My eyes are thrown open. With my heart beating erratically, I feel the sheet wrapped around my legs, and I notice my arm asleep under my head. I glance at the alarm clock on my nightstand-- 2:53 am. Biting the inside of my lip, I realize I've been holding my breath. I let it out slowly, quietly-I do not want to wake up my husband. Although, I realize rather quickly, that probably isn't something I need to be concerned about-he is snoring, so I know he is off in his own little world, far away from me and my dreams.
Remembering that he can sleep through anything, I sit up in bed, kick the sheet off, and basically hyperventilate. I push my hand on my chest; I am trying to hold my heart in my body. It is beating so wild, I am afraid that someday it will truly break out of my chest.
I have always had vivid dreams. I can honestly say that I can remember waking from a dream when I was 7. I still remember that dream. I still remember the feeling of my heart in my chest, and the weightlessness of the dream.
My dreams intrigue me. They are artistic, original, and I often wake up thinking, 'Where the hell did that come from?' I write some of them down, because I truly believe that the novel that I hope to publish is being composed while I sleep.
But my dreams also scare me. For years, I have dreamt of animals chasing me. Alligators, tigers, lions, snakes. These dreams always preceded an episode with my heart. I caught on soon enough, and when I woke from one of these nightmares, I would know to watch my activity for the next day or so, to watch my heartrate. I would spend hours out of the day focusing on the thump-thomp of my heart, counting each beat, praying that it wouldn't happen again. But it always did. So, those dreams were annoying in sleep, but painful in the awakening.
I have dreams of places I have never been in real life. Over and over. I visit several places in my dreams, year after year. I wonder if I will go to these places some day. Just last week, while driving between Granbury and Weatherford, on a road I have never been on, I passed 5 or 6 houses, and got the most awful feeling of deja vu. I had a dream almost a year ago-I was trying to hide from some very scary guys, and I was trying to get my girl up into the attic of this house. I remember the layout of the house, the yard, and the surrounding area. When I passed those houses, I knew these were the houses from my dream. It was so odd, so surreal.
I have recurring dreams about certain people. Year after year. It's a different variation of the same dream. When I wake up, I know I need to call or email the person, just to check on them. If I am not in touch with them anymore, I pray for them. A wise friend of mine told me that oftentimes, He puts dreams in our heads of a person who is going through something, and needs our thoughts and prayers. So I pray.
However, I would have to say the worst dreams I have are those about people that are no longer in my life. Lost loves. People that I let slip away. Or people I slipped away from on my own. These are the most heartbreaking for me. These are the dreams I wake from with the sheet wrapped around my legs, and I find that I cannot breathe.
Once I catch my breath, my mind races. Why am I dreaming about him? What the hell does that mean? Where the hell is he? Why the f* is he in my head??
Inevitably, I get angry. After all these years, my heart and mind still betray me. They let him in at my weakest, when my back is turned. I am resting, preparing for another day. And once he's been let in, it is days before my heart and mind let him go. He gets caught in the memories I have of us. He dusts off spaces in my heart that have not been touched in years. He gets comfortable- with every song I hear that has a memory of 'us' attached to it, with every book I see that we talked about, every place we visited, with every spot on my body that his lips touched. I cannot free myself of him. It is maddening.
I know that I no longer love him. I haven't for years. All these memories? It's like I read them in a book; it doesn't even feel like it was me who made those memories. It's like it never really happened. I can go weeks, months, seasons, without thinking of him. But then the dreams hit me, smack the shit out of me while I'm sleeping next to the actual man that I love, the wonderful man that I married.
My brain is assaulted with things I have not thought of in so long. Memories that are so close to my heart. Things that strike a nerve, a nerve well-healed and protected.
I am forced to think of what he is doing now. Who he married. Where he lives. Who he chose over me. What he chose over me.
I am forced to replay in my head the times he made me laugh, the times he made me cry, the things I said, did, and gave up for him.
I am forced to wish that I could, for just one minute, get back the me I was back then. The me that was much more laidback, free-flowing, intimate, sensitive, and full.
Sometimes I cry. But very rarely. Mostly I get all nostalgic, but with clenched fists.
It has taken me years to realize that it is not the person that I miss or love when I wake up from these dreams. It is not his arms, his lips, the whisper of his voice in the dark. It is not even the things that he showed me, taught me, shared with me. It is:
The feeling of total love and adoration by another person.
The feeling of being accepted no matter what.
The feeling of being in love.
It is my feelings that I miss. My feelings that are attached to my memories of him. It is not him. He may have showed me how to be patient. He may have showed me that in a moment of weakness, you can lay it all on the line, and still be strong. He may have touched my heart, touched my life. He may have branded my soul with things he said. But it is not him that I miss. It is my feelings.
Does this mean that I don't have feelings now? Or that I don't love my husband, my life, the feelings I have now? No, I don't think so. I would not trade my life for anything. By doing so, I would be negating the blessing that is my daughter. But I would be lying if I said that I don't lie awake after these dreams, wondering what might have been if I had chosen another path, if I hadn't returned that phone call, if I had forgiven him one more time. Who then, would I be dreaming of?