I’ve been having bad dreams lately. They aren’t nightmares – I like nightmares. Nightmares are, at least in my parlance, dreams about monsters, ghosts, etc. To me, those are fuel for stories. I enjoy them, even if they wake me up with a shivering, sweat covered start. Bad dreams, on the other hand, are the dreams of the adult world, of overdue bills and lost loves, of running out of money to pay for lunch or seeing friends die. They are horrifying not because they are supernatural, but rather because they are all too natural. They are terrifyingly real.
I think that perhaps one of the best indications of the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood is when bad dreams start to outnumber nightmares. There certainly comes a point where dreams about failing at school or having a loved one die become more commonplace than monsters under the bed. That line, that subtle demarcation, is where our childhood ends and begins to fade into the dark. It becomes a memory, perhaps a place to be visited in the dreams that aren’t about reality itself, and is lost to us except in those quiet moments when the memory floods back for a short time.
My dreams have run the gamut of ordinary adult troubles. Last night, I dreamed my ex-wife needed money from me, but when we went to an ATM to pull all the cash I had (which would leave me without the funds to pay my rent), I couldn’t remember my PIN. I became so angry, I broke my debit card, cracking it nearly in half. Anyone want to analyze that one? This is a typical bad dream for me, and when I wake from them, or half-wake, I have to force myself to remember that it is only a dream.
These dreams bother me more than any nightmare could. Why? Because they are real, and I know they represent fears I have that have nothing to do with boogeymen in the closet or vampires at the window. They are things, real things, that could happen. They are, perhaps, warning signs of what may lay ahead. In short, they represent the reality that all of us try to shut out as much as we can. Reality is a noisy, painful, confusing place, and no matter how we do it, we isolate ourselves inside bubbles of “what I can handle.” These dreams intrude upon my bubble, and I don’t like that.
I have no solution to my bad dreams. I wish I did. I’d rather dream of zombies or werewolves or Freddy Kruger than missing a bill or running out of money. Those things are real; they cannot be wished away when the lamp flickers to life. The sun doesn’t burn them away as it does all the monsters. In the end, they are the tell tale signs that I am getting older, passing from the world of imagination into the world of cold reality. I might fight it tooth and nail, but in the end, I will some day be trapped looking into the bubble I created and wishing I could return to its comfortable surroundings.