Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dreams and Runaway Trains

I never thought of myself as someone who has premonitions of things. I wasn't one of those people who dreamed about something specific only to have it happen the next day. I don't think I've ever really seen a ghost or definitive proof of anything otherworldly with my waking eyes.

But. But then again, sometimes I think life's visions aren't so blatant. They're not so spelled out for us in neat, massive sky writing. Sometimes, when you dream things and they hit you hard or stick with you forever, I think those are important things...even if we don't know why for a long time.
So far in my life, I've had two such dreams. One I wouldn't understand until recently, and one profoundly and immediately obvious. For example, the week I was to leave Missouri for Seattle, my heart was breaking. It had been two years since I'd split with my long-time significant other, but we remained best friends and as close as family. We'd basically grown up together, and I knew that saying goodbye would be one of the scariest, most difficult things we would ever do. Still, I was determined to be brave and move on to this new stage, to wipe my chalkboard clean of old mental residue and figure out who I really was. I needed to go away.

I remember laying on a blow up mattress in my ex's living room the night before we were to drive to Washington state, and just as I was about to drift off, the black of sleep turned into a stream of running water, and then the stream branched off in two different directions, with the message loud, clear and emphatic. Heck, I could even hear the water running! In fact, it was so shockingly loud that it shook me fully awake and sent me scrambling for my laptop to write an email entitled, "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL THURSDAY" (the first day alone in Seattle) for my ex to read. In it, I said that I'd had a dream and I knew I was supposed to share it and it was loud and clear: When you truly love someone, it doesn't matter if you grow apart, because that person is in you, they're a part of you and they'll always be close, no matter what it seems like. It was exactly what I didn't know I needed. And I was incredibly grateful.

Fast forward a year and a half.  I'd been thinking about an old dream--one I'd had when I was just a young teenager and predominantly charged with the care of my little brother and sister.

In the dream I was holding a young John's hand (he was probably eight or so at the time), and pushing my baby sister in a stroller. We came upon some railroad tracks, and seeing a train speeding towards us, I rushed us from the tracks only to find that we were walking on another set of them, same scenario...rushing train. Starting to panic, I hurried them along, but new tracks always emerged, and a new train sped toward us. Finally, with five or six trains barreling down on us, I turned behind me in desperation for some escape. But instead of freedom, there was a brick wall.

So many trains, relentless tracks, and a brick wall...and me, thirteen or fourteen years old, with a toddler and little boy. In that moment, I knew there was nothing I could do. I remember saying, "God help me." And then, as the worst was about to happen, I woke up.

You never forget a dream like that, though I just couldn't understand what it meant. My need to protect my brother and sister ran deep and started young--quite without any alternative. I was their caretaker and teacher. It came with the territory and it would extend into my adulthood. I was willing to be a human shield if I had to, and, in a lot of ways, I was.

But, in the end, no matter how much I wished I could keep them safe, it would reach a point where this was out of my control. The pinnacle of this realization came this past winter when, at twenty-five, my brother left this world. I felt so helpless, I was so helpless, to protect them now.

Thinking about that old train dream again, I'm pretty convinced it was more of a warning than anything else. Things would be hard. Then they'd get worse. And worse still. And eventually, we'd run out of tracks and I'd have to admit that I couldn't protect them forever. That we couldn't keep running away from the things that hurt us. Eventually, I'd have to stop with my back to a brick wall, face those trains with courage and release it to God. We love, but we have to let go. We can only stand back and pray for the best.

Maybe that was just how it had to be.

Anyway, strange things, dreams. They don't take a psychic to understand, just some awareness, or perhaps a few decades. So don't forget those dreams. You know the ones. If they don't make sense now, tuck them in your back pocket for later. You never know when their time will come.

Here's hoping I dream of joyful things tonight. I wish the same for you.



Feather Stone said...

When I was young, about a hundred years ago, I constantly had dreams about being chased, sometimes weapons were involved, and sometimes even my parents were the pursuers. I was nearly insane with terror. Finally, in the midst of one of these dreams I couldn't take the running anymore. I stopped and faced my tormentors. The dream ended and never returned.

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