There was a time in my life when I couldn’t wait to be asleep. For a number of reasons, really.
I never got enough sleep of course. But even more than that, I longed for escape. From the stresses of my life, sure, and also from the blandness. The sameness. The isolation I often felt.
I had spent years either all alone or among people who had boundaries so thick that they rivaled high-security prisons. Completely their right of course (boundaries are individual and personal and up to each of us) but definitely not what I wanted.
I’d imagined romantic relationships where we could get incredibly close. Personal.
But I kept ending up in ones where we could open up to each other physically but I felt much emotionally closer to friends. I was in my 30s the first time I was in a sexual and romantic relationship with someone with whom I also had a close friendship.
And until that happened, I typically found it in dreams. Dreams where I’d meet someone, we’d fall in love, bond over shared interests (in my dreams this was usually music or art), and open up to one another about our fears and weaknesses.
I’d wake from those dreams feeling happy but also sad. I’d think of these nonexistent lovers as I went about my day. Grateful that I’d had a chance to experience it. But wistful that it wasn’t real and I probably wouldn’t experience that specific connection or anything like it again (as I rarely had recurring dreams).
I Have Started to Dread My Dreams
These days it’s quite a different matter. I’m happy. Spend most days with an incredible person. In my 30s, I married my best friend, the person I always got real with. Who I felt comfortable coming to with my problems. Who so gets me that I initially thought he was boring until I realized that the reason what he said was so predictable to me was that we’re remarkably similar people. That we often walk away from the same event with very similar takeaways. Very similar concerns and perspectives.
It’s made being in a relationship markedly easier. We do fight, but when we fight, we’re concerned with similar values. Typically conflicts come about because we’re both very sensitive people — but thankfully, being sensitive also manifests a mutual desire to make up and a willingness to apologize if either of us feels like we’ve wronged the other, intentional or not.
I can’t remember the last time I dreamt of falling in love with a stranger.
Instead, I’ve found much more often that I have stress dreams. Dreams in which he no longer cares for me. Or has done something really atrocious and doesn’t seem to care that it bothers me.
I always wake from these, with my mind knowing that they’re not true, that he’s not like that — but with my body lagging behind. My belly will feel sour for hours after I awake.
I suffer from these nightmares. Both from the experience of having them and that emotional jet lag and also via the concern that I keep having them.
I’ll wonder what that means about me. Am I insecure to a pathological degree? Do I not want to be happy?
Some Form of Homeostasis
When I tell my partner this, he says maybe I’m just used to stress. And he’s right. The last month that I’ve spent in my new home in particular has been great. There are always things to do of course, logistical stress, but he and I have never been better. And in general, I’m emotionally in a very good place.
And it’s possible that in the absence of actual relationship stress that my brain is basically supplementing real life, providing it for me. The same way it used to bring in happy dreams to balance out real life’s brutal slog.
Perhaps you can judge your life by how much you look forward to (or dread) your dreams.
There’s a quote, often attributed to Dr. Seuss, that says “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
While it’s likely that he was talking about New Relationship Energy and how it alters your physiology, I am definitely reading it a bit darker. Wondering if intense love needs nightmares to offset it, to keep one grounded.
Either that or the blanket fell off me leaving me freezing cold and my bladder was full, and my brain was just trying creative methods to wake me up. But there’s less poetry in that form of homeostasis.