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©June 1999

Carol Jane Remsburg



Nightmares and Dreams



Why is it that our nightmares linger with us longer than our more pleasant dreams?  Why do we have nightmares at all?  You'd think that we'd at least be kind to ourselves in our restoral process.  Life is hard enough without leaping awake with our adrenaline rushing at a rate equal to that if we were leaping off the Angel Falls with or without a parachute.


With good dreams, life is luscious.  They could be dreams of enhanced memories, wishes, or even the erotic.  None of us are immune.  Still, those wonderfully wicked dreams don't visit often enough.  If they did, we'd spend most of our time sleeping.  Those are the same dreams that arrive, play until just nearly the peak—when the Monday morning alarm sounds.  You couldn't dive back in hopes of continuing if you even wanted to.  It's a dismal way to begin a workday—frustrated yet again.


Those are the types of dreams that we can live with and possibly thrive on.  However, it is those horrific, sweat-popping, adrenaline-driving certain death confrontations that will drive all thoughts of rest away.  Sleep is not an option.  We don't dare drop back for that same nightmare may pick up where it left off.


For me, I have two that haunt me.  One is about snakes, and I've mentioned them more than once, and the other is "the bear" dream.  Snakes, as much as I loathe them, I can deal with.  I simply kill them.  Often in my "snake" dreams, I'm surrounded to the level the Indiana Jones was in the Temple of Doom—squared.  I always find myself at my childhood home in the middle of the expansive yard.  What should be grass is a writhing mass of snakes—all poisonous.  It doesn't help that it's summertime and I'm wearing shorts and am barefoot.  The only place where snakes aren't is exactly where I am standing on a stone slab.  If I dare to move then I am dead.  There is nothing to jump nor leap to for safety—nothing.  It's a paralyzing sort of situation.  No one is home; there is no one I can call out to.  Nothing!  It's terrifying.  I have no tools to use to lay waste to my tormentors.  That's how dreams are.  With the snake stuff, if I dare to stand still and endure I can survive.  This is not the case with the "bear" dream. 


The snake dream didn't come until I was nearly grown.  My bear dreams have been with me for decades, since babyhood.  Then, in my teen years this escalated.  I watched the movie "Grizzly" with rapt and tormented attention.  "Jaws" nearly killed me to the point I wouldn't swim in my own pool after dark, but . . .!


A monster brown bear, a Kodiak, or smaller Grizzly, is enough to send me to the nut house.  I don't need a straightjacket, put me in an ambulance or a jet, but get me there quick. 


It wasn't until nearly adulthood when I realized that a house doesn't protect you from a ferocious bear.  I knew from watching PBS and stuff that an angered bear will literally push down locked doors or walk through the stoutest of windows.  Wood and nails, brick and mortar, and glass with supports, mean nothing.  Actually they shouldn't.  If a big bad bear wants in, then "IN" it will come.


When I was younger, "the dream" was always at my grandmother's house that was in the woods.  There were no bears there, but the concept fit.  The house was filled with people, yet the bear wanted none but me—to eat me up.  It tore through windows, doors, and walls.  People, my family, stood aside, and ran.  The bear kept its beady little eyes focused on me.  Down the road, through the woods to the shore I would run after a failed attempt at climbing a tree.  It always followed.  Once at the creek shore, I shoved the old wooden rowboat off and began to row as fast as I could.  During this I could be 8 or 40, age didn't matter.  Nothing mattered, that bear wanted to kill me and I had no power—none.  About all I could do was to keep running.  I couldn't keep the pace.  I lost ground at every turn.  This is my recurrent dream.


Now, last night was different.  It was a one of a kind dream.  The bear was back, but now it wasn't at my grandma's house—it was here in my own backyard.  Moreover, it was in my garage.  My dog acted as if rabid, yet the bear ignored it.  My husband and daughter were safely somewhere far away from home.  It was dark but the security light showed it all so clearly. 


His massive bulk burst through the side door of the garage, the dog ran.  I stood thirty feet away on an unprotected screened porch.  No door I could hide behind would save me.  The bear would simply punch through the simple defenses of my four little walls as it barreled forward with ugly intent.  My death, my end, my blood, my fleshy sinew and bones crushed within those massive jaws were what would fulfill its bloodlust.  Nothing else would do. 


In my dream, I ran like a rabbit.  Through the door, fighting with the ineffective lock for such a bulk, then through the kitchen, the dining room, the living room.  There was no place to hide.  There was no place that would give me a sanctuary that the bear could not reach.  As I was wriggled through the tiny window of our upstairs dormitory to a lower level roof, I became caught.  The bear was coming and I wasn't moving.  I couldn't get through that littlest of openings.  Nanoseconds before "the bear" reached me, its labored and slavering breath hot upon my legs.  It's murderous glee unleashed—just about to take its first bite.  My continued screams for help went unheeded—that's when I awoke. 


That was me at 12:58 AM this morning.  I sat up and caught my breath by gulping it down.  I looked around in the dark, savoring the quiet.  Sweat had popped from my every pore; my hair was soaking wet.  My lungs were screaming for air, screaming for help, yet I'd never uttered a sound.  I had to get out of bed.  Fright pushes your bladder—ya know?  Yet, it was more than a bathroom run.  I was afraid, so like a child.  I still felt that if I made a noise that it would renew the hell I'd just endured.  Even though it wasn't real, and I knew it wasn't, it felt very much there.  I was afraid to look out the window to the garage to see that my personal monster would be there looking for me.


Why is it that we fear our nightmares?  Is it that we aren't sure for those few moments of what is reality and what is not?  That's likely a closer assessment.  If we were to actually scream for help, would it come?  Are we afraid that it won't?  That too, is our reality.  We are alone in this world negating our spouses, our families, and our friends.  We are units in a singular shell.  We are alone and bereft.  While we may give ourselves for others, would they do the same for us? 


We often seem our own worst enemies.  Either we dream with wonder or delve into dread.  We never know what our deep darkness holds for us.  Often I think it is that we are fighting battles we feel we cannot win.  Perhaps it is a symbol of what we fight that we cannot, what we should not, yet what we should dare to fight and defeat.  Truly, our dreams and our nightmares have purpose.  They fight our battles for us and lead us to confront our everyday life issues.  We shouldn't be afraid, for is the boss or a political candidate more frightening than a drooling, blood-lusting silvertip breathing down your neck?  I don't bloody think so. 


It tells me that I'm ineffectual and that my thoughts and ideas don't count.  It tells me that liars and cheaters will have their way and their say. What it does tell me is that I can't fight "city hall."  I've been battling a local issue for the last few weeks without much information yet knowing it was all fog and fluff.  I cannot help my fellow inhabitants with this.  They must help themselves—and God help them. 


Just remember that nightmares can come to life.  It might not be my snakes or bears, but it could be worse.  It could be something that hides behind a slithering smile or a brawny bravado. 


Sweet dreams to you all.  I just wish mine were.


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