Dreamcatcher, photo by Dyaa Eldin

Only in my dreams

About two months ago, I thought that maybe I’d like to keep a dream journal.

My dreams are like most people’s – odd, disjointed, sometimes a blurry mirror of what’s happening in my life.

I have a few standard recurring dreams, or at least themes of dreams. Tornadoes. Planes falling from the sky. Attending high school or college (again).

I remember hearing that keeping a dream journal is one of the best ways to become better at remembering your dream’s. The act of writing it down keeps those images from slipping away as you wake up. I thought that was true.

To my surprise, ever since I started keeping this journal, I’ve had a much harder time remembering my dreams. I wake up, reach for the journal on my nightstand, open it up, touch the pen to paper, and the dream disappears, caught there like that work on the tip of my tongue I can never remember when I need it.

Of all of the entries in this dream journal, so many of them are “I don’t remember” or “I thought this happened but it’s a reach” and few are the detailed accounts that I anticipated I would be writing each morning in this dream log.

And none of them have been my standard recurring dreams or themes, which surprises me even more. I often think of those as so regular that they outnumber everything else, and perhaps they are. Perhaps those recurring ones are the ones I lose in the time it takes me to reach for the journal and click out the pen.

I think dreams are a fascinating way to look inside of one’s self. I used to have a dream dictionary, something I’ve since misplaced, though I’m sure if I wanted to, Google would afford me a wealth of dream knowledge should I go looking for it.

I know that my usual recurring dreams are ones that show up when I’m anxious or when there’s a change in my life I’m grasping at or yearning for. I know that I’m holding on to things or the past or my regrets too tightly when I dream of high school or college. As with anything in my life, I can look back at a dream and think, yes, I probably had x dream because of y in my life.

But not always. Sometimes a dream is just a dream, a weird mesh of colors and sounds and memories and desires jumbled together in my mind that come out in the form of something utterly fantastic and dramatically confusing.

I’ve had dreams that have inspired novels or the starts of novels.

I’ve had lucid dreams where I know I’m in control. Often, these are dreams that should be nightmares, and I know that it’s not real and I’m not afraid.

Or they’re flying dreams. The moment I realize I’m dreaming is the moment I leap off the cliff and fly away.

I do have nightmares, those dreams where something is lurking just out of sight or someone is in my house or at my window and I wake up, out of sorts, gasping, heart thumping, stomach churning. I’m never as wide awake in the middle of the night as I am those nights.

I hate dreams that feel like a splotchy version of reality. Like a gritty truth where almost everything is exactly as it should be except for that one terrifying element that I hopefully realize makes it a dream.

I’m not going to stop keeping a dream journal. I’ve been successful at doing so every day for some time now with the exception of a long weekend out of town when I chose to leave it at home. I want to become better at remembering the dreams, finding patterns (or not at all), uncovering story ideas, figuring out what my subconscious wants me to know.

Or it’s possible that none of that is possible or true and if that’s the case, one day I’ll look back on my dream journal and shake me head at how little any of what I wrote makes any sense at all.

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