enter back into the dream that just ended–I can’t. The sound of thunder often startles me like mortar attacks so I lay in bed waiting to go back to sleep, but I can’t get this dream out of my head. It’s more upsetting to me than it should be and I don’t know how to explain the sense of loss cleaning up this room.
Originally, I was planning on sharing the dream only with friends and family but I think others might relate. I don’t know if this dream is haunting me because I’ve been working on my memoir or made a lot of changes this past year. I recognize the dream, compared to the past ones, is more important because something changed in the pattern of the dream. I wanted to save something of value before it got destroyed by the carelessness of children. Looking back on the dream, I didn’t look to scold the kids for being in the room and return to my habit of avoiding the space. I also didn’t search for anyone to help me go through the items to sort through what could be donated, trashed, or kept for sentimental reasons.
I realized I just needed to go through the room and I started to tackle that project last night.