It’s bedtime. At last. I have gotten through another day, and I can settle in, my responsibilities dispensed with for better or worse, and I can shut down. Whatever I accomplished, the things that went well, the good news and problems solved, I can take a moment to relish. Whatever went wrong, whatever I did wrong, whatever was done wrong to me, I can banish with a book. I have a cup of good, hot tea. I arrange my pillows and snuggle down under the covers. This is the best part of the day.
I take my pills and take up my book, currently an Agatha Christie mystery that I have already read, but long enough ago that I don’t recall the details—it’s familiar and comforting, and not too engrossing, the better to welcome sleep. I wait for drowsiness to set in.
And then, the wonderful sanctuary of sleep.
The medications I am taking for insomnia continue to work well. Combined with a regular schedule and routine, I am blessed with a good night’s sleep most of the time. (To those who would leap in to offer all their non-pharmaceutical remedies for insomnia, thank you, but please don’t. Trust me, whatever it is, I have already tried it in the twenty-five years I have been battling this miserable affliction.) An added benefit which I have come to look forward to are the dreams.
Since I have been on this regimen, my dreams have become more vivid and the memory of them more lasting. It is a fascinating insight in the the workings of my busy subconscious. I don’t put a lot of stock in dream interpretation. Some of them are pretty obvious given my present waking situation. Others are just the random ramblings of neural pathways. Science doesn’t know a whole lot about what dreams are and what purpose they serve (if any); there are abundant theories. I only know that I look forward each night to them.
Last night, for example, I recall dreaming that it rained, and pools of water accumulated in the yard. The ducks were loose and having a wonderful time swimming and splashing, something they haven’t been able to do all winter. I stand on the rise looking down into the yard, smiling at their joy. There was, of course, much more to the dream, but it fades in daylight. I remember pieces. I try to remember as much as I can. Often, if I can call up a previous dream and focus on it as I go to sleep, I can revisit its theme.
They aren’t all good. I have a recurring dream in which my ex-husband has moved back into the house. He is all smiles and confidence, sure that I’ll be fine with him there, oblivious to my irritation. No matter what I say, he refuses to hear it; he just keeps smiling and doing what he wants. I can’t get him to leave. At least, when I wake up, I can feel the enormous relief of realizing it was just a dream. But more significant, in the dream, I am not afraid of him, and although I feel helpless to make him go away, it only frustrates me. It doesn’t cripple me with anxiety. In the dream, I am strong and self-assured, without the insecurities that make me so dysfunctional in the waking world.
My dreams are filled with people. I am perfectly comfortable with them. I enjoy their company. Often, I find a special companion, someone I like very much who also wants to be with me. I experience the closeness, trust, and love that has eluded me in the waking world.
Rarely, there are nightmares. Falling into cold, filthy water and being unable to get out. Needing urgently to get somewhere and being unable to find where I parked my car. Having to make an emergency phone call, but I can’t seem to see the numbers or dial the phone. Once, I came into my bedroom and saw myself. At first we embraced, but then we began to claw at each other. My other self turned angry, ugly, and vicious. It rapidly got terrifying, as I could feel what was happening to both selves. It was enough to drive me awake, trembling and breathless.
Thankfully, such horrors are isolated. For the most part I travel through strange and wonderful landscapes, or visit places supposedly familiar but very different from their actual reality. There are dream settings that I revisit from time to time; I recognize them when I find myself there. Mountains and green hills, houses and roads. Deerfield is a very different place in my dreamworld, an odd composite of vague childhood memories and other locations, merged to include bits and pieces from where I grew up in North Hampton, the summer place my parents had, and pure imagination. It is a rich, vivid, alternative reality, ever-changing and yet always with familiar, congenial elements, operating with the classic illogic and randomness of dreams which seem to the dreamer perfectly normal. My own delightful Wonderland.
When the waking world is harsh and baffling, when it is all I can do to push myself through the things I must do, presenting a good front for the benefit of those around me, I can look forward to the end of the day, to bedtime.
My sanctuary awaits.