I am not a particularly heavy sleeper. You could say I sleep like a dog, or a wolf; that is, with one ear nearly always awake, ready to pull the rest of me to alertness should the need arise. That came in handy, of course, during the years Mom was sick. We had a baby monitor in her room so I could hear her calls (or falls) in the night. But even before I became her caregiver, I would wake frequently in the night to turn over or occasionally pee (the curse of middle age), usually falling back to sleep quickly.
But this habit also means I tend to remember my dreams more easily than other people, because I, like others whose brains are similarly hardwired, go through life with a brain wave pattern significantly slower than most people (Alpha rather than the normal Beta); I’m closer to the dream state when I’m waking, and I slip into the trance or deeply meditative state (Theta) more easily. I assume that I sleep closer to Theta, whereas most people go from Delta (complete unconsciousness) to Beta (which is found in both normal REM sleep, when dreaming usually occurs, and states of extreme alertness) and back again, making dream recollection a bit more problematic.
Two nights ago I went through a rather bad patch. I encountered some familial stressors—something to do with Mom’s will and probate—and I was suddenly a young boy unable to cope. It was not so much the specter of death, or the anxiety and sadness over loss, but rather that all the months and years of exhaustion came rushing back. I found myself, once I had gotten off the phone, weeping uncontrollably, making animal noises and wailing like a professional mourner in the Middle East. When there were words, it was “Leave me ’lone!” and “Go ’way!” as if I were a battered child afraid of more abuse. It was the strangest bit of grieving I have ever experienced. I went to bed utterly spent, and woke up much saner.
Then last night, a very odd little dream. In it I was hearing this pattern of music, except that it wasn’t music so much as mathematical intervals, as if I were seeing (or feeling!) the piano keys but not hearing anything. With my right hand I tried to play the invisible piano, getting the fingering just right so that I could duplicate the pattern, and when I did, I could hear the music in my head. It was a phrase from a song I never particularly liked because of its over-sentimentality, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. The phrase in question, with its odd musical intervals, goes like this: “At the end of the storm / There’s a golden sky / And the sweet silver song of the lark.”
It was, I felt strongly, a message from Mom. Though I can’t tell if she was talking about the golden sky at the end of her storm, or mine. Probably both. Was my strange little breakdown two nights ago just an aftershock, the odd rumble after a psychological earthquake? Was it the beginning of a more intensive grieving period, now that I’ve gotten through all the technicalia of the funeral process? My current sense is that I had buried a lot of emotional stuff in order to cope, and as I begin the “digging out” period, I’ll be coming across un-looked-at (and previously unprocessed) pockets of strong and strange stuff. It will be therapeutic, but I can’t imagine it will be all that pleasant.
There was one other dream, a tiny one that feels like a non sequitur, in which a curmudgeonly professor rather angrily insisted I use the right glasses when I read and work on the computer. I tried to explain that I have two pairs of glasses, one for computer work and the other for normal everyday use—that I was aware of the need, and had already taken the appropriate action—which appeared to mollify him, though I’m not sure he entirely believed me. I have NO idea what that one’s about. I know I need different tools to perceive different information sources. I think I’m properly equipped. But am I?