We’re always told to reach for our dreams, to dream big, to never let anything come between us and our dreams. There’s an old cliche that goes, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it!” My father’s slogan for his Home Improvement company was once, “If you can dream it, we can build it!” which demonstrates how much society buys into this notion of dreams coming to fruition. But I think it sets us up for disappointment. What happens when you dream the impossible?
Last week I awoke from a dream that felt so real, that I woke up convinced that my mother had somehow returned from the dead. I jumped out of my bed and walked into the kitchen, where I had last seen her in my dream. I stood there at 4am, for what felt like hours, waiting to see her again. I knew that I was awake, I felt tired and sluggish. I noted the weather from my window, it was stormy. I reminded myself to wash my uniform before work. I wasn’t in a state between wake and sleep, it wasn’t like that. I was up, alert and conscious. And then in hit me, like a knife in the chest, she was still dead. I was suffering from the afterglow of my dream.
It’s crazy how real dreams can feel, that for those few short moments while you’re sleeping, your mind is convincing you that the impossible has happened. For those few short moments, you honestly believe that she is alive again. You know it’s crazy, but you accept it without question. No one asks what happened in the dream, they just embrace it. It feels natural to have her back.
And then you wake up crying, so happy that she’s been given a second chance. It’s not until the excitement of the dream subsides and the emptiness inside you is all you can feel, that you realize nothing has changed. The rest of the day you spend resenting her, for tricking you in your sleep. For convincing you for a minute that miracles can happen. And every time you remember that dream, it kills you. Her hair. Her smile. Her soft voice. Her hands. Ripped away from you again.
I don’t know where my beliefs lie in terms of the spiritual or religious world and I make no claims to be either spiritual or religious, but I do keep an open mind. Maybe when you die, you can contact others through their dreams or manifest yourself in some other way. A friend of mine thinks her father visits her in the form of a bird, and I am in no position to doubt her. Maybe my dreams are the only place we can talk these days, and that’s why she meets me there so often. These are all comforting ideas, for I like to think that she still exists in some way, and that I haven’t summoned her but she has come to me, out of her motherly instinct that I miss her like crazy.
But I am disheartened to admit that it is more likely, that she has only appeared out of my subconscious desire to see her again. The dream was nothing more than my own memories of her resurrected, and a refusal on my part to believe that death is truly permanent.
Dream big? Don’t stop dreaming? I think there is a lot that remains to be said about dreaming too much. There’s a false sense of hope that comes with dreaming the impossible dream, and it’s a painful feeling. I think that dreaming is too potent a force that we wish to believe in, and it often leads us to indulging in our grief on the most vulnerable level.
Still, I must admit, it was nice to see her again.
“It is so long before the mind can persuade itself that she whom we saw every day and whose very existence appeared a part of our own can have departed forever—that the brightness of a beloved eye can have been extinguished and the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to the ear can be hushed, never more to be heard.”-Mary Shelley, Frankenstein