“I believe in the power of bad dreams.”
–random Facebook post by Bill Friday
Believe in the power of bad dreams, that is. Once upon a time, I believed, not only in the power of dreams, but in the possibility of their interpretation. I believed that dreams were granted us to guide us, in the unknown places of our daily lives.
Interpretation. Foreknowledge. Even déjà vu. At some point, I was open to all of it. Until those dreams took a turn down a really shitty street, in a bad part of sleepy town. But then, that was right around the time my life took its own turn.
Same street. Same part of town.
Just better lighting.
A couple of years ago, I took upon myself an expanded earnings opportunity with the company I have now been with for the last ten years. That opportunity came in the form of some special skills that I was one of only a limited number of people in my company to possess. This particular set of skills… and yeah, you have to say it like Liam Neeson… involved warehouses and forklifts, and drives in the middle of the night. Or the middle of a weekend afternoon. Or the middle of the night that goes all the way into the next afternoon, and the night following the afternoon.
In other words, I allowed myself to be counted on as an on-call delivery driver ninety-six hours a week. As in, be available to work at a moment’s notice, any time of the day or night, for ninety-six hours a week. With all that availability, I still wouldn’t work more than fifty or sixty of those ninety-six hours. But the on-call nature of the job left me sleep deprived, isolated, and just plain exhausted.
Because of this, sleep was no longer a place of rest after a full day of good things. It wasn’t respite from a long day of difficult things. It wasn’t even a retreat from genuinely bad things. Sleep had become the battleground of my subconscious, where things left unresolved from the day that was, or days on end that seemed to last forever, would try and fight me to the death. The craziest, illogical scenarios would play themselves out, seemingly for hours, robbing me of the peace that sleep should give.
And do so in the most knowingly cruel ways imaginable to me.
As a High Priority courier, I was solely responsible for every parcel in my charge. From dispatch to pick-up, pick-up to delivery, repeat-repeat-repeat. 100 percent of what could go wrong, and believe me EVERYTHING can go wrong, was my responsibility. Aircraft parts for planes that sat grounded with passengers still on board, waiting to take off. Quarter-million-dollar medical imaging equipment going to an ER with a patient overflow because of a bricked MRI machine in the trauma unit. Harvested organs from bodies, not yet cold in the morgue, awaiting shipment on airline flights within the hour, for transplant into patients on waiting lists for a biological match. These, and dozens of other scenarios, played out every day, often nearly 24 hours in a day, all on me to complete.
And my dreams had a way of showing me what my conscious mind was too closed for me to see.
In my dreams, I would always begin with the one thing that was my only pride in all this madness. My control of a nearly uncontrollable situation. When you can’t miss a flight because someone might die on a table if you do, you exert control over all things to make sure that does not happen. Best route to and from a pick-up. Flight schedules. Parking at the airport. All flight paperwork filled out perfectly. All one form of control or another.
In my dreams, that control was taken away from me, one scene at a time, as I dreamed of situations that seemed like I was living them in the real world, in real-time, one after another.
But in the dreams, what happened was, things would slowly unravel, one detail at a time.
Make a wrong turn. Park in the wrong place. Make the pick-up, but not know where I parked. Find my vehicle, but become lost on my way to the delivery. Become minutes, then hours late. And finally, so often that now, it’s laughable, end up hundreds of miles from where my delivery was to go. Until one night, in one dream, I distinctly remember when, for the first time, my “dream war” became mine to control. On that night, in this particular dream, when all the details had gone to absolute hell, I uttered to myself from within the dream itself,
“THIS IS BULLSHIT!”
And I woke up.
It was long after that first dream victory, when talking about it with a friend, that it was explained to me just how rare the ability to “call bullshit” on your dreams is. I know I had never experienced it, until the ninety-six-hour crisis had gone full-blown, and my mind performed an intervention on me.
And for whatever reason it came to me, this gift of calling bullshit on my dreams, it could not have come at a more perfect time. Because I had been at war with my dreams, as I had been at war with my life, for far too long. In that one moment, my dreams surrendered on the battleground of my mind. There was now a truce, through which I could begin to make changes in my life, without which, I would have become a waking casualty.
I was a Dream Warrior no more.
© Copyright 2016 William S. Friday