I Must Be Dreaming

My dreams seem so real from the inside. More often than not dreaming feels like a natural tangent (however abrupt) to living my waking life. Once in a while I’ll remember an old dream from within a new dream. Some of my dreams take root in my mind like genuine memories. Most of my dreams, however, are transitory. As soon as I wake up, the dream’s integrity starts to wane. The colors I thought so salient begin to fade. The tangible pieces begin to dissipate. Places that appeared authentic are revealed to be inaccurate facsimiles. If I dreamt I was in my childhood home, upon waking I realize how much of the dream house was wrong.

My dreams feel real because they elicit emotions. Sometimes that is all that remains once I’m awake—a vague sensation of sadness, fear, or joy whose origin I can’t precisely locate. Now and again I wake with a sense of nervous urgency—worried that I’ve neglected something vital. I used to have low-level nightmares that I’d missed the first day of school, or that I’d managed to make it through most of a semester forgetting to attend a class or do a particular course’s homework.

My dreams have their own chronology. And so now and again I will encounter the deceased in my sleep. No part of me thinks it strange to find them there. The real deaths of loved ones don’t affect my dream state memory. The limits of logic and science don’t need to be preserved in dreams. Continuity isn’t necessary. I can take an elevator to the beach. I can be here and then instantly there without travelling. I can be involved in the action while simultaneously observing it from a distance. Sometimes I can’t run. Sometimes I can fly. But no matter how extraordinary or impossible the experience, rarely do I think I must be dreaming.

Some of my dreams are realistic to the point of being boring. The contents of my dreams can be painfully ordinary. As a child I used to dream about sitting on a toilet. I had this type of dream quite regularly—usually because I actually had to pee while I was sleeping. And since my bladder couldn’t tell the difference between literally getting up to use the bathroom versus just dreaming it, these dreams greatly contributed to my bed-wetting. Fortunately for me (and every mattress I’ve slept on since) I stumbled upon a way to wake myself up. I don’t have to pinch myself to be roused. Sternly saying my own name is enough.