I dreamt last night I was being deployed to Iraq. In the passenger seat of an old station wagon, driven by someone I didn’t know, I headed to an army base where I’d board a plane for Baghdad.
Trying to remember if I’d packed everything, I shoved my arm into the bottom of my backpack. Suddenly (in that way of dreams), I realized that not only was I missing skin cream, but I was totally unprepared for war. I felt sick to my stomach. I could see the gates of the base approaching.
“This was a mistake,” I stammered to the driver. “I can’t do this.” He twisted his head, stared at me, smiled. It was not a nice smile. Without a word, he conveyed, “everybody says that about now.”
I knew right then there was no escape. I wanted to jump out onto the dusty roadside, be free under the open blue. Adrenaline sent my heart racing.
No! I don’t want to go. I can’t go! Finally, I jerked myself awake. I didn’t have to go.
At the moment of relief, I burst into tears. The weight carried by those who’ve been in a similar situation and for whom it wasn’t a dream was just too much. They had to resolve fear and panic by moving forward, not back; by stepping into a violent unknown.
Attentiveness to our dreams is a forgotten art. Twentieth-century rationalism mixed with a stiff shot of psychoanalysis has reduced dreaming to our cortex trying to assimilate random electrical impulses from the neural net. No more, no less.