02 November 2015

Lucidly Dreaming

So the subjects of sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming have come up, what with so many of you writing about ghosts and weird dreams of late. I haven't experienced sleep paralysis (probably just jinxed myself), but I do have a lucid dreaming story. I know. Cue scornful eye roll. When I first heard of lucid dreaming, I pronounced it bullshit and made some joke about Ouija boards.

My elder daughter's original art. Perfect for illustrating a weirdass-dreams post.

I'm not really a woo-woo type of person, but I do think there are things that we as human beings just don't have the capacity to comprehend. Things we just can't wrap our brains around. This is true even without the woo-woo aspect.

Take dogs, for example. A bloodhound has about 300 million scent receptors in his nose, compared to our 5 million. Dogs can smell cancer and Parkinson's disease. They're freaking scent savants. The smell section of their loyal, little pea-brains is 40 times bigger than ours. That whole "they smell fear" thing? Basically true. They smell pheromones and whatever weird shit gets released when we break out in a sweat. They can probably smell sad poetry in our tears.

Dogs are basically experiencing a whole world that we don't even know is there. Wild.

Granted, it's probably for the best, given what dogs like to sniff. I don't care to know the intricate, subtle notes of the steaming horse dung enrapturing my dog any more than I care to sniff my friend's ass in greeting. I'm fine with a handshake, thanks.

Norm? That you? Come closer ...
Sure, we trump dogs with our comparatively keen eyesight, but we're the naked mole rats of the world compared to eagles. Dolphins and bats hear a whole spectrum that we can't. Echolocation and shit. Vampire bats and pit vipers can find your ass by some kind of thermo-detection, and that hairy, eight-eyed spider? It can see ultraviolet light.

Good luck killing it with fire.

So given that we humans can't even perceive normal, everyday goings-on that animals with sharper senses experience as the norm, it's not a stretch to think that there may be other things we can't pick up on, let alone comprehend.

I don't know how or why my grandma was there at the end of the bed my first night home from basic training, shortly after her death. She was there by the collection of Avon decanters she'd given me over the years. You know, those bottles where the plastic cap is the top half of a lady and the bottom is a glass skirt full of noxious, flowery perfume you never wore because your signature scent was Love's Baby Soft. My mom said it was a dream. That's what people say when you tell them some crazy shit that happened at night with no one else around. Except it didn't feel like that. Grandma was there. Admittedly, as ghost stories go, it was kind of a non-event. She didn't say or do anything. She didn't levitate or make objects fly or reveal some profound universal truth that changed my life. She was just there.

I don't mean like "in a dream" there. I mean there.

But dreams are weird, too. If they do stem from something lodged deep in the subconscious, that's disturbing because that shit  is bizarre. Bizarre like you might need therapy. Or a straitjacket. Do dreams try to give us weirdly coded answers to life or are they just completely random? Do they portend future events? My mom dreamed about Bobby Kennedy's assassination before it happened. Imagine seeing the TV replay your dream. Freaky. No wonder she said Grandma came in a dream.

Not sure I want to delve into my daughter's subconscious. Love you, honey. You know that ... right?

I've never experienced sleep paralysis, but the esposo has. It only ever happened at the family house. Where both of his parents died. His siblings all agree that there's some kind of ... something ... in the house. A presence. I know. Woo-woo shit. Surprising, because the esposo could win the prize for most practical, sensible person on earth.  So his stories of waking up to the feeling of something, someone, pushing down on his chest and him not being able to move were kind of freaky, as he's not generally down with nonsense or woo-fuckery. It seemed to fit the description of sleep paralysis. Okay. Reasonable explanation. But my reasonable, practical esposo still feels as though something, or someone, was there.

And it hasn't happened since we moved into our apartment over four years ago.

I said earlier that I'd thought lucid dreaming -- where you consciously take control of your dreams while you're dreaming -- was bullshit, but I actually had an experience with lucid dreaming as a very young child. I just didn't know at the time that it had a name or even that it was anything odd or controversial. It wasn't until decades later that I even realized that what I'd done was lucid dreaming. You know, that woo-woo bullshit I didn't believe in.

Like this, but from the cloud instead of the bank.
When I was little, I used to dream that I was falling. Like from clouds or skyscrapers. High bridges. It was terrifying. I don't know if I had the falling dreams because of my intense fear of heights or if I developed that fear because of the falling dreams. I don't suppose it matters. I'd usually wake up before impact, petrified, but not always. Sometimes I couldn't wake up before splatting against the concrete rushing up at me. I never actually died in the falling dreams, but I always thought I would. My hands are sweating now, just thinking about it.

Then one day I read that it was impossible to die in a dream because the shock to one's system would be too great; the brain protects us by making dream death impossible. I nearly peed from relief. Okay, the article also mentioned isolated cases in the South Pacific where people's hair had turned white overnight from the shock of having dreamed their death, but I dismissed that. I lived in Kansas, not the South Pacific, I reasoned. I was, therefore, safe from dream death, according to little-kid logic. Now, I want to say I read this in National Geographic, but it was probably Reader's Digest and of questionable veracity. No matter, it was an enormous relief to me as a child. This was one time when reading things that I was too young for worked to my advantage, unlike those unfortunate incidents with The Amityville Horror and Audrey Rose. Still not sure if The Joy of Sex and that whole Ana├»s Nin thing worked for me or against me, but hey, that was childhood in the days before passworded Kindles.

Anyway, the next time I dreamed I was falling, I wasn't quite as terrified. I knew, on some level, that I wasn't going to die. I remember waking up and being aware of the difference. The next time, it was stronger. Maybe I was closer to being awake, I don't know, but I was cognizant enough to know not only that I wouldn't die, but also that I wasn't going to fall at all.

I would fly.

And I did. It was wonderful. Even better than the time I dreamed I was galloping through open fields on a real horse. I never had another falling dream after that because now I could fly. Sadly, the flying dreams quickly tapered off until I didn't have them anymore, either. I tried to make them happen, but they never did. I never realized there was anything unusual about all of this. I was so young, I guess I just chalked it up to outgrowing the falling dreams. I never gave it much thought beyond that.

I wish my daughter could illustrate my life. 
I've had three recurring dreams in my life besides the falling/flying dreams. There's the tornado dream: a tornado is coming, and I'm responsible for kids and/or animals. I'm literally herding cats. Or toddlers or puppies. I get the last stragglers corralled in a basement, only to see that others have gone out to look for me or each other. I tell the remaining ones to stay put while I go find the others. Rinse, repeat. So freaking stressful. The tornado dream comes when I really feel out of control of my life.

There's also the house dream, which is decidedly more pleasant. I'm exploring a labyrinth of a house, with towers and turrets and secret passageways and all manner of delightful secrets, sometimes even pets. This one comes when I'm facing a big change in life. It's usually good, though surreal, except when a stairway goes wonky so I can't get to where I need to be, and there's a black hole under the stairs. I've never actually fallen from a gone-wrong stairway, though, which I attribute to the flying dreams of long ago.

And then there's the Violent Bad Guy dream, which brings us to the crux of today's tale.

To be continued ... 

(Oh, get that knot out of your panties, it's already almost finished. This is a blog, not The New Yorker; I passed the bounds of brevity a couple of paragraphs back. Also, JP: payback's a bitch, baby.)


  1. I laughed aloud at the cliffhanger. Yep, trying to keep these of non-intimidating length gets kind of tricky, if not impossible.

    Fun seeing all the various comments thread coming together in one post.

    Interesting hearing about the tornado dream; I have those often but figured that was more due to geography. I looked up what they meant once... forgot though. A turbulent change afoot, maybe?

    And also, your daughter has crazy mad art skills. She really knows how to fill up a canvas.

    1. Sometimes I get ideas for posts when I'm commenting around other places. Yeah, the tornado dreams ... I get them when I have a lot of stress that I feel out of control of. Right before I moved to Costa Rica, I had one that morphed into a tsunami dream. A basement doesn't do shit for you in a tsunami. And that sucker was huge ... just a wall of water coming like a freight train. No escape. I was trying to hold onto all my kids and anchor us to a pole under the water. I couldn't find my dogs at all. Scary as hell.

      I keep telling my daughter she needs to get on the adult coloring book bandwagon! Her art is perfect for that, and those coloring books are so popular right now. I just had some muled down for me. If she did one, it would rock.

      I figured you'd like the cliffhanger. Or at least relate to it while hating it. *ahem*

  2. Can't wait to hear about number 3! And the girl child is most blessed with many talents.

    1. It's almost finished. I just didn't want it to be too long. We all know brevity is not my strong point. The daughter, yessss, all those kids have talent coming out of their pores. Best three things I ever did. Help me convince her to make an adult coloring book; they'd sell like hotcakes.

  3. Wow...your daughter is really, really talented...like Frida Kahlo talented. I dream every night; vivid, weird, good, bad, so-so dreams. I have recurring dreams too. Sometimes when I am having a good dream night and I have to use the bathroom, if I think about the interrupted dream it starts up where it left off when I get back in bed. You are wordsmith, my friend.....but, could you please get to #3 quickly. I sometimes read endings before the beginning.

    1. Yes, her talent still stuns me. All of them seem to have hit the talent lottery.

      I dream a lot, too, but it's odd, the remembering part. I used to remember my dreams in vivid detail. I probably should've kept one of those hokey dream journals and used it to write some crazy fantasy novel. So after the divorce, I went through a period of awful, psychedelic, crazyass dreams, but then after that settled down, I just didn't remember dreams like I used to, and that's never really come back on a regular basis. I'll remember dreams here and there, but most of them, I can't hang on to. Sometimes I can literally feel myself losing it, feel it slipping away, as I wake up.

      I wish I had your ability to pick up where I left off. When I was a kid, I tried so hard to make that happen with Santa's sleigh dreams and horse dreams. I never could, though.

      No. 3 is almost done. Just was getting too wordy. You know how I do.

  4. Wow. Your dreams are genuinely epic! It *does* help that they come with epic illustrations - very cool! Seriously, together you've made a mythological world. Whee!

    For once, I'm not all jumpy and bothered by the 'to be continued' thing because as someone who only very, very rarely remembers dreams, I tend to think you all are just making this shit up. Not entirely, but I'm kind of convinced there's extreme embroidery going on and THAT needs an extension. Ha!

    1. I used to remember my dreams in detail, but now I lose more of them than I remember. I did have one this morning that I remembered after waking up, and I was thinking, ah, it's because I wrote about dreaming, I should focus on remembering them more -- but now it's gone. It was a bad dream, anyway, so no loss. Something about me and Tonka hiding, but ... yeah, gone.

      Yeah, the lucid dreaming stuff does sound like bullshit. That's why I never talk about it except on a blog that doesn't have my real name attached.

      Also, given your art and your creativity, I'd bet your dreams would be fabulous if you remembered them.

  5. I put much more stock into dreams than I do any other woowoo. It's true. Because I know, as you clearly have figured out for yourself, what the symbolism means for me. When I dream about a bear attacking me, I know that I have strayed from my path (path? well, life line - um... destiny? Reason for beingness? hmmm... might be blog fodder in that) but if I dream that the bear becomes an eagle and lets me ride on it's wings well you bet I am doing superfantastic. Aliens always means vulnerability/stress/fear. Unless they are rescuing me from a doomed planet Earth, in which case I know I'm about to experience big life altering changes. The dreams where I can fly are the only lucid dreams I've ever had. Because, well - the moment you realize you are in a dream and can do anything, why WOULDN'T you want to fly?

    1. Great. I have never in my life dreamed about aliens, but now that you've put that seed in my head, I'm laying bets on an alien abduction tonight. If they bring out the probe, I'm jumping off the flying saucer. I can fly, after all.

      I was always mad as a kid that I couldn't make horse dreams appear. I really, really wanted to re-dream riding a horse, but I could never make it happen.


I've got a fever ...